The Mease ETX-60AT and 70AT were very popular telescopes. Even though Meade doesn’t sell them anymore, you can always find them in the pawn shops or online marketplace for used telescopes. Which means you can have a portable observatory that can fit in your backpack for $50.
These are not like other telescopes with the tripod. They don’t come with a tripod, but you can find some with it. The tripod is an optional accessory. These telescopes are made for use on flat surfaces like table tops, which is great because they are small and portable without the tripod. It is a huge advantage over the bigger telescopes because you can easily take them on the camping trip or hiking trip under the dark skies, even without the car. So despite the small size, they will show you much more under the dark skies than bigger telescope near the city.
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Another great feature is that Meade ETX 60AT and 70AT are equipped with computerized mount and hand controller, so you don’t need to know the position of the objects on the night sky. You won’t find any other computerized telescopes in this price range. That’s why we call them “backpack observatory”.
Meade ETX 60AT and 70AT Telescope Features
The Meade ETX 60AT and 70AT optical design is achromat refractor. Refracting telescope is using lenses to produce the image compared to reflecting telescope that uses mirrors. The numbers 60 and 70 means that the diameter (aperture) of the lens at the front is 60 or 70mm. It is pretty small, and you can even find binoculars with a bigger aperture, but you don’t have the stability and computerized mount option with binoculars.
The mount is powered by 6x AA batteries. The battery holder is conveniently hidden in the computerized mount battery compartment under the optical tube. If you are going on a long trip with this telescope, don’t forget to bring extra batteries to power the mount. Anyway, the batteries will last long, and you don’t have to panic if you forgot to bring some extra ones because these telescopes can also be used in the manual mode. However, using it in the manual mode requires some knowledge of the night sky.
Compared with the binoculars again, the magnification with the ETX is higher and adjustable with different eyepieces and Barlow lens. The manual says that the maximum practical magnification for these scopes are 200x for 60AT and 240x for 70AT. It is just theoretical, and in reality, I suggest not to go over 110x magnification whit these telescopes. They are small, and another limiting factor is the atmosphere condition.
With the scope, you will also get two modified achromatic eyepieces, one with 25mm focal length and one with 9mm focal length. These eyepieces will give you 14x magnification with 25mm eyepiece and 38x magnification with 9mm eyepiece. You can easily calculate it. The focal length of these telescopes is 350mm. Divide the focal length of the optical tube with a focal length of the eyepiece, and you will get the magnification.
You can double or triple the focal length of the optical tube with the optional Barlow lens that you can buy separately. Using the Barlow lens with eyepieces will give you more magnification if you need it.
This type of telescope has a unique focusing mechanism. The standard telescope has focus knobs under the focuser where you put the eyepieces. You focus the ETX 60AT and 70AT by rotating the front of the optical tube, something like with the camera lens to achieve focus.
The neat feature here is a photo port at the end of the telescope. Here you can attach any 35mm camera with the T-adapter. T-adapters are different for each camera manufacturer. To switch between the visual and photo port, you have to use a small knob on the side that is used to rotate the erecting mirror inside the telescope. You can even make some videos or images of the planets and Moon with these telescopes. It is very limited though, what you can do regarding astrophotography, so don’t expect to make some cutting edge deep sky images. But for the planetary and Moon, it is more than enough.
You can also use a simple webcam with it as I have described it in my article How To Use Webcam With The Telescope.
Autostar Hand Controller
The Autostar Hand Controller of the Meade ETX 60AT and 70AT is the brain of the telescope. It is like having the astronomer with you guiding your stargazing session. This hand controller provides control over every telescope function. It has an LCD with red backlight for easy to read in the dark.
The Autostar Hand Controller is used to navigate the telescope across the sky. If it is properly aligned, it will show you every object with just a push of the button. You will have to learn how to use it, and it is not too complicated. If you are buying the telescope second hand and the manual is not provided, you can check and learn it from the online manual for both ETX 60AT and 70AT telescope here: Instruction Manual
Easy Two-Star Alignment
To enjoy the full potential of the Autostar, you need to do the star alignment first. The computer in the handset needs to know a few things to show you any object on the night sky. It is an easy process, and you don’t need to know anything about the night sky.
First thing you need to do is point the telescope to the north. Because of this, it is necessary to have some compass with you. Then you have to level the telescope and put it in the home position. The handset will first ask for a few data, like exact time and date, daylight saving, etc.
When you are ready, you can perform Easy Two Star Alignment procedure. The telescope will point itself to the two bright stars, and all you need to do is to center the stars in the eyepiece with the hand controller arrow in the eyepiece when it asks you to do that. If everything goes well, the telescope will display “alignment successful” on the LCD, and you can start your stargazing session.
You can also use these telescopes as spotting scopes during the day to observe nature or for bird watching. In this case, you don’t need the tracking feature of the mount, and you can use the telescope in the manual mode. Just loosen the vertical and horizontal knobs on the mount and point the telescope anywhere you want.
Next, you can use it for stargazing if your battery dies or you know the night sky, and you want to just look around the sky faster. However, keep in mind that the object will drift from the eyepiece because the earth rotation, so you will always have to adjust the telescope manually or with the arrows on the handset controller.
Current Alternative To ETX-60/70AT Telescope
As I said at the beginning, Meade ETX 60AT and 70AT are not manufactured and sold anymore, and you can find them only as second hand. They are older telescopes, but despite the age, they are still an amazing tool for beginner astronomer who likes to do stargazing in the field under the night sky and needs a portable instrument. Meade is now selling upgraded ETX models: ETX 80, ETX 90 and ETX 125.
They are improved versions of old ETX telescope with many more features and better optics. The cheapest and closest model is Meade ETX 80, which is a fantastic small telescope sold with a nice backpack too. It is a little bit more expensive but with current technology and high-end optics to give you ultimate backpack observatory.