New Telescope Forum Review 01/11/02
It was a great turnout at this event at Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College in N.J. The event was scheduled for 8:00 P.M. People started arriving with their telescopes about 6:45. By 7:30 our regular meeting room was packed and the entrance was starting to get crowded. We were planning to use the cafeteria across the way, but we didn’t anticipate using it so early. The crowd was separated into two groups. The people with refractors and reflectors were to go the cafeteria where there was more room. The guests with GOTO telescopes stayed in the meeting room. Now I’m not a good estimator of crowds, but I’d say we had over 75 people in the meeting room and maybe triple that in the cafeteria. There must have been well over 300 people all together, each carrying a brand new shiny telescope. This event was advertised in the local papers and TV network. CableVision sent a TV crew and it will televised on their local channel in the near future. Rich, out club President was interviewed before the show started, I was interviewed later on and I’m not sure whom else.
Since I have a computerized GOTO telescope, I was assigned to the GOTO area along with a few other club members. There were several different types including the Celestron Nextstar and the most popular ETX60. There were over 20 ETX60’s which is a 60MM short tube refractor on a small fork mount with GOTO capabilities. I gave an introduction talk, which lasted about 45 minutes. Some of the other members put their 2 cents in. My first question was where did all these ETX60’s come from. The crowd answered as one, Costco! $129, which was a good price for that scope. The ads price it at $199. I explained that none of us at the club had this scope, but it was Meade product and they are all pretty much the same. It may take a little time to familiarize ourselves with the mechanics of it, but we would get them working for them when we got outside. Then I explained to them about Magnification vs. light gathering power, the different types of scopes and generally what they could realistically expect from their instrument. There was a sigh when I informed them the pictures on the box were unrealistic as was 675x power. The funniest part was when I asked, So you got the new scope, What’s the first thing you look at. They all answered the Moon. I asked What’s next, they said Jupiter. Again I asked, what’s next, they said Saturn. Once again, What’s next, it was quiet as I expected, then a guy yelled out, Jupiter! We had a good laugh then a small child said, The Orion Nebula, Great! That was my introduction to the Messier Objects. I informed them, and I was glad we had the Messier Objects Poster hanging behind me, that 60 to 70 of these object were visible in the ETX60, over 100 in an 80MM and all 110 and much more in the 4-½ reflectors. They got excited about that. Double stars are visible, all the planets and much more. For a second, I could only thing of the names of 2 planets. I had to turn to my fellow members for help, which also got a laugh. Of course we did some Q&A. We couldn’t give too much details on specific questions till we got a hold of some of the controls and checked it out for ourselves . We had lots fun with these people. I hope they all join the club.
After about 1 hour in the meeting room, we ventured outside. Too bad, clouds were just starting roll in. I joined a group of 4 proud ETX60 owners and assisted in getting the things working. First off, unlike the LX200, you need to enter the date and time every time you turn it on. Next it will attempt to turn to the first alignment star all by itself. Note that back in the meeting room I asked how many people had read the instructions, a very interesting 3 people raised their hands. There wasn’t one person in the room that successfully had the ETX60 running yet. Anyway, I quickly turned to the alignment instructions in the manual, read about 5 bullet points in order and got the general idea. When the scope turns to the first alignment star, you then need to center it in the eyepiece, then hit enter, then it will choose the second star, you do the same thing, center it, hit enter and the scope is ready. You then scroll through sever items using the buttons at the bottom. Hit enter when you get to the item you want, it displays statistics just like the LX200, hit GOTO and takes off. I got one scope running fine except for the fact there were no stars in the sky. So we just acted as if we did just to get it running. It wasn’t hard at all. The biggest confusion was in pointing it North. Everyone was obsessed with pointing it North. Why? It just seems the thing you have to do when you get a telescope. First point it north. Again Why? Like when you’re looking to buy a car, kick the tires, Why? Or choosing a loaf of bread, squeeze it till you’ve ruined it, then buy it? Why?
The instructions due say to point it North. You don’t have to. That just so when the scope tries to find the first star by itself, it gets in the general vicinity. It doesn’t really get that close, it’s off buy as much as 20 to 30 degrees, I read the review. You have to center the star in the eyepiece no matter where the scope points, so you don’t need to star pointing north.
Once I got one working I was ready to get them all going when I was asked by the CableVision people to do an interview. It took about 20 minutes. I got wear one of those little microphones with the wire under my coat. Cool Ha! After it was over I went back and every one with the ETX60’s was gone. The sky was bad, I don’t blame them. They were all invited back anytime we have a meeting if they still have a problem.
It was a great event. I think I was the one who had the most fun. I love the public events. I just may have to write a part 2 to this review as I remember all the rest of the things that went on I’d like to tell you about. I hope we sparked more than just a casual interest in some of these people. This is great great hobby, I can’t get enough of it. Hope we made many new friends and see them often. If just one kid grows up loving this hobby as we do, it was big success. Thanks to everyone who participated.