Q: Do I have to be an expert in astronomy to enjoy using a telescope? How can I locate interesting objects to observe?
Q: Do I need to take my telescope out in the country, away from city lights, to realize its full potential?
Q: Is there one "best telescope" for a family to enjoy?
Q: How much maintenance do telescopes require?
Q: What exactly does "tracking" astronomical objects mean and why is it important?
Q: What are Right Ascension and Declination?
Q: What does focal length mean?
Q: What optional accessories do I need for my telescope?
Q: If I have questions after the purchase of my Meade telescope, whom should I contact?
Q: The equatorial mount that is included with some Meade telescope models seems a bit intimidating. Are these mounts difficult to use or complicated to understand?
Q: Do celestial objects actually appear through the telescope as they are seen in the astronomical photographs in this catalog?
Q: Can I really take astronomical photographs of the quality presented in this catalog?
top Q: Do I have to be an expert in astronomy to enjoy using a telescope? How can I locate interesting objects to observe?
A: Most first-time telescope users know little or nothing about the night sky, and you certainly do not need a course in astronomy to enjoy your telescope to the fullest. Begin with the objects easiest to find: the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars. All of these are bright objects even in the midst of a big-city environment and can be located by using star maps in popular monthly magazines such as Astronomy or Sky & Telescope. For more advanced celestial listings, use Meade Star Charts or Meade Epoch 2000sk sky software. With only a little study, you will quickly be star-hopping from one object to another.
top Q: Do I need to take my telescope out in the country, away from city lights, to realize its full potential?
A: Some types of objects (e.g., nebulae and galaxies) are best observed in a dark-sky environment, although even many of these are clearly observable through small telescopes in the city. The Moon and planets, by contrast, can be studied about equally well from the city or country. The basic rule is that while observations made outside the city generally reveal more detail, particularly in deep space, there are still a great many objects within the grasp of a small telescope in urban areas.
top Q: Is there one "best telescope" for a family to enjoy?
A: Just as it is difficult to recommend one "best automobile," it is also not easy to recommend one telescope model as the best choice for all situations. But a few guidelines can be given: (a) Although you probably don't want to buy the "biggest telescope in the store" as your first instrument, don't purchase a toy, either. Low-quality telescopes, of which unfortunately there are many available, serve more to stifle the interests of a beginning amateur astronomer than stimulate them; (b) Establish a reasonable budget, and then buy the largest aperture (diameter) telescope that is within that budget; remember, it is aperture, not power, that determines what you will actually see through the telescope; (c) If the telescope is a first-time purchase for a youngster on a modest budget, keep in mind that 60mm refractors (e.g., Meade Models 230 and 285) have been the initial instrument for tens of thousands of amateurs through the years; (d) If your budget permits, Meade 4.5" reflecting telescopes (e.g., Model 4500), 90mm refractors (e.g., Models 390, 395) or the exquisite Meade ETX, are excellent intermediate telescopes that will satisfy the majority of inquiring minds, young and old; (e) If you feel that the astronomical interests of the user, whether gifted young person or adult, will be sustained, consider purchasing a telescope that he or she will likely never outgrow, such as a Meade Model 203SC/500.
top Q: How much maintenance do telescopes require?
A: With the reasonable care due any fine instrument, a Meade telescope will offer a lifetime of service with almost no maintenance whatever. If the telescope is dropped or damaged in some way, the Meade Customer Service Department can offer repair advice, usually sending the required repair part or component by mail, avoiding return of the telescope to the factory.
top Q: What exactly does "tracking" astronomical objects mean and why is it important?
A: Observed without a telescope, the sky appears essentially fixed and unmoving. Viewed through even a small telescope, however, the situation is quite different. Although the sky (the "celestial sphere" containing all the stars, planets, and other objects) is, in fact, essentially fixed, the Earth turns underneath the sky once every 24 hours. This motion is magnified by the telescope, to the point where astronomical objects appear to move through the telescope's field of view in 10 to 30 seconds. It is therefore important for the observer to be able to follow, or track, objects as they move through the field. Meade telescope models provide several different means of accomplishing this tracking requirement, from the manual tracking controls of the Model 285, for example, to the computerized tracking of the LX200 series.
top Q: What are Right Ascension and Declination?
A: Analogous to the Earth's longitude and latitude, the celestial sphere is divided by a grid of lines that are used to define the positions of every object in the sky. Just as the location of, say, New York City, is defined on Earth by its longitude and latitude, so the position of the Orion Nebula in the sky is defined by its Right Ascension and Declination. Right Ascension is the celestial analog to the Earth's longitude, and Declination is the celestial analog to the Earth's latitude.
top Q: What does focal length mean?
A: The focal length of a telescope is the distance (usually expressed in millimeters, or mm) from the telescope's main optical element (main lens or primary mirror) to the point where light rays are brought to a focus. Focal length is an important telescope specification because it determines, among other characteristics, the magnifying power of the telescope. Magnifying power is calculated by dividing the focal length of the eyepiece (printed on the barrel of each eyepiece) into the focal length of the telescope.
top Q: What optional accessories do I need for my telescope?
A: All Meade astronomical telescopes are supplied with one or more eyepieces. Depending on the applications you have in mind, you might want to add two or three additional eyepieces: perhaps a low-power wide-field eyepiece (e.g., an eyepiece with a 40mm focal length) for land-viewing or for scanning star fields, or a higher-power eyepiece (e.g., an eyepiece with a 4mm to 9mm focal length) for detailed imaging of the Moon and planets. A Barlow lens is a useful accessory for multiplying the power of each eyepiece. Camera adapters, permitting through-the-telescope photography of both terrestrial and astronomical objects, are popular optional accessories; larger Meade telescopes also permit the addition of special guiding devices for long-exposure deep space photography. Other Meade optional accessories are available for virtually any observing or photographic application of the telescope.
top Q: If I have questions after the purchase of my Meade telescope, who should I contact?
A: The Meade Customer Service Department is highly trained both in astronomy and in the use of all Meade telescopes and accessories. Feel free to write, call, or fax to us any question you may have after your Meade purchase. You will receive a prompt and informed reply.
top Q: The equatorial mount that is included with some Meade telescope models seems a bit intimidating. Are these mounts difficult to use or complicated to understand?
A: At first glance the equatorial mount (e.g., Meade Model 285, or Model 114NT/500) appears more difficult to understand and use than the simpler altazimuth mount included with other Meade telescopes (e.g., Model 390). In fact, however, the equatorial mount greatly simplifies the operation of an astronomical telescope, enabling the observer to concentrate on observing objects rather than tracking them. Alignment of the equatorial mount to the Pole (which sounds much more complex than it is in fact) requires about 15 seconds, each time the telescope is set up for the evening. Thereafter, throughout the observing session, the observer needs to turn only one of the telescope's slow-motion controls (the Right Ascension control) to follow celestial objects in their paths across the sky. And, aside from the most advanced altazimuth-mounted amateur telescope, the Meade LX200, only equatorially-mounted telescopes permit the addition of a motor drive for fully-automatic tracking.
top Q: Do celestial objects actually appear through the telescope as they are seen in the astronomical photographs in the Meade Gallery on this website?
A: The answer to this question depends on the type of object observed. Celestial objects within the Solar System, including the Moon and planets, generally show more detail by direct visual observation than is possible to obtain photographically with the same instrument because the Earth's atmosphere tends to "fuzzy" the image slightly during the time of the photo exposure. With deep space objects, such as nebulae and galaxies, however, the opposite is true. Although thousands of nebulae and galaxies are directly visible through any Meade telescope, only long-exposure photos show the colors and full extent of these objects.
top Q: Can I really take astronomical photographs of the quality presented on this site?
A: Astrophotography is a fascinating adjunct to the study of astronomy, but, as with any technical subject, patience, practice and experience are essential for quality results. Start with photographing the Moon, then the major planets; this type of photography can be done with the Meade ETX Astro Telescope, as well as with Models 390, 395, 4500, and all of the larger Meade models. Long-exposure astrophotography requires special guiding devices and drive correctors available for, or included as standard equipment with, Meade Models 102ACHR/500, 203SC/500, and all LX50 and LX200 models. Many amateurs have obtained high-quality results using only the equipment presented in this website.