ETX-80AT-TC 3.1" F/5 go-to refractor backpack edition

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This Meade telescope has:

• 80mm f/5 multicoated refractor optics
• battery-operated AutoStar computerized go-to altazimuth mount and lightweight tripod
• soft backpack carry case with shoulder straps and carry handle
• dew shield
• 9.7mm and 26mm Super Plössl eyepieces (41x and 15x)
• built-in Barlow to double your eyepiece powers at the flip of a lever

You don’t need to know star charts and celestial coordinates to find your way around the heavens like a pro with this special backpack edition of the Meade ETX-80AT computerized go-to refractor. Simply pack the scope out to your observing site (the supplied backpack even transports the scope’s tripod), and set it up on its special lightweight travel tripod. Level the scope and point it north (it takes only a minute or two, using the supplied bubble level and compass). Once you do, the Meade ETX-80AT backpack edition will locate the planets and deep space objects for you at the push of a button. It will then track them flawlessly as they move across the skies so you can observe them at your leisure.

All of the major planets except Pluto are easily observable through the Meade ETX-80AT. You can study Saturn and its ring system; the primary cloud belts of Jupiter and its four major satellites; the Moonlike phases of Mercury and Venus; prominent features on Mars; and the starlike images of the distant planets Uranus and Neptune. The Moon stands out in stark, almost three-dimensional detail – showing you craters by the hundreds, mountain ranges, scarps, and valleys. Within our Milky Way galaxy the ETX-80AT backpack edition displays hundreds of nebulas, star clusters, double and multiple stars, and variable stars – plus dozens of external galaxies. A supplied dew shield fits on the front of the scope. It slows the formation of image-degrading dew on the objective lens and improves the image contrast by blocking extraneous light (for example from a neighbor’s backyard security light).

For the introductory student of astronomy, or for the casual observer, the Meade ETX-80AT backpack edition opens up the skies at modest cost to an amazing breadth of celestial detail that is utterly invisible without the telescope – and it can be taken virtually anywhere in its soft backpack carrying case. The ETX-80AT backpack edition has over 77% greater light gathering capacity than the more common 60mm beginning scope. This gives significantly brighter and more highly resolved images than is possible with a smaller scope.

The Meade ETX-80AT backpack edition also makes an excellent land-view instrument for the birdwatcher, the naturalist, or for the home owner with a view. The terrestrial image quality and resolution of the scope typically far exceed what you see with terrestrial spotting scopes in its modest price range.

The ETX-80AT uses a dual arm fork mount for steadier viewing and less image vibration at high powers. There are built-in dual-axis battery-operated motor drives, with precision worm gear drive systems on each axis. These permit smooth pushbutton motions of the telescope using the supplied computer hand control. Built into one of the fork arms is the telescope’s control panel. This serves as the connection point for the AutoStar computer’s hand controller as well as for an RS-232 serial interface adapter (that’s included with the optional #A506 AstroFinder Software and Cable Connector Kit). Using the RS-232 interface, new or revised software can be downloaded through your PC to the telescope so that the AutoStar’s computer program never becomes obsolete. The positions of Earth satellites may be updated regularly to allow you to track them through the telescope. You can also download the positions of newly-discovered objects, such as comets, which can then be located and tracked by the AutoStar computer.

The Meade ETX-80AT backpack edition uses a 2-element, multicoated, air-spaced objective lens made of Grade-A BK7 crown and F2 flint optical glass. Field stops inside the optical tube prevent off-axis light from reaching the focal plane, enhancing the contrast for sharper and more detailed views. The tube includes an internal mirror to direct the image to an eyepiece holder at the top of the tube for astronomical observing. At the touch of lever, the mirror flips to send the light to a separate focus at the rear of the tube. This allows terrestrial observing with an optional #933 45-degreee erecting prism, as well as terrestrial and lunar photography with an optional #64ST T-adapter and T-ring. Another lever controls an internal Barlow lens, flipping it into the light path when desired to double the magnification of any eyepiece being used with the scope.

The light weight (less than 11 pounds, including lightweight tripod) and simple to use Meade ETX-80AT is easy to carry to any observing location, whether it be a distant mountaintop or your own back yard. Just place the telescope on any flat surface or on the supplied lightweight adjustable height altazimuth field tripod, do a quick, easy 60-second alignment of the telescope’s computer to the sky, and start observing. The scope comes with a soft backpack carrying case with a foam interior cut out to hold the scope, eyepieces, and hand control. The case has both a carrying handle for simple trips out to your backyard and shoulder straps for backpacking the scope to a distant dark sky observing site. The case has a zippered compartment for holding accessories. An elasticized cord crisscrossing the back of the case holds the collapsed lightweight altazimuth tripod securely. The tripod has three-section legs with flip levers to lock them open at any desired height. Spreader bars help stabilize the tripod. The spreader bars have 1.25” cutouts that will hold your eyepieces and keep them up and out of the evening dews and damps. A supplied bubble level and compass allow fast leveling of the scope and aligning on the North each time you go out to observe.

The Meade ETX-80AT backpack edition includes a computer clock chip that keeps track of the time and date, so there’s no need to supply that information each time you set up the scope. The scope’s computer will remember your last observing location, so there’s also no need to reenter that information if you’re observing from the same site. If you’re observing from a different location, simply enter the city and state you are observing from – or just your zip code! That’s all the information the AutoStar computer needs to start you observing. Six internal (user-supplied) AA batteries power the ETX-80AT for up to 20 hours in the field.

The #494 AutoStar computer controller permits the automatic location of 1471 celestial objects. The objects have been specifically chosen as suitable for observing with the ETX-80AT and provides an excellent introduction to the wide variety of astronomical objects visible through the telescope.

Just enter the object you wish to observe on the AutoStar display, press GO TO, and watch as the telescope moves at a rapid 4.5 degrees per second in both axes simultaneously to place the object in the field of view. There are dozens of other AutoStar functions that will add to your observing enjoyment and educational opportunities. For example, the AutoStar gives you automatic go-to capability to any astronomical object of known right ascension and declination, perhaps to the comet positions published monthly in Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines. The hand control gives you a continuous digital readout of the telescope position in r.a. and dec. It gives you precise sidereal-rate tracking. You can add user-defined objects of your own to its 1471 star and object database. You get pushbutton 9-speed dual-axis operation, from a slow 2x the sidereal rate for centering objects to as much as a fast 4.5 degrees per second (depending on the battery power available) to locate them. You get guided tours of “Tonight’s Best Objects,” and over 20 other menu options.

You also get the AutoStar Software Suite Astronomer’s Edition – a CD-ROM planetarium program for your PC that can show you over 10,000 stars and deep space objects on your computer screen. It can print out star charts to use at the telescope and help you plan your observing sessions. Also included is an instructional DVD that shows you how to set up your scope and get the most out of observing with it.

Add together the telescope, the motor drives, the AutoStar go-to computer, the two supplied premium Super Plössl eyepieces, the built-in Barlow, the lightweight full length adjustable height altazimuth field tripod, the backpack carrying case, the dew shield, and the software – and you have a telescope that was simply unavailable to the amateur astronomer at any price only a few short years ago. The fact that the Meade ETX-80AT exists, that it works so simply and so well, and that it costs so very little for all that you get, is a marvel indeed. For the beginning astronomer, as a gift for an inquisitive youngster, as a second or travel scope for the advanced astronomer, the Meade ETX-80AT backpack edition is well worth serious consideration.

Highest Useful Magnification:
This is the highest visual power a telescope can achieve before the image becomes too dim for useful observing (generally at about 50x to 60x per inch of telescope aperture). However, this power is very often unreachable due to turbulence in our atmosphere that makes the image too blurry and unstable to see any detail.

On nights of less-than-perfect seeing, medium to low power planetary, binary star, and globular cluster observing (at 25x to 30x per inch of aperture or less) is usually more enjoyable than fruitlessly attempting to push a telescope's magnification to its theoretical limits. Very high powers are generally best reserved for planetary observations and binary star splitting.

Small aperture telescopes can usually use more power per inch of aperture on any given night than larger telescopes, as they look through a smaller column of air and see less of the turbulence in our atmosphere. While some observers use up to 100x per inch of refractor aperture on Mars and Jupiter, the actual number of minutes they spend observing at such powers is small in relation to the number of hours they spend waiting for the atmosphere to stabilize enough for them to use such very high powers.
Visual Limiting Magnitude:
This is the magnitude (or brightness) of the faintest star that can be seen with a telescope. The larger the number, the fainter the star that can be seen. An approximate formula for determining the visual limiting magnitude of a telescope is 7.5 + 5 log aperture (in cm).

This is the formula that we use with all of the telescopes we carry, so that our published specs will be consistent from aperture to aperture, from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some telescope makers may use other unspecified methods to determine the limiting magnitude, so their published figures may differ from ours.

Keep in mind that this formula does not take into account light loss within the scope, seeing conditions, the observer’s age (visual performance decreases as we get older), the telescope’s age (the reflectivity of telescope mirrors decreases as they get older), etc. The limiting magnitudes specified by manufacturers for their telescopes assume very dark skies, trained observers, and excellent atmospheric transparency – and are therefore rarely obtainable under average observing conditions. The photographic limiting magnitude is always greater than the visual (typically by two magnitudes).

Focal Length:
This is the length of the effective optical path of a telescopeor eyepiece (the distance from the main mirror or lens where the lightis gathered to the point where the prime focus image is formed). Focallength is typically expressed in millimeters.

The longer the focallength, the higher the magnification and the narrower the field of viewwith any given eyepiece. The shorter the focal length, the lower themagnification and the wider the field of view with the same eyepiece.

Focal Ratio:
This is the ‘speed’ of a telescope’s optics, found by dividing the focal length by the aperture. The smaller the f/number, the lower the magnification, the wider the field, and the brighter the image with any given eyepiece or camera.

Fast f/4 to f/5 focal ratios are generally best for lower power wide field observing and deep space photography. Slow f/11 to f/15 focal ratios are usually better suited to higher power lunar, planetary, and binary star observing and high power photography. Medium f/6 to f/10 focal ratios work well with either.

An f/5 system can photograph a nebula or other faint extended deep space object in one-fourth the time of an f/10 system, but the image will be only one-half as large. Point sources, such as stars, are recorded based on the aperture, however, rather than the focal ratio – so that the larger the aperture, the fainter the star you can see or photograph, no matter what the focal ratio.

This is the ability of a telescope to separate closely-spaced binary stars into two distinct objects, measured in seconds of arc. One arc second equals 1/3600th of a degree and is about the width of a 25-cent coin at a distance of three miles! In essence, resolution is a measure of how much detail a telescope can reveal. The resolution values on our website are derived using the Dawes’ limit formula.

Dawes’ limit only applies to point sources of light (stars). Smaller separations can be resolved in extended objects, such as the planets. For example, Cassini’s Division in the rings of Saturn (0.5 arc seconds across), was discovered using a 2.5” telescope – which has a Dawes’ limit of 1.8 arc seconds!

The ability of a telescope to resolve to Dawes’ limit is usually much more affected by seeing conditions, by the difference in brightness between the binary star components, and by the observer’s visual acuity, than it is by the optical quality of the telescope.

1.45 arc seconds
This is the diameter of the light-gathering main mirror or objective lens of a telescope. In general, the larger the aperture, the better the resolution and the fainter the objects you can see.
The weight of this product.
11 lbs.
Heaviest Single Component:
The weight of the heaviest component in this package.
6.7 lbs.
Telescope Type:
The optical design of a telescope.  Telescope type is classified by three primary optical designs (refractor, reflector, or catadioptric), by sub-designs of these types, or by the task they perform.
Based on Astronomy magazine’s telescope "report cards", scopes of this size and type generally perform as follows . . .
Terrestrial Observation:
Observing terrestrial objects (nature studies, birding, etc.) is usually possible only with refractor and catadioptric telescopes, and convenient only when the scope is on an altazimuth mount or photo tripod. Most reflectors cannot be used for terrestrial observing. Scopes with apertures under 5" to 6" are generally most useful for terrestrial observing due to atmospheric conditions (heat waves and mirage, dust, haze, etc.) that degrade the image quality in larger scopes. 
Lunar Observation:
Visual observation of the Moon is possible with any telescope. Larger aperture scopes will provide more detail than smaller scopes, thereby getting a higher score in this category, but may require an eyepiece filter to cut down the greater glare from the Moon's sunlit surface so small details can be seen more easily. Lunar observing is more rewarding when the Moon is waxing or waning as the changing sun angle casts constantly varying shadows to reveal craters and surface features by the hundreds.  
Planetary Observation:
Binary and Star Cluster Observation:
Galaxy and Nebula Observation:
Terrestrial Photography:
Photographing terrestrial objects (wildlife, scenery, etc.) is usually possible only with refractor and catadioptric telescopes, and convenient only when the scope is on an altazimuth mount or photo tripod. Most reflectors cannot be used for terrestrial photography. Scopes with focal ratios of f/10 and faster and apertures under 5" to 6" are generally the most useful for terrestrial photography due to atmospheric conditions (heat waves and mirage, dust, haze, etc.) that degrade the image quality in larger scopes.
Lunar Photography:
Photography of the Moon is possible with virtually any telescope, using a 35mm camera, DSLR, or CCD-based webcam (planetary imager). While an equatorial mount with a motor drive is not strictly essential, as the exposure times will be very short, such a mount would be helpful to improve image sharpness, particularly with webcam-type cameras that take a series of exposures over time and stack them together. Reflectors may require a Barlow lens to let the camera reach focus. 
Planetary Photography:
Star Cluster / Nebula / Galaxy Photography:
1 year
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1. Craig on 5/3/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
I won one of these in a local astro fair's raffle. It was my first GO-TO scope, but i'll do my best to review. I really enjoy using it - once it's set and you have the hang of the controller, it's very simple to whip around the sky and look at any object you fancy. The thing that needs to be borne in mind with this scope (and presumably other go-to scopes) is that prior planning and configuration helps a lot. First thing to do is to make sure it has an accurate time and GPS location, I have my favorite observing sites programmed into the memory of the unit, but you can pull lat/longs off of any modern smartphone, or visit your observing area in google maps.

Once your scope is on its tripod, the alignment of it is crucial, the more exacting you are at this stage, the better your views will be later on. It takes a while to get everything just right, the only advice I can give is to practice - I'll not bother going through the steps here, this is a review and not a manual!

You will be asked to manually align the scope to several pointer stars - they're all big, bright, well-known ones, so you should be OK, if you're new to observing (like me!) then I think it's OK to cheat and use a planisphere or even a star-tracking app on your phone :D

Once the scope is aligned, it's a case of finding whichever object you want to look at (there are thousands in the database, including complete Messier and NGO lists) in the handset, and hitting 'go-to', then having a sip of hot chocolate while the scope slews. It is quite a loud motor, especially at 0300hrs, so using it near neighbors may not be wise...

The build quality of the scope itself is excellent, nothing comes loose or feels particularly "plasticky". The dew shield for the front of the scope has a weird threading which takes a few tries to get the hang of, and I noticed that my particular unit's alignment markings on the yoke were off, taking the outer ring off showed an O ring had got caught up in the mechanism. Re-seating this ring solved the weird alignment trouble I was having.

The tripod is a /little/ on the flimsy side, but it is a travel scope and is designed to be carried in a backpack, I tend to carry a bit of thin cord with me so I can tie the apex of the tripod to a heavy rock centered under it, just enough to put some resistance against all the legs and help it feel a bit more stable.

Included eyepieces are acceptable to good, I don't really have anything to compare against but I haven't noticed any flaws with them.

The backpack itself is well-constructed with just barely enough space for you to fit everything in, but that's OK - a bit of practice lets you get the order down pat, I tend to keep the manual folded at the bottom of the main compartment as well.

They say that the best scope you own is the one you use the most, and this one gets far more use than my 8 inch Dob, purely because it can be carried with one hand!

Excellent starter go-to scope, would probably buy another one if this one were broken or stolen.
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General Accessories
Extended Service Program (1)
Three-Year Sky Assurance™ For Meade telescopes priced between $200 and $349.99
by Meade
  • 80mm aperture achromatic refractor optical tube with multilayer optical coatings
  • Internal flip-mirror for either straight-through or 90° observing
  • Internal flip-lever 2x Barlow
  • Fork mount with electric slow-motion controls, setting circles, and locks on both axes
  • Electronic control panel
  • 9-speed (2x sidereal through 4.5°/sec.) dual-axis motor drive system with sidereal-rate tracking
  • #494 Autostar computer controller
  • Internal battery compartment accepting six (user-supplied) AA-size batteries
  • 1.25” 9.7mm (41x, 82x with built-in Barlow) and 26mm (15x, 31x with built-in Barlow) Super Plössl eyepieces
  • Lightweight adjustable height altazimuth field tripod
  • Bubble level
  • Compass
  • Backpack carrying case with shoulder straps and carrying handle
  • Dew shield
  • Dust caps
  • Planetarium software and instructional DVD
  • Operating instructions.
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Meade - ETX-80AT-TC 3.1" F/5 go-to refractor backpack edition

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Meade - ETX-80AT-TC 3.1" F/5 go-to refractor backpack editionImage showing the scope mounted on its lightweight full-length tripod, along with its backpack case.Close-up of backpack carrying case, showing the elasticized cord that holds the lightweight tripod.
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Manufacturer Product #: 0805-04-20
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This backpack edition 80mm Meade ETX-80 AT BB refractor gives you everything you need to start observing anywhere your legs can take you. You get telescope, motor drives, AutoStar go-to computer, two premium eyepieces, Barlow, lightweight tripod, backpack carrying case, software, and more – at a low price you’ll find hard to believe . . .

. . . our 34th year