The Polaris 130MM Optical Tube
The Polaris 130 is a standard 130 mm f/5 (focal ratio) Newtonian with a parabolic primary mirror. This is key as there is at least one 130 mm f/5 Newtonian on the market from a reputable manufacturer that ships a useless spherical primary.
I have heard of a few scattered reports of the Polaris 130 being shipped with a spherical primary. However there is no proof of this, and they are all mostly from secondhand accounts, so I would disregard them entirely.
At f/5 you may begin to notice some coma creeping in at the edges of the field of view with a low power eyepiece. However it’s not really enough to significantly distort your view, and there aren’t any 1.25 inch coma correctors in the market anyway.
Both the primary and secondary mirrors in the Polaris 130EQ can be collimated, which is to be expected with any decent reflecting telescope.
The scope’s 1.25 inch rack and pinion focuser is mostly plastic, but the eyepiece holder is metal and as a whole the unit works fine. The eyepiece holder actually has T-threads on it so you can use a T-ring to screw on your DSLR camera with no additional adapter … though this has limitations which we will examine later.
The Polaris 130 comes with a cheap, all plastic red-dot finder. It works fine, and is certainly better than a cheap 5×24 or 6×30. But the plastic window that you look through and which the red dot is projected on is slightly tinted, which dims your view of the sky.
The scope comes with tube rings and a vixen dovetail which allows it to be put on another mount if you wish, and of course for the optical tube to be rotated and balanced.
One of the tube rings has a captive ¼ 20 screw, so you can piggyback your DSLR camera and lens on top of the scope, but this again has limitations.
The Polaris 130EQ comes with an astounding three eyepieces and a 2x Barlow – quite unusual for any telescope.
Eyepieces supplied with the Polaris telescopes are all plastic 1.25 inch Kellners. These are a 26 mm (25x), a 9 mm (72x), and a 6.3 mm (103x), which can all be used with the 2x Barlow to double their respective magnifications.
None of these eyepieces are of particularly high quality and all perform adequately at best with an f/5 telescope, which has a rather demanding and strict tolerance for eyepieces. But I prefer having a range of cheap eyepieces over a single low power twenty-six mm or twenty-five mm Plossl which wouldn’t allow beginners to have exciting lunar or planetary views.
The 2x Barlow lens supplied with the Polaris is almost entirely plastic. I think even the lens might be plastic. It works surprisingly well though, but I would still swap it out for a better unit, or simply forego its use entirely if you can.
The Polaris telescopes all come on the same mount, an EQ-2 with 1.25 inch steel legs, a single counterweight, and flexible slow-motion controls.
The 130 mm f/5 optical tube is at about the maximum weight capacity that the EQ-2 can sustain. Were it any longer it would probably be unusable on the mount. The 114 mm Polaris with its three-foot-long tube is incredibly shaky on the EQ-2 mount, despite being lighter than the 130 mm f/5 optical tube.
Because of this, you will be straining the mount’s capability if you attach or piggyback a DSLR camera on it, and I don’t recommend doing that. You will grow frustrated trying even a piggybacked shot, and forget long exposure astrophotography.
For planetary and lunar photography, where one records video and stacks it with a program like Registax or AutoStakkert, your biggest problem will be the scope bouncing and wobbling as you track the right ascension.
Meade sells an RA motor drive that will somewhat alleviate the problem, but all in all you simply cannot attach a DSLR to the Polaris 130 on its lightweight mount.
For visual use, the EQ-2 is more than adequate, and I have no significant complaints about it stability-wise. I don’t like the amount of plastic used in the tripod and fear it could be easily broken if heavily used, though.
As I’ve said before, the Polaris’ EQ2 mount is unable to hold a DSLR camera with the telescope due to weight restrictions. That being said you can still do planetary imaging with a webcam style CCD camera, though you’ll need a quality 3x or 5x Barlow to boost the image scale sufficiently and of course, a better motor drive.
Visually, the Polaris 130EQ is great for deep sky viewing with its 130 mm aperture and wide field of view. You can complete the entire Messier catalog from the suburbs, and of course, see many other deep sky objects.
There are some who have completed the far more challenging Herschel 400 and even 800 catalogs with a five inch telescope like the Polaris 130EQ given practice and dark skies.
Concerning the moon, planets, and double stars, the Polaris 130EQ does quite well, though you’ll need some decent, quality planetary eyepieces to get all the scope can offer. Good collimation is also critical given that the Polaris 130EQ is an f/5 Newtonian.
Though it does have the compromises typical of entry-level, low-cost beginner telescopes, the Meade Polaris 130EQ is certainly a good choice for the price, if not the best. There are only a handful of telescopes at the same or lower price that I could truly, objectively deem better than the Polaris 130.