For thousands of years, humans have gazed up at the sky and imagined what was up there. It’s an instinctive curiosity that lives inside us all, and children are no exception. If you want to engage your child’s sense of wonder, there is no better tool than a telescope for kids to help them begin to explore the final frontier.
They’re not just for the night sky, though. You can use a telescope during the daytime, although depending on where you live, you may want to drive to a nature reserve and find a spot to set up where you can observe wildlife from a distance. Telescopes are particularly useful for birdwatching or observing shy animals such as deer. By giving your child the opportunity to observe and engage in the world around us, they will develop a deeper appreciation for nature and the universe as a whole. Engaging a child’s curiosity about the world we live in can light a lifelong desire for learning.
The Meade Instruments Infinity 102 mm AZ Refractor Telescope is a great introductory telescope that is easy enough for kids to learn to use yet still able to get bright, sharp, high-quality images of the moon, stars, and planets. You can use it during the daytime for wildlife watching or observing nature, as well. It has an alt-azimuth mount, a huge 102 mm aperture, a focal length of 600 mm, and a f/ratio of 5.9. These specs make for a very high-quality telescope for your young astronomers.
This telescope is easy to assemble, and as it’s solar-powered, it does not require the additional purchase of a battery. It’s nice and lightweight, weighing in at 12.5 lbs, so you can easily bring it on camping trips or driving out past the city’s lights at night time. There’s a carry bag available for purchase as well if you plan to transport it frequently.
For tips on assembly and how to use it, check out this video from Meade Instruments about the whole range of Infinity series telescopes below:
For more details about the features of this telescope, read on!
Design and Features
Aperture and Magnification
What does aperture mean, anyway? It’s just a telescope-specific word to refer to the diameter of the lens or mirror that allows light into the telescope.
The Meade Instruments Infinity 102 mm AZ Refractor Telescope gets its name from the aperture size 102 mm – approximately 4 inches. This large size will allow young astronomers to see as much as possible, whether they’re looking at the night sky or objects far away on Earth.
Generally speaking, the bigger the aperture or diameter of the lens, the more light the telescope will gather, which results in brighter and more detailed images. The 102 mm aperture on this telescope is big enough to provide beginner astronomers with bright, precise images of objects both in the sky and on land.
This telescope has a wide range of magnification thanks to the three lenses – one low 26 mm lens, one medium 9 mm lens, and one high resolution 6.3 mm lens – that will allow you to choose the best fit for different viewing situations. There’s also a 2x Barlow that comes included with this telescope.
A Barlow is an additional lens that can be attached to your telescope in between the lens and the telescope’s eyepiece to increase the focal length; this means it is a great way to increase the magnification of your telescope without having to purchase a new one. You can adjust the magnification from its lowest setting, 15x, to its highest, 204x, by changing the lenses or adding the Barlow. Lower settings are helpful for observing a general area, while the higher settings are best used to focus on a smaller area, like Saturn’s rings or a particular crater on the moon.
Focal Length and Focal Ratio
So what do focal length and focal ratio (often written as f/ratio) mean, anyway?
Focal length is a measurement of the distance between the optic lens of the telescope and the plane where the image comes in to focus. The focal ratio is the focal length of the telescope divided by the aperture. In the Meade Instruments Infinity 102 mm AZ Refractor Telescope, the focal length is 600 mm, and the aperture is 102 mm; this gives us a focal ratio of 5.9.
Like the one on this telescope, a smaller focal ratio will give you a broader view of the sky but with less magnification, which means it’s great if you want to look at the Milky Way or a cluster of stars. A focal ratio above 10 gives you a higher magnification but a narrower field of vision; this means it is great if you want to observe the moon, planets, or stars.
The Meade Instruments Infinity 102mm AZ Refractor Telescope has an alt-azimuth mount with a slow-motion control rod. What does that mean?
The ‘alt’ in the name stands for altitude, or up and down movement. Azimuth is a word that refers to the horizontal movement of the stars and planets in the sky. So an alt-azimuth mount means that the viewer can adjust the telescope’s movement both up and down (alt) as well as side to side (azimuth). You could compare it to a camera stand with pan and tilt action.
An alt-azimuth mount is an excellent mount for both children and beginners to astronomy because it is fairly simple and intuitive to use. Some slow-motion controllers will help you keep whichever object you are observing in your field of vision. Because of the earth’s rotation, stars can appear to move slightly over time when observing them closely.
To keep observing the same star, you will need to make tiny adjustments over time, which is where the alt-azimuth mount will be useful. This type of mount may not be sensitive enough for anyone trying to do astrophotography, but it’s a great feature if you are just trying to observe stars and planets.
This telescope comes with a red dot viewfinder, which will assist your young astronomers to accurately point their scopes at whichever object they want to observe. It’s suitable for both nighttime viewings of the sky and daytime viewing of terrestrial objects. For protection, the lenses included with the telescope come fully coated.
The telescope has a convenient accessory tray to store whichever accessories are not currently in use. Also included with the Meade Instruments 102 mm AZ Refractor Telescope is a full-height stainless steel tripod, pre-assembled for your convenience.
Compare and Contrast
Meade Instruments Infinity 50 mm AZ Refractor Telescope
This entry in the Meade Instruments Infinity series of telescopes has the smallest aperture, at 50 mm. It’s got a focal length of 600 mm and a f/ratio of 12, which means that this telescope is ideal for observing the moon, stars, and planets. It’s got an alt-azimuth mount and comes with an assortment of eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens to adjust the magnification.
The magnification available ranges from 7x to 100x, giving you many different options. The viewfinder displays images upside down, which isn’t a big deal for looking at the sky, but if you plan to use it for viewing objects on land, this is probably not ideal. It requires a C2 battery that you will need to purchase separately.
It is a basic telescope, but it’s well priced and offers great value for an entry-level telescope. If you’re interested in trying out astronomy with your child but not sure if it is something you want to invest in the long term, the Meade Instruments Infinity 50 mm AZ Refractor Telescope could be what you’re looking for.
Meade Instruments Infinity 70 mm AZ Refractor Telescope
A step up from the Meade Instruments Infinity 50 mm telescope is the 70 mm model. As the name suggests, it has a 70 mm aperture and a focal length of 700 mm, with a focal ratio of 10. It comes with two eyepieces and a 2x Barlow lens that allows you to adjust the magnification from 10x to 140x. Like other telescopes in the Infinity series, it has an alt-azimuth mount with slow motion control rods and a red dot viewfinder. Like the 102 mm version, the 70 mm version of this telescope is solar-powered.
The Meade Instruments Infinity 70 mm AZ Refractor Telescope is a great mid-range model. It costs just slightly more than the 50 mm model, but its larger aperture will gather 96% more light than the same model. Meaning it can pick out celestial objects that are fainter in the sky and give you sharper images. Overall, the 70 mm Infinity model is smaller than the 102mm but offers excellent value for the price and would be a great starter telescope for kids interested in astronomy.
What’s in the Box?
The Meade Instruments Infinity 102mm AZ Refractor Telescope comes with the following included, in addition to the telescope itself: 1 Red-Dot Viewfinder, a 2x Barlow lens, three eyepieces to provide different levels of magnification, one pre-assembled full height stainless steel tripod, and an instructional DVD and astronomical software.
Like the Meade Instruments Infinity 102 mm AZ Refractor Telescope, a telescope is an item that can grow with your child in many different ways. You can use it as a STEM learning tool to teach kids real-life, practical ways to use math and physics. It’s also a way to capture our imagination and indulge dreams as we encourage our kids to imagine what else might be out there. With a telescope, we can see even further than we could ever imagine in real life.