Meade StarNavigator 102 * Personally, I’m a refractor kind of guy. So I kind of like this Meade StarNavigator 102. I like refractors because I’m rough on machinery in general, and refractors can take it. They are simple, sealed tubes with glass at the front and back. Comparatively little can go wrong. * And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with 102 mm of aperture! That’s basically 4 inches of good glass. Laboratory-quality optics run deep in Meade’s DNA and this scope got a goodly measure of those genetics. * You should get a look at detail on planets like the cloud belts of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, see ice caps on Mars. You can also resolve the characteristic crystal chandelier-look of star clusters, collections of hundreds of thousands over stars, some of them very, very old. And if you have dark skies your StarNavigator will pull in the faint photons of several nearby galaxies. * To “refract” means to “break up” and there is one unfortunate side effect of breaking up light in order to magnify it: it may not go back together perfectly. All lenses bend light, which separates the colors a bit. So all refractor telescopes tend to put colored edges on objects. But true to its Meade optical heritage, this refractor distorts color much less than most others of its size; certainly gives you better images than any other at this price-point. * Another way to minimize the color problems is to make the tube longer. That’s why refractors look long and skinny. One thing we questioned about the StarNavigator’s design is the use of this single fork AltAz mount. We expected to see some rock or wiggle as this long tube tracked on the motor. But in practice we really didn’t find any. * Because it's a refractor on a simple rocking mount, it's basically a point and shoot scope. Intuitive. * You can use it in daylight to observe targets on Earth: bird watching, distant mountain peaks or even city skylines from the suburbs. But when doing this, be gentle on the motor coupling if you want it to properly go-to celestial objects * The included library of those objects is extensive. There’re more than 30,000. And this telescope talks to you. A recorded human voice tells you about 500 of the sky's greatest hits as you observe each. * Living up to its name, the StarNavigator will find and track targets for you after you align it. * We also liked this oversized Declination dial for quick alignment set-up. Really good on cold fingers under thick gloves. * Solidly built; at 25 lbs, it's the heaviest scope we reviewed but only by a pound or two. * And it's far from the most expensive. It's a really good value. I like refractors. And I really like this one.
Low maintenance, excellent optical quality, a fine Go-To computer and the capability of daytime use for targets on Earth persuaded our reviewers to name Meade's StarNavigator 102 the best refracting telescope for beginners of 2012.
Credit: Dave Brody | SPACE.com