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

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This Meade telescope has:

• 80mm f/5 multicoated refractor optics
• light-weight battery-operated AutoStar computerized go-to altazimuth mount and tripod
• soft tripod carry case
• 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 computerized Meade ETX-80AT. If you can level the scope and point it north (it takes only a minute or two, using the supplied bubble level and compass), the ETX-80AT 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 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 displays hundreds of nebulas, star clusters, double and multiple stars, and variable stars – plus dozens of external galaxies in all their variations of form and structure.

For the introductory student of astronomy, or for the casual observer, the Meade ETX-80AT opens up the skies at modest cost to an amazing breadth of celestial detail that is utterly invisible without the telescope. It 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 ETX-80AT 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 #506 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 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 or 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 (only 11 pounds, including tripod) and simple to use 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 adjustable height field tripod, do a quick, easy 60-second alignment of the telescope’s computer to the sky, and start observing. The tripod comes with a soft carrying case and an accessory tray with cutouts to hold four 1.25” eyepieces and the AutoStar computer hand control. A supplied combined bubble level and compass slips into the eyepiece holder to allow fast leveling of the scope and alignment on the north each time you go out to observe.

The ETX-80AT includes a computer clock-chip that keeps track of the precise time and date, so there’s no need to supply the precise time when you’re setting up the AutoStar. The scope will remember your last observing location, so there’s 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 unerringly 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 in either altazimuth or equatorial modes. 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 full length adjustable height field tripod, the tripod carrying case, 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 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.
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
Reviews from Cloudy Nights (
These reviews have been written by astronomers just like you and posted on the Cloudy Nights astronomy forums . . .
Meade ETX-80AT
Meade ETX-80 AT-TC

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1. Kevin on 4/30/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
Fantastic little scope. I have used it for many years, and once you get a nice set of lenses (the Series 4000 from Meade works wonders) the optics really do a nice job. I have several scopes, going to a size of 10", but this little scope gets used more than all the others combined. Ultra-portable, accessories EVERYWHERE online and in local retail. Head into a nice dark open field and watch this scope shine. The go-to functionality is as easy as falling out of a tree. My favorite by a long shot. Well worth the price.
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General Accessories
Extended Service Program (2)
Three-Year Sky Assurance™ For Meade telescopes priced between $200 and $349.99
by Meade
Five-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
  • Adjustable height field tripod with bubble level compass and accessory tray
  • Tripod carrying case
  • Dust caps
  • Planetarium software and instructional DVD
  • Operating instructions.
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Meade - ETX-80AT-TC 3.1" F/5 go-to refractor

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Meade - ETX-80AT-TC 3.1" F/5 go-to refractorImage showing the scope on its standard equipment full length field tripod.images/imgs10_11_2005/m80atF2.jpg Feature image name not indicated
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Our Product #: M80AT
Manufacturer Product #: 0805-04-21
Price: $269.95
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MSRP: $299.00

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This Meade refractor gives you everything you need to start observing – telescope, motor drives, AutoStar go-to computer, two premium eyepieces, Barlow, tripod, tripod carrying case, and software – at a low price that’s hard to believe . . .

. . . our 36th year