Telescope Tale

This is a story about a stupid mistake. I’m sure that many people who read this story will figure out the mistake before I get to the end, but needless to say, I didn’t figure it out, and neither did 3 other camera/telescope experts. So, perhaps there are other people out there just like me who have gotten stumped by this particular problem before. This story is for them – for everyone else, just enjoy laughing at my expense. 😉

For my 30th Birthday, I got a Meade ETX-80AT BB (the “backpack observatory” edition) telescope. Needless to say, I was excited.

So, I unpacked it from the box and set it up for the first time in my house – to get used to it, and make sure all the parts were there. Turned it on, moved it around… worked great! I couldn’t wait to take it out and try it.

So I broke it down and prepared to put it in the backpack, and here’s where the problem cropped up:

The scope wouldn’t fit in the backpack.

I called Meade to see if maybe I had gotten the wrong backpack, or if they had heard of people calling in with a similar problem (maybe I was just missing something?). They didn’t have any help – they would just have me ship the scope back to them and wait over a month for them to have new ones in stock before they’d even ship me a replacement. No thanks.

So I went back to my local camera store (Madison Photo Plus, in Madison, NJ in case anyone cares – very nice people there, as we’ll see) and asked if maybe we could swap out the bag from another one? I had thought that perhaps I had somehow gotten a back meant for a smaller scope – the ETX-70 or something, perhaps.

The people at the store – and this is a proper camera store mind you – wanted to look into it a bit more. They called their Meade sales rep (no help there), and then decided to compare with the floor model.

The scope didn’t fit in that bag, either. Perhaps there was a problem with ALL of the scopes they had??

All of us were sitting there scratching our heads. The scope definitely wouldn’t fit in the bag – it needed at least another inch, maybe two. The 3 camera store people and myself were stumped.

Eventually they decided they would give me a different hard-case temporarily so I could carry my scope around (as I said, they’re nice people) when, on a whim, one of the guys picked up the display scope off its tripod and brought it over to the counter – it was smaller than my scope!

Now, I’m sure there are people reading this who have already figured out the problem, but bear with me here, I’m trying to build drama in this story.

Suffice to say we were confused. They were perfectly happy to give me the display model – maybe we had somehow gotten the wrong scope? But something didn’t sit right with me – they both said 80mm on the end of the tube; they were clearly the same scope… but not the same size…

I examined them side by side to see what was different. The tube on mine was longer than the tube on the display model. I took the dust covers off both scopes and looked down the tube… and saw a metal rod in the display scope. In my scope, that same rod was there, but it was recessed further in the tube.

I showed it to one of the camera store people and a light went off in his head. The metal rod was threaded – it was used to make the tube longer and shorter – THE FOCUS! OF COURSE!

When I had been setting up the scope in my house, I had pointed it out the window at my porch and tried to focus on that. Naturally, that was very close to the “near” end of the focus range. Which naturally extended the tube.

It was a very head-slapping moment. I turned the focus nob back all the way in the other direction, and sure enough, the tube shortened and fit in the backpack just as it should. Problem solved!

All of us admitted that we should’ve known this was the problem, but we were blinded by the mystery of the bag, so we missed the obvious answer.

And so, my tip for any new ETX-80 owners out there is… when you put the scope back in its bag, if it doesn’t fit, just turn the focus nob the other way!

So simple – like many problems once you know what the cause is.

Anyway, I hope that this story helps someone out there… otherwise I’m going to feel really stupid!

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.