AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 25 April 2007

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, cables, and the AutoStar updater software. See the AutoStar Info page for information from Meade and other users on the AutoStar, cables, and software. Send your comments and tips to etx@me.com. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranties on your ETX and accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.


Subject:	#497 Autostar not responding
Sent:	Monday, April 23, 2007 08:17:47
From:	Andre De Jong (janandredejong@yahoo.co.uk)
I own an ETX-105 PE with a #497 AutoStar controller. Over the weekend I
was setting up my scope in the usual way for some viewing. When the time
came to switch everything on (running on fresh batteries) the normal
AutoStar prompts appeared and I left the auto align to do its stuff.
When it prompted for the first alignment start to be centred the scope
was pointing to nowhere in particular in the night sky and with no
bright stars in the vicinity. I had alignment problems before and
decided to start from scratch to make sure I haven't done something
stupid.

THE PROBLEM
I switched the ETX off and placed it back in its home position. When I
switched it back on the AutoStar was dead. No lights, no response,
nothing except a very faint ticking noise and even this does not happen
every time I switch it one.
- I checked all the connections and it all appeared fine.
- Changed the batteries for another set of fresh ones and still nothing.
- Following advice from your site I checked all the cable connecters and
pins in the sockets and again all fine.
- Took it all to a local dealer and swapped cables and AutoStar on one
of there demo models. It confirmed that my cable was working and my
AutoStar was still dead on their kit.
- Tried to connect to the AutoStar using Hyperterminal to do a software
reset but when it connects I only get a series of square blobs that
appear in a slow stream. No prompts or any response to anything.
 
THE QUESTION
Have you gat any idea on how to fix this or experience of this kind of
error? With my luck lately I would not be surprised if the controller
decided to die on me given that my warranty has expired about a month
ago. Hope you might be able to point me in the right direction.
 
Thanks for the very helpful and informative site.
 
Regards
Andre De Jong
Mike here: I suspect it has died. But I'll let Dick Seymour, our resident AutoStar expert, chime in.
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Unfortunately, other than "open it up and look for dead components"
(such as the feed-through inductors just inboard of the HBX cable
socket), i can't suggest anything other than "call meade for a fix"

I -think- their going price for an Autostar repair is $75,
but you could try for warranty (free except for shipping) service.

good luck
--dick

And:

Whups... just noticed the UK address...
so it's Telescope House or BC&F (i think).

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Defect Autostar 494
Sent:	Friday, April 20, 2007 15:47:37
From:	Carsten Wennmacher (wennmacher@tiscali.de)
first of all congratulations to your great homepage. I already found
several ideas to improve my telescope.

But now I have a problem with my Autostar 494. The display stays black
after I switch it on. I fear the supply voltage was to low so that it
could not "boot" completely. Probable the processor software got
corrupted. I found a link to Gene Chimahuskys homepage maybe describing
the same problem (http://home.comcast.net/~lynol1000/as_494_gc/index.html).
Do you know where I can get the firmware of the Autostar 494? Or do you
have any other ideas how to fix that problem? I just opened my Autostar
and could not find any hardware defects.

Best regards from Hamburg, Germany,

Carsten
Mike here: Unfortunately there is no user installable firmware for the #494.  You will need to contact a dealer, Meade, or replace it with a #497, which is user updatable and has more capabilities than the #494.
Subject:	Autostar 2
Sent:	Friday, April 20, 2007 12:02:34
From:	Megaplex (megaplex@tiscali.it)
i'm an Iatalian guy, and i have a question for you.

I need your expertise, do you know if the autostar 2 can work with the
etx 105 ec.

thank you very much for your help

You have a great site, very good

Take care and thank you again
 
Andrea
Mike here: Unfortunately the answer is "no".
Subject:	Lunar GOTO
Sent:	Sunday, April 15, 2007 06:24:43
From:	Leigh (leigh@cathouse9.freeserve.co.uk)
I say again, fantastic site and a great "pull together" of all the info
an "astro duffer" like me needs to keep things improving. Thanks v much
indeed. Do you know if the Lunar GOTO freeware is still available and if
so where it is. The links on the site are all outdated as far as I can
tell

Thanks

Leigh
Cheshire
England
Mike here: Do you mean the link in the article "GOTO Moon Features" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page is bad? It worked for me.

And:

Thanks for the reply. I know you're busy. Yeah that's the one, and the
link works, but when u get there the zip file
http://www.considine.net/lg2v1beta.zip is not there, and instead you go
to a web design outfit (as it turns out it's Matt's wife's company). I
eventually managed to contact Matt and he sent me the current link which
is http://www.considine.net/mac/lunargoto/lg2v1beta.zip

So now I have the app.

Thanks again for your time


Leigh

Subject:	AS upgrade 43Eg
Sent:	Sunday, April 15, 2007 05:42:51
From:	henrik.van.holthoon (henrik.van.holthoon@wanadoo.fr)
New Autostar #497 software upgrade, I have no idea if this an
improvement or what it does, version 43Eg.
 
Text upgrade;
Added :GW#, :AL#, :AA#, & :AP# serial command. 
Fixed IC & NGC in Guided Tours.
 
Regards Henrik

And more:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Sayeth the ReadMe:

-------------------------
Upgrades to 43Eg

Added :GW#, :AL#, :AA#, & :AP# serial command.
Fixed IC & NGC in Guided Tours.
------------------------


From the LX200gps ReadMe, we see the description of the :GW# command:

------------------------
:GW# and it returns three characters.

Returns status of the Scope
First character is one of the following

A - AltAz mount
P - Polar mount
G - German mount

Second character is one of the following

T - Tracking
N - Not Tracking, Land Mode
S - Sleeping

Third character is one of the following
0 - Not aligned
1 - One star aligned
2 - Two star aligned
3 - Three star aligned
H - Aligned on Home
P - Scope was parked
------------------------------

have fun
--dick


Subject:	Easy Align
Sent:	Saturday, April 14, 2007 21:29:48
From:	Eric West (ericwest@vodafone.net.nz)
Just setting up a new ETX90 EC, came to level the tube for an "easy
align" and noted that when the DEC setting read zero, the OTA was
pointing substantially down hill.

Putting a small level on the tube, I discovered this depression of the
OTA to be -26 degrees

Am I doing something wrong?

Is the scale misaligned?

What is the fix?

Just as a matter of interest, having done an align using the zero
setting, just for fun, the telescope put Saturn well below the horizon,
instead of 9 degrees above, where it actually is in New Zealand right
now, so something is not quite right!
 
 
Regards
 
Eric West
Auckland NZ
Mike here: The scale is out of adjustment. See the FAQ page for how to reposition it.
Subject:	ETX-125 Autostar/alignment problem
Sent:	Thursday, April 12, 2007 12:51:57
From:	Hadrian Moss (hadrian.moss@ntlworld.com)
You have a great site which I have found very helpful recently.  I
wonder if you could advise on an ETX-125 aligning problem?

Over the past month my telescope doesn't seem able to find any stars in
the right place!  Each time I set up in the Alt/Az home position and set
time and date the telescope will slew to alarming angles when using
either one or two star alignment.  For example, tonight Betelgeuse is at
about 32 degrees attitude from my location (near London, England) and
the telescope repeatedly slews to almost vertical but in roughly the
right azimuth direction for the star.  If I then adjust the scope to
align the star (which involves slewing the telescope almost 40 degrees
downwards) and getting a successful alignment the next object I select
is also way out (for example Autostar says Venus is below the horizon).

It seems to make no difference which alignment process I use and whether
I bother to correct the alignment or not.  The telescope frequently hits
the base when slewing downwards.  The same also happens in polar mode
and the problem seems to have started when I tried to use this position
for photography.  I am certain I am setting the telescope in the correct
home position, facing North.

I have updated the handset to the latest version of Autostar, and I am
on external power (as battery power refuses to work, so I'm also
assuming a power circuit board problem, but this is longstanding).

Does any of this sound familiar and can you suggest any remedies?
 
Thanks in advance.
 
Hadrian Moss
England
Mike here: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES recently? If not, do them. That is a typical fix, especially after switching the power source.

And:

Yes, I have done both repeatedly over the past few weeks.  Both before
and after upgrading the handset software.  I've followed all the advice
on your site faithfully.

Could this problem indicate a faulty handset or is it more likely to be
an internal electronics problem in the telescope base?  The scope is
second hand and I've had it for just over a year.  It was fine until I
started trying to use it in polar mode!

I'm grateful for any further advice you can offer.

Hadrian
Mike here: Have you tried a RESET? That should clear out any remaining errors. If that doesn't cure it you could try reloading the software but since the problem occurred BEFORE you did the last update I'm not certain whether that would do any good. It could be that the encoders are dirty or that the lubrication needs to be redistributed. You might be able to solve either of these by unlocking both axes and slow moving the telescope by hand from hard stop to hard stop, back and forth several times.

And an update:

Thanks for all the advice Mike, I had a look inside and I think I've
solved the problem.

There was a blob of grease on the declination encoder LED.  I've
cleeaned it up, and done the RA drive encoder as well and after a reset,
calibrate motor and train drive all seems to be OK again.

Thanks for all your help, Hadrian

Subject:	Alignment stars
Sent:	Wednesday, April 11, 2007 18:36:53
From:	Barbara & Tom Andrews (tombps@bigpond.com.au)
Over the last few months I've read different opinions about which of the
3 alignment methods is preferable, and which stars to choose if you use
"two-star". There's some contradiction between them. The recommendations
are along these lines:

1) Use TWO-STAR, and select stars at least 90 degrees (6 hours of RA)
apart. This is suggested in Dr Clay's Tech Tips, part 3;

2) Use TWO-STAR, and select stars at least 90 degrees apart, and within
15-or-so degrees of the celestial equator;

3) Use EASY, regardless of the coordinates of the alignment stars,
because the Autostar knows best how to align the scope.

Though I'm not too hung up on choosing stars, I'm getting better at
polar-aligning my scope, which is not easy on my part of the planet. So
I want to make the effort worth it by getting the best possible
celestial alignment. Can anyone clarify what they think is best?

Thanks again, 
Tom
Mike here: I always let the AutoStar choose the stars. If the star is not visible due to some obstruction I will skip that one and let it pick another star. However, 1 and 2 in your list are NOT mutually exclusive. Picking stars about 90 degrees apart and on either side of the equator is not an incorrect approach.
Subject:	The Sun - How to program Autostar/ETX 70 AT to follow the sun?
Sent:	Tuesday, April 10, 2007 04:01:39
From:	Nils Engstrom (nilsengstrom@hotmail.com)
To follow the sun automatically

Have heard that the satelite function could be used as a basis for
programming (the Sun considered as a satelite). How ro fix that? 
Shouldn't it be possible to progam the Sun in a more suitable Way?

Thank's for your wonderful site!

Greatings

Nils Engstrom
Mike here: See the article "Adding the Sun" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. However, keep in mind that the Sun's motion against the sky is pretty slow (360 degrees in 365 days or a degree per day approximately or about its diameter in 12 hours) so unless you plan to observe for a very long period you may not need this.

And:

I have tried to progam that sequence:

Sun|2005 01 1.500|0.01671|1.0|-0.0001|168.7394|114.2078|2000|357.5172|-12.0|1.00|1.0

but input seems impossible. I have tried:

Object:
User Object

Object:
Satellite

Both did not coincide with the number of digits, points and +/- signs.
Mike here: Does this help?
"Converting Asteroid Elements" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page.

And an update:

Sorry Mike!

After shifting to Asteroid input, your tips works perfectly!

Thanks again for your efforts

Nils

Subject:	LX90 parking problem
Sent:	Monday, April 9, 2007 11:45:45
From:	John Hall (john_d_hall@hotmail.com)
I wonder if you or Dick could ponder this one? I've searched the site
for likely-looking posts but not found anything directly relevant.

My father-in-law has an 8-inch LX90 UHTC (not PE version), permanently
mounted on a solid pier in a fixed observatory. Having "aligned" it, the
GOTOs and tracking are pretty accurate and everything appears to be
working nicely.

In the past, he's "parked" the scope at the end of a session, so that
next time he goes out to observe, he doesn't need to re-align. He just
re-entered the date/time and carried on from where he left off.

However, a while ago, we updated the Autostar from version 2.6Ec to
4.1Ec, and (perhaps) ever since then it looks like the "park" utility
isn't working the way it used to. It does appear to park the scope back
in the home position, but if we subsequently switch back on again and
try to observe without re-aligning, the GOTOs are way off, typically a
little over 15 minutes of RA, and a degree or two in declination. After
re-aligning, the GOTOs are accurate again.

Have there been any park-related bugs reported in version 4.1? I gather
they changed the park code in 4.0 to always take the shortest route on
ETX models, but did they introduce some bugs along the way? Is it worth
updating to the latest version (4.3Ed)? I suppose we could roll back to
2.6 if necessary, but I'd rather not go backwards if possible.

For what it's worth, we've re-trained the drives, re-calibrated the
motors etc., all to no avail. Also, the mechanics are superb on this
scope - I wish the drivetrain in my little ETX-90 was half as good as
this! There are no obvious problems with the clutches or gears and
everything looks fine. I'm pretty sure it is not a mechanical problem.
The Autostar update to 4.1 might not have been the cause of this, but my
gut feelings are telling me that this is when it stopped working like it
did before.

I'd be grateful for any thoughts, tips or advice on this.

Kind regards,
John.

And:

From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
>However, a while ago, we updated the Autostar from version 2.6Ec to 4.1Ec, 
>and (perhaps) ever since then it looks like the "park" utility isn't working 
>the way it used to. It does appear to park the scope back in the home 
>position, but if we subsequently switch back on again and try to observe 
>without re-aligning, the GOTOs are way off, typically a little over 15 
>minutes of RA, and a degree or two in declination. After re-aligning, the 
>GOTOs are accurate again.

OOooohh that sound familiar...

>Have there been any park-related bugs reported in version 4.1? I gather they 
>changed the park code in 4.0 to always take the shortest route on ETX 
>models, but did they introduce some bugs along the way? Is it worth updating 
>to the latest version (4.3Ed)? I suppose we could roll back to 2.6 if 
>necessary, but I'd rather not go backwards if possible.

From 43Ed's ReadMe:
-----------
Upgrades to 42Ed

Displays how far off polar on two star polar alignment.
Fixed park position on LXD55/75's
Get serial command for daylight savings (:GH# returns 0 for disabled 1 for enabled)
Set serial command for daylight savings (:SH0# disables, :SH1# enables)

Upgrades to 43Ea

New scopes added
Fixed error with longer strings

Upgrades to 43Ed

Fixes problem with LNT module and Reverse L/R on
-----------------

Note the "fixed park"... dribbles of that may also affect the LX90.
I'd certainly update, 'twere me.

have fun
--dick

And:

Thanks for this. I had spotted that note about the LXD55/75 and did
wonder....

It would be interesting to know if others have had the same problem, but
I guess 99.9% of owners don't have the luxury of a fixed observatory, so
we might never know!

We will go with the update to 4.3, but it could be a few weeks before I
can get back down there, so you'll have to bear with me a while before
I'll know the result!

Thanks again guys.

Best regards,
John.

Subject:	RE: ETX-60 AutoStar problem
Sent:	Monday, April 9, 2007 10:09:20
From:	Laurie Metzger (lauriemetzger@hotmail.com)
That worked!  Thank you very much for your help!

Subject:	re: ETX-60 AutoStar problem 
Sent:	Wednesday, April 4, 2007 21:06:45
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Mike may have quoted an old article of mine,
but he left out the most critical part:

You need to tap [enter] before tapping [goto].

That [enter] is what really selects the object,
and (with planets and the moon) it triggers the
autostar to do a "Calculating..." step to determine
where the planet is *now* (since it moves).

It'll display the result of that calculation, and
-then- it's ready to operate properly when you tap
[goto]

have fun
--dick

Subject:	ETX-60 AutoStar problem 
Sent:	Monday, April 2, 2007 18:55:01
From:	Laurie Metzger (lauriemetzger@hotmail.com)
Thanks for the helpful website!  I just got a new ETX-60, and tried to
set up the autostar.  I was able to align it correctly, and then tried
to GOTO a couple of different objects (Saturn, Mars, etc).  Each time it
told me the item was below the horizon.  I'm very new to astronomy, so
had no idea what planetary objects I could expect to see during that
time of night.  I went to the Guided Tour option, "Best of Tonight" and
it told me I could see the Moon, Saturn, Arcturus, etc.  The strange
thing was I used the GoTo feature in the tour and was able to go to and
see all of those objects!  And yet, I then went back to the GoTo Object
section of the menu and it told me all of those objects were below the
horizon - including the moon which was directly overhead.  So basically
it found the objects perfectly in the guided tour but would not let me
goto them directly.  I checked my date, time, time zone, zip code, etc
but they were all correct.  I couldn't find any reports of a similar
problem -- have you heard of this?  I called Meade and the customer
service person told me that it was because I had set Daylight Savings
time to yes.  He said we just changed OUT of daylight savings time, and
I should say No.  However, we actually just changed INTO daylight
savings time, not to mention that the moon had been well above the
horizon for several hours, so I don't think this will fix the problem. 
Have any ideas?
 
Thank you,
Laurie
Mike here: Our resident AutoStar expert, Dick Seymour, responded to a similar "problem" report this way back in 2003:
> and Autostar saying that the selected object is below the horizon
>  when it is not.  

If this is immediately after a Tour, it is probably the same cause...
Tours have many objects which are not visible at the moment you "take"
them... but the Autostar determines that by Selecting an Object, and
then quietly determining if it is below the horizon... if you are
leaving the Tour, and then not selecting a new target properly,
it will report the "below horizon" status of the object -it- last selected.

>  Is there a known problem with switching between Tonight's Best
> and selecting from the Objects menus?

No, but you DO have to truly SELECT the new object.
Mike here again: Could this be what you are experiencing and the solution you need?
Subject:	re: Autostar download problems-ETX 125EC and a Mac.
Sent:	Sunday, April 1, 2007 17:51:04
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
You wrote:
> I have spoken to my UK Meade dealer (and they don't like Macs) who say
> that the handset must have been corrupted from a faulty download and
> that I need a new handset costing 150.

They are mostly wrong.  You do NOT need a new autostar.

As you have demonstrated, you can reach "Flash Load" by powering
up with the Enter and SCroll Down key pressed.  Therefore the
Autostar is working well enough to be rescued by a proper
download.  *Part* of the problem may be attempting to use
Windows 2000 instead of the more typical "consumer" versions.

I do not know how well AutostarX handles a "Flash Load" autostar.
(an Autostar in "Flash Load" does not "reply" in the same
fashion as one in the normal Download mode)
I would -recommend- finding a PC with a COM port and loading
from a real Windows system (i own both PC and Macs, i only
have to talk to myself to do this).

A used PC running Windows 98 can be found (frequently free!),
and that's enough to run the Autostar Updater or StarPatch.

good luck
--dick

Subject:	re: LX-90 10" tracking erraticness ?
Sent:	Sunday, April 1, 2007 17:42:09
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Last things first:
when you stop the motors with Targets>Terristrial, the sky is
now passing by the stopped scope (see the stars move?).
The incrementing RA value is the -measurement- of that sidereal motion.

If the telescope is tracking a target, the RA value should be steady,
since it is -following- that RA coordinate across the sky.
---

Now: jerky RA tracking.  Two probable reasons:
(a) Periodic Error, or Periodic Error Correction (PEC) fighting you.
Meade calls PEC "Smart Drive"
Make sure that  Setup>Telescope>Smart Drive> PEC On/Off   is ">OFF"
**and** that you command Setup>Telescope>Smart Drive> PEC Erase [enter][enter]
That resets the PEC system to -not- try and "help" you.

(b) loose drive mechanism, not holding the worm in proper
mesh (not too tight, not too loose) with the final gear.

"(A)" is easier to try from the Autostar.

good luck
--dick

And an update:

From:	Mika Maanselka (mika.maanselka@solutek.fi)
Thanks for all your info. Tonight I tested the tracking of my LX-90. For
some strange reason, it seems that the tracking rate must be at +8 to
track correctly. Tonight I noticed that the PEC deviations are very
small, hence my problem was that the target drifted out of the field of
view. I was using a 20mm reticle eypiece + 3xbarlow when testing. PEC
didn't actually help at all to address the drifting, but the strangest
thing is that I tested the scope in ALT/AZ mode once again and in that
mode, the tracking is very good. It holds the target near center for
hours and hours on...

Best Regards
Mika Maanselka
Helsinki, Finland
Mike here: Occasionally I will get tracking errors. Most nights I get really good results. So I suspect just rushed alignment job on my part whenever things go bad. Then I realign.

And:

In the very first year of LX90 availability, -many- people
reported +8 to +12 as a needed Tracking Rate adjustment.
Strangely enough, for -some- people, that value would then
-change- over a year of operation, and they'd end up back at
zero (i.e. "sidereal").

We never figured out why.

have fun
--dick

And:

Thanks everyone!

Best Regards
Mika Maanselka
Helsinki, Finland

Subject:	re: Rubber banding
Sent:	Sunday, April 1, 2007 17:34:43
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Mike wrote:
> A RESET returns the AutoStar to its factory default condition.
> So the tours will be erased.

Oh, Ye of Little Faith!

RESET does NOT lose the Tours (or comets or asteroids or user objects).

And tweaking the Percentages is what will finally squash RubberBanding
(after the Calibrate Motors and Train Drive steps)

have fun
--dick
Mike here: Oops. Brain hiccup.

And:

From:	Jack Fox (Jack.Fox@vdacs.virginia.gov)
Between yours and Dick's advice, the rubberbanding has greatly improved
without having to do a RESET.

I followed the procedure to change Alt/Az add Dec. percentages to .01,
calibrate motors, train drives and reset percentages.  This seemed to
work out the rubberbanding almost completely.  I am tweaking the
percentages and am confident I'll come up with the correct combination
and eliminate it.  Nice to know that RESETTING will  not wipe out my
tours should I need to do a RESET in the future.

Thanks to both of you.
 
Jack Fox

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Copyright ©2007 Michael L. Weasner / etx@me.com
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