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How to Choose a Telescope


The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) is easily observed through small telescopes. Meade CCD image by Jack Newton; Meade 16" LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope
1. What will the telescope be used for? Astronomical observing? Terrestrial observing? Both?
If the telescope is a first-time purchase, most people want to observe the entire range of astronomical and terrestrial subjects. Refracting telescopes (Meade Models 230, 285, 390, 395, and 102ACHR/500) and mirror-lens telescopes (the Meade ETX Astro Telescope and Models 203SC, 8" LX50, and 8" LX200) are generally more versatile in a wide array of land and astronomical applications. If your applications in land-viewing and astronomy are about of equal importance, then one of these models will probably be the instrument of choice. As a telescope exclusively for terrestrial viewing, the ETX Spotting Scope is one of the premier instruments ever designed.

Alternatively, if your interests run more strongly to astronomy as a field of study, then reflecting telescopes (Meade Models 4500, 114NT/500, and 127NT/500) or mirror-lens telescopes (the Meade ETX Astro Telescope or Models 203SC/500, 8" LX50, and 8" LX200) are ideal. Reflecting telescopes usually represent the largest telescope aperature available per dollar of cost. Mirror-lens telescopes are the most versatile of all optical designs: it is this versatility, combined with uncompromised image resolution and portability, that have made the Meade ETX Astro Telescope and other Meade mirror-lens models the most popular telescopes in the world among serious observers.


The Meade Model 127NT/500 reflecting telescope is an excellent choice for the serious beginning or intermediate-level amateur astronomer.
2. How serious are my intended applications?
Many advanced amateur astronomers began the study of astronomy with a 60mm refractor. Meade 60mm-diameter telescopes (Models 230 and 285) are perfectly suited for a person at an introductory level of interest. But if one's interests are maintained, he or she may want a larger telescope, such as the Meade ETX or Model 390, 395 or 4500. Larger Meade telescopes enable the study of much greater detail in all observed celestial objects, and the ETX Astro Telescope and Model 4500 are excellent choices for the serious beginning amateur astronomer.

The intermediate-level observer, or the non-casual telescope user who wishes to purchase one telescope for a lifetime, should consider a Meade Model 102ACHR/500, 203SC/500, 8" LX50, or 8" LX200. It is an uncommon observer who will require a telescope of larger than 8" aperture for any astronomical or terrestrial studies.

If your interests tend strongly toward astronomy, consider the purchase of a Meade telescope equipped with an equatorial mount, such as the ETX Astro Telescope, or Model 395, 4500, 102ACHR/500, or 203SC/500. The equatorial mount greatly facilitates tracking all celestial objects simply by turning a single control knob or cable. In the case of the ETX Astro Telescope (or on other equatorial models purchased with a motor drive), the telescope tracks these objects automatically by means of an internal battery-powered drive system.


The ETX Spotting Scope is the ultimate in high - resolution telescopes for land viewing.
3. What is the size of my budget?
Meade Instruments manufactures only high-resolution telescopes, instruments designed for a lifetime of clear, sharp, high-performance imaging, irrespective of a telescope's price level. However, if your budget permits, consider the advantages of larger telescope diameters; try to buy a telescope you won't quickly outgrow. The Model 230 is a fine beginning telescope, but the Model 4500 collects more than three times as much light for a relatively modest additional expenditure. The Model 390 yields an impressive level of observable detail, but the Meade ETX Astro Telescope, at only a slightly higher price, allows for unprecedented portability and includes a motor-driven equatorial mount as well. The 4"-diameter Model 102ACHR/500 is a high-resolution telescope by any standard, but the Model 203SC/500, at a slightly higher price, collects four times as much light and has four times the resolving capability of the 102ACHR/500.

The purpose of these statements is not to press the unitiated into purchasing more telescope than required for the user's intended applications. But a little study before purchase can pay important rewards in long-term satisfaction with the telescope's full range of capabilities. Listed within the discussion of each telescope series throughout the Meade website is a description of what you can see through each telescope model. These descriptions, in conjunction with a model's price level, permit a useful balancing of budgetary and performance characteristics.

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