The right telescope is an important instrument in all backyard astronomers’ arsenal. It transforms your nights of naked eye and binocular viewing into a rich world of deep sky objects and gives you a detailed and fresh perspective of the Moon and planets.
The Meade Infinity is one of the best starter-telescopes on the market. It is a compact, quality telescope from a trusted brand which is easy enough for even young amateur astronomers to use. Here is a closer look at the Infinity’s specs and what you can expect from this scope if you decide to purchase it.
|Aperture||102mm (4.02 inches)|
|Accessories||3 eyepieces, 2 x Barlow lens and accessory tray|
Meade Instruments’ Infinity 102mm Telescope is an entry level refractor telescope with an alt-azimuth mount. The telescope is relatively inexpensive but is a strong and quality make that produces crisp images of the solar system and popular deep sky objects.
Meade’s Infinity comes with three standard eyepieces: 26mm, 9mm, and 6.3mm. These eyepieces allow you to easily switch between low, medium and high magnifications.
The Infinity is perfect for both daytime and nighttime viewing with an aperture of 102mm. The instrument offers a nice field of view, ideal for sweeping a landscape or for exploring open star clusters. The other aspect that makes the telescope great for daytime or terrestrial observations is that it delivers upright images. There is also a nifty red dot viewfinder; a feature which helps you focus your optics perfectly without any hassles.
The alt-azimuth mount offers slow motion controls for more accurate tracking. However, it’s certainly not the smoothest or most stable mount, and apart from connecting your phone with an adaptor to snap some pics, you can count yourself out of astrophotography aspirations with this mount.
This telescope offers the largest aperture in the Infinity Series, putting it a grade above other entry telescopes. It also comes with a complimentary Autostar Suite Astronomy Planetarium software suitable for Windows computers. It features over 10,000 objects including planets, moons, stars, clusters, nebulae, galaxies and more.
The Infinity sets the standards of what a good beginner telescope should be. You can grab it straight out of the box and assembled in a matter of minutes without any tools needed. The assembly is truly that easy, and you will know your way around this telescope in no time at all.
Some telescopes show an inverted image without any eyepieces to correct it. Thankfully, Meade’s Infinity shows an upright image that a first-time telescope owner would appreciate. The upright image and low magnification set you up for lovely terrestrial observations – great for looking out to sea or scanning mountains and other daytime targets.
Getting your telescope focused is also a breeze: the red dot viewfinder allows you to calibrate the optics within a matter of minutes. Remember, it’s best to do this during the day or evening when the light is good and you can focus on an obvious object like a chimney or streetlight a few miles away. Keep in mind that you can extend the battery life by remembering to turn off the red dot finder when you are done.
Adding to its easy assembly, the telescope is not heavy. This is an essential element if you often travel to darker skies for observations. It is compact enough to fit into an average-sized car quite easily and light enough to be set up alone.
One of the biggest gripes with this telescope is the mount. It does sometimes vibrate slightly but is relatively stable for all intents and purposes. It definitely requires a lighter touch, so bear that in mind. The slow-motion controllers work well enough, especially considering the telescope’s entry-level price. It does provide some degree of fine tuning so you can accurately track objects to an extent.
Basically, this alt-azimuth mount moves up and down and back and forth. It doesn’t have the widest or most flexible rotation, especially if you are trying to view below your direct line of sight. If you have owned Dobsonian or equatorial scopes, then you may find this AZ mount a little clumsy. The mount also tends to struggle when trying to push vertically. One tip that might help is to gently nudge the scope a little further beyond the point you are aiming for, then wait for it to swing back ever so slightly. It can also lock into place to lessen gliding while you are busy viewing.
The Infinity 102mm usually comes with 3 eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens. The eyepieces that come with this beginner telescope are pretty standard but may surprise you with their quality. You will be able to see breath-taking details of the Moon’s craters and valleys. Just note that even though the telescope is quite small, the Moon is a lot brighter than many people expect. A Moon filter is always the way to go. It blocks out most of the harsh light and delivers greater contrast. Exploring the Moon’s terminator – the line that divides the lit and shadowed halves – is spectacular with the Infinity.
You will be able to see Mercury, Mars and Venus with the Infinity. There isn’t much to expect since these planets are so small and lacking in noticeable features. The exception here is Mars which might show some color and the polar ice caps, though not in great detail.
Jupiter is a favorite target for obvious reasons. You can see the gas bands with some really good detail for a small telescope. The Galilean Moons are also noticeable as small dots around the planet and transiting Jupiter. Saturn is also visible. You can make out the planet’s extraordinary rings very clearly. The telescope is much too small to be able to show the Cassini division. Overall, the planets and moon are great targets using the Infinity.
The instrument is big enough to be able to split a number of binary stars. Binary stars are underrated targets, but it is good fun to view their arcs of separation with the Infinity. It is ideal for viewing open clusters like the Pleiades thanks to a lower magnification and wide field of view. Globular clusters will reveal far greater resolution than with binoculars and are also treat to view. The Meade will show some of the brighter galaxies, but it is not the best for viewing diffuse or emission nebulae. These objects are quite faint and dispersed and require a stronger scope. However, under dark skies and with the right filters, you could view some of the brighter nebula.
Unfortunately, the telescope does show chromatic aberrations under some conditions, especially when an image has strong contrasts between light and dark areas. The aberration is noticeable as blue or red-yellow outlines. This really does not mean it is a low-quality instrument: this type of optical flaw is common to all lenses. Again, the aberration is not evident at all times.
The Infinity is not a high tech instrument at all: no frills and no fuss. Regardless, you can still have peace of mind knowing that it comes with a useful users-guide if you aren’t sure where to start. The guide covers everything you need to know and offers some nice tips too.
Pros and Cons
- An affordable entry level telescope that doesn’t break the bank. This is especially beneficial if you are choosing the telescope as a gift for a young child or as a beginner who wants to become familiarized with telescopes.
- The instrument is exceptionally easy to assemble, requiring no tools to do so. It can be assembled alone, and is set-up in 10 minutes or less once you know what you are doing.
- This is a refracting telescope which uses lenses and doesn’t require collimating.
- A lightweight and compact telescope that can be stored and transported easily.
- Quality optics that are perfect for basic viewing, including terrestrial observations.
- Comes with an alt-azimuth mount that cannot be used for astrophotography. The mount’s range of motion is not comprehensive. There also appears to be slight vibrations and unsteady movements if the mount is not locked, or if too much pressure is applied while nudging it.
- The Barlow lens is not the highest quality lens. It would be better to get one or two extra eyepieces.
- You can see so much with this telescope, but it’s dwarfed in comparison to what you can see with telescopes that are even just an inch or two larger. You won’t be able to view some deep sky objects like fainter nebulae or galaxies with this scope, but the myriad objects you can see will never disappoint you.
- Like all refractors, the telescope shows chromatic aberrations.
This Meade makes a great gift for any astronomy enthusiast. I’d give the Infinity 102mm an overall rating of 6.5/10. It is a solid telescope made with durable materials, has the good optics you would expect of Meade, and will get plenty of use because it is so simple to move around and set up. It is a wonderful beginner scope, and apart from the mount and the standard eyepieces, the telescope does not have any glaring faults. Plus, it can always be upgraded by replacing the mount with a sturdier option and adding one or two additional high-end eyepieces to the set. Throw in a few planetary filters and a lunar filter and the Infinity will give you magnificent views for many nights to come.