Welcome to the Autostar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar, 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 email@example.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: thanks, and an old site Sent: Thursday, December 30, 1999 06:45:55 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Gastineau) I've just discovered your ETX site; thanks for all your hard work. I'm finding far more useful info here than from the Meade site. A couple of things for you: There's an old copy of your site here, http://arclad.com/etx/ which is apparently not updated but is still on line. I read this site for a while before finding the site you are maintaining. You might want to put a forwarding command at the old site, if it is indeed still yours. I'd love to see a version history of the Autostar software. What has changed from 1.3b to 1.3c, for example? I'm still at the stage of not always making the initial alignment well enough, but I'm trying. I did find that if you go down the list of Easy Align stars, you can get into a loop where it just suggests the same star again and again. This is frustrating when you can see Rigel blazing away, but the Autostar is stuck in the M's. This is with 1.3b. I will update to 1.3c soon, but this is why I'm interested in a version history. Again, thanks. John, KC8IEW __________________________________ John E. Gastineau email@example.com 953 National Road, #163 (304) 243-9636 voice Wheeling WV 26003-6440 (304) 243-9637 fax USA http://gastineau.home.mindspring.comMike here: Sorry about the out-of-date mirror site. I don't run that and have no control over it. I know what you mean about the end of the alignment star list. I noted that in my original Autostar comments. Guess it is still that way.
Subject: Autostar - Reverse Uo/Down? Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 18:23:45 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Al Testani) I cannot get either of the reverse functions to work. I've got an ETX-90EC and have 1.3c Autostar software installed. Any tips on how to make these functions work? __________________ Al Testani email@example.com __________________
Subject: ETX-90EC & Autostar: tracking of Saturn/Jupiter Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 07:59:16 From: DavidH@DataChannel.com (David Huyrn) I too have experienced the same problem that Ira described in his comment submitted on 12/28. I have an ETX-90EC and Autostar upgraded to 1.3c. I level the tripod and base, set date and time ( my watch is set to match the atomic clock server in Boulder), and successfully complete the Easy alignment in Alt/Az mode. If I GoTo the Orion Nebula, it is dead center in the 26mm eyepiece, but if I select Jupiter or Saturn I have to slew with the finder to get it into the eyepiece. If I go back to the Orion Nebula, it is dead center once again. I was wondering if retraining the drives would fix this problem. But wouldn't the need for retraining affect all objects and not just the planets? Any suggestions would be appreciated. David Huryn Solutions Architect / DataChannel (877) 891-6334Mike here: I doubt that retraining would correct this. Perhaps it is a glitch in 1.3c. Have you reported it to firstname.lastname@example.org?
No, but I will and let you know what reply I get. Thanks
Subject: Update on slewing problem Sent: Tuesday, December 28, 1999 16:25:20 From: email@example.com (Gary Greaser) I had written earlier about slewing problems with the Autostar. I had suggested to keep the Autostar warm as it was failing during cooler weather. Well that works but I finally was able to get a serial cable and upgraded the software version from 1.1 to 1.3c, that seemed to do the trick. I have used the Autostar in 30 degree temps for several hours a session without keeping it warm and had no failures. So my suggestion if anyone is having this problem is to check your software version and upgrade to 1.3 if you need to or if you don't have access to the upgrade, then you can resort to keeping the Autostar warm. Hope this is of some help to others. Thanks Gary
Subject: ETX-90EC & Autostar: tracking of Saturn/Jupiter Sent: Monday, December 27, 1999 22:46:48 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ira Feldman) This is a followup to my problems in getting objects within the eyepiece of the ETX-90EC. I am on my second scope and Autostar, and still have problems with Planets. I followed your advise and after easy alignment in Alt/Az mode, I verified that Polaris was fairly centered. I took the guided tour, and got many of the objects within the eyepiece of the scope, and even some close to center. My main problem now is that Saturn is always off (beyond the eyepiece, and Jupiter is usually off to the edge of the eyepiece. The Moon is also way off. No matter what I do, these objects are always off, and appear to be off the in the same direction. This holds true with different alignment stars, on different nights, and at different times. Saturn is always the one that is way off. Yet, I get other objects pretty close to right in the eyepiece, such as the deep space objects. Also, the scope will not hold Saturn or Jupiter within the eyepiece once I center them, they drift off. Other objects seem to be ok. Are the planets and Moon calculated differently? Do other people have this problem? I know of one other person with similar results as I, and he has the ETX-125EC. Thanks again for all your hard work in keeping up your site. IraMike here: If you have the current Autostar version, 1.3c, then something is off. The planet and Moon position calculations depend more on date/time than do the "fixed" objects in the sky. If you get a good alignment, as demonstrated by locating other objects, then I suspect that the date or time is being incorrectly.
Subject: autostar help Sent: Monday, December 27, 1999 01:51:41 From: XMeCoOLx@aol.com i have an etx-90 and an autostar but i've been having trouble polar alligning it. i live in hawaii and the light pollution is REALLY bad. even with a really clear sky you can see maybe eleven stars. all the city-lights are sodium lights, the orange light ones. can i filter this out using a lens? and can i use magnetic north to allign my etx? xmecoolxMike here: As Frank Goldner noted in his Polar Alignment tips (on the Autostar Information page), procedures for using a magnetic compass to find true north are described in Meade's LX200 manual. The map shown there only covers the continental United States so you'll have to go elsewhere to determine your magnetic variation (check your local airport or boat marina). As to seeing alignment stars, if light population is so bad that you can't see the alignment stars, you likely won't be able to see anything through the telescope other than the Moon and the brighter planets. To use the Autostar to just get reasonable RA tracking, just let it pick the alignment stars and confirm each one without bothering to check its accuracy. Obviously it won't be perfect but may be good enough to track for a few minutes. Then you can locate the planets manually (or with the Autostar's approximate pointing).
Subject: ETS-125 and "THE SKY" software Sent: Saturday, December 25, 1999 23:31:48 From: email@example.com (Robert Lonn) One of your readers asked about 'The Sky" software. The stock version WILL NOT WORK with the Autostar, however they now have a patch that will allow it to work with the Autostar and other scopes. Send them an email for the location and password of the update. Registered users with disk serial numbers required, obviously! The original software had an LX-200 line command but it would loose connection. The new software allows you to select Autostar as the scope. Works great! Mike, good review of the two scopes. I have similar problems with pointing accuracy with the autostar, but "THE SKY" software allows a visual representation of what is going on. Once you SYNC the software to the scope, away you go for pinpoint accuracy. But using a $4000 dell laptop and a $250.00 software package is not something most folks will do or can afford. Meade has a real problem on their hands with all of this. Now that Santa has dropped off a lot more, I am sure we will hear more stories about all of this. However MEADE will not let all of us down. Once they identify what is going on, they will make good. Your readers are only a small group that stay in touch with the issues thanks to this web site. I am sure Meade reads this page and knows most of your readers are on the phone describing all of this to the customer service representatives. BTW, I have a neat fix for the deluxe tripod legs and the set screws that bends the soft metal of the legs. I will send you what I did once I put the new legs on my scope that Meade sent me and test it out. One thing I will tell your readers, the STARS are not going away soon so we have a lot of time to get thing right. This is the time of year to see a lot of astronomical images. Yes it is cold at night even in San Diego. Makes Star gazing a bit uncomfortable but it is nice to start at 5:30 PM rather than 9:30 PM sunset as we do in the summer. Astronomy is a long term investment, be patient, Meade will fix everything. In the meantime the Autostar gets you darn close. Just be sure the time is right on, lat-lon is correct and level the scope, don't trust the small bubble in the tripod, it is close but get out that carpenters level and see how close it is (mine was off a bit)!! Once you GO-TO an object just use the ^ > < controls to move around a bit, you never know what you might get to see in the FOV! And by all means learn the sky above you as you would be surprise how much you can spot in the viewfinder. Doing it the old fashion way is also as rewarding as pushing the GO-TO button on the Autostar. Happy New Year to all your readers and be darn glad out ETX-125's don't use 2 million dollar gyros like the Hubbell ST :>)...
Subject: Comment on Possible Polar Alignment Bug in Autostar V1.3c Sent: Saturday, December 25, 1999 11:50:57 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Frank Goldner) To: email@example.com NOTE TO: Meade Engineers re Autostar V1.3c - Apparent Alignment Bug in Polar Mode Sirs: I have an ETX125 with an Autostar controller loaded with V1.3c firmware. Recently, I needed to use polar mount mode in order to perform prime focus photography of the moon while high in the sky, and I noticed some bizarre polar alignment behavior: - After setting the scope in Polar mount home position and choosing one star alignment, the scope unexpectedly rotated the tube in R.A. about 200 degrees clockwise putting the eyepiece toward the ground and asked for checking pole star; upon verification, the Autostar didn't give me the opportunity to chose the one star but immediately slew to a star of its choice; - This didn't occur for easy or two star alignment; but with these two methods if one subsequently selects Polaris, the scope slews to the eyepiece down position; I subsequently determined (using the mode key and checking with sky chart software) that, upon initiating the Autostar in the polar mount mode, its display shows an incorrect R.A. and Declination setting for polaris. The initial 200 degree rotation in one star alignment actually brings the scope to the correct R.A. and DEC settings for the time of observation. Therefore, for easy and two star alignment in the polar mount mode, since the tube does not correct initially, the scope appears to be moving off from an incorrect initial coordinate condition, but subsequently goes back to the correct one if Polaris is chosen as target. Lastly, this situation does not appear to occur in Alt-Az. mount mode alignment where alignment occurs as advertised and the Polaris R.A. and Dec settings appear corrrect. Best Regards for the New Year and don't worry about all the criticisms. I purchased one of the earliest available ETX125s, and even though one of these days I will return it for correction or replacement related to the vibration/shift problem, I still am very happy with the ETX125 product and its Autostar capability and look forward to using it for a long time. Frank Goldner, Bethesda Md. firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: more and more on Proc Traps and Polar Pointing in Alt/Az Sent: Friday, December 24, 1999 20:56:01 From: email@example.com (Dick Seymour) Ells, [well, i wrote most of the following before a Proc Trap finally happened to me, too. Now, i'm trying to get another one... and shall report more when i know more] What -is- your city or Latitude? (so i can duplicate your setup... 'cept i've got a 90, not a 125) I haven't managed a Proc Trap yet, but i have hit another (different) semi-autistic Autostar "event". Once more i set it to my User Object, and fiddled around a bit... everything seemed fine. It was at +90.0 Dec, but I couldn't achieve 0:00 on the RA... so i left it around 2:30. Then i left it pointing there... all night (blest be AC Adapters). It was not moving the scope at all. I figured it was just aiming a skootch left or right of due north, since any Az motion would kick the RA a number of hours (about 6). It was sitting in "display RA/Dec" mode. In the morning, i immediately noticed that the handset had NOT gone to "dim" mode... something it usually does after about 5 minutes of not being bothered. The RA had (properly) advanced approximately the number of hours it'd been on. The motion buttons worked. *but nothing else worked* The speed buttons had no effect. The scroll buttons would not change the display away from RA/Dec. The Enter/Mode/GoTo buttons were ignored. I could "slew", but only at the lowest speed (the last one selected the night before). Ah, ha! If i only had this attached to my rs232 port, i could (possibly) get into the Autostar's debugger! But the computer is/was downstairs, and i wasn't (dratted too-short cord on ACadapter... needs to be, say, 100 feet ;-) Sigh... so i turned it off, brought it down, attached it to my computer, and turned it back on. I have (of course) since been unable to recreate any of the symptoms. GoTo'ing my N Pole object gets it (almost) there... it's interesting to see what the Autostar considers "there". (it's willing to stop about 2 RA minutes off, but it does achieve +90.0 Dec). Once there, it's extremely unwilling to -leave-. If i slew a bit away (a degree or so), it moves -back- to the pole! I just tried a 6 degree shift, which it didn't fight. Then i manually moved it back to the pole, and a touch of the down button shot it 3 degrees left! (almost slew runaway!) Now a bit more fiddling, and i've got it only 5 seconds Alt above its idea of my latitude (47 deg 27 min), and it's pretty insistent upon staying at Az 359:59' 51". If i nudge it past 000 00 00, it drifts back (veeerrrryyy slowly, individual Az seconds take a few (time) seconds to creep by) to a 359 50' 51" situation (do i detect a "rollover" ambiguity for the readout?). But, of course, it's refusing to hang up. ...pride goeth before a fall, right? Well, it'd been sitting there for ten minutes or so (while i played scrabble with my wife)... i came back over and touched Down to take off that last 5 seconds of Alt. "Proc Trap 2". unfortunately, i hadn't patched the code to kick me to the debugger ... so i, like you, have to turn it off. But know i -do- know that i can replicate your symptom. I feel that duration has something to do with it. Just before the Proc Trap 2 it was willing to un-Dim the handset. So: i'll restart it, -do- the patch which will allow me to regain control, and try to recreate the situation. Happy holidays... (the Autostar permitting...) --dick oh: the "patch". If you attach an rs232 cable to the Autostar, and start a program like Hyperterminal (on a PC), set the Com port settings to 9600 baud, 8 bits, you can talk (well, type) to the Autostar. If you've got the above set up when you turn it on, you'll see an X on the PC's screen. If you type a control-F, the Autostar will respond with an A or P (Alt/az or Polar). This is one of the LX200-like commands that a planetarium program uses to control the Autostar. If you type a control-B, you'll end up in the Atuostar's debugger. Type a G (it'll say "Go") to return to normal Autostar operation. For regaining control after a Proc Trap, get into the debugger and do the following (v1.3c): Type You'll see You enter (do -not- type a return after each digit pair) P Patch 1f0a 1F0A:CC= bd 1F0B:00= 1f 1F0C:00= 1b 1F0D:20= 04 1F0E:FB= a5 1F0F:50= 4e 1F10:72= (now hit enter) in debugger> g (this will return you to normal operation) ...that's it. If you hit another Proc Trap, (the "P" will become an "N"), you'll be put into the debugger. Whatever you do, -don't- type "g" (i have not provided a "normal return" yet) Various things you can type: S (will report the stack's contents... this is the primary thing we're after) E (this will report a block of Eprom) R (this performs a Reset (just like power-off)) A (followed by six digits... this shows a block of memory) + (shows the next block after the previous A, + or -) - (shows the block before the previous A, + or -) P (lets you patch memory) T (for whatever reason, prints a two-column table of sines) ...for completeness, B lets you set breakpoints, Z lets you change the baud rate ("30" is 9600) have fun... report stack contents if you try it --dick
Subject: Re: more on Proc Traps and Polar Pointing in Alt/Az Sent: Friday, December 24, 1999 07:18:33 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ells Dutton) Dick, Thanks again for your comments and info. I had my fist observing last night since my last comments. It was a little warmer than before, 40F, so though I would try out some things. Was able to easily repeat the "Proj. trap 2" error by driving to Azi = 0 00 00 and Alt = Lat. with the ETX125 in Alt/Azi tracking mode using the slowest slew speed after a GOTO Polaris, didn't think of using a user defined object at Dec +90.00, like you did. Of course, it required power down/up to recover. This doesn't really concern me since one will never hit this point tracking any other object, unless maybe a artificial satellite, but I understand your interest in trying to sort it out. My purpose of intentionally hitting the trap2 error was to see if it was related to my "sudden slew" problems. It doesn't seem to be since I did not have any occurrences of sudden slewing all evening, either before or after the trap2. I did keep the AS in my pocket much of the time plus the temp never got below 38F. Not sure if I will mess around with trying to isolate AS temperature problems or just try to keep it warm and get on with it. Colder nights might make the decision for me. Yesterday, I had kept the 125 in my unheated garage all day, so after about an hour outdoors, I had good focus with no noticeable distortion in the diffraction patterns. One earlier attempt using the garage-storage had not yielded favorable results but now I suspect it may be related to how fast the outdoor temperatures might also be changing. Last night the outdoor temperature was about the same as the garage and did not change much during the evening. If it takes the ETX125 2-3 hours to stabilize, as many have reported, then it will not be able to keep up with what might be typical evening cooling under clear, calm, and especially dry skies (large IR cooling) like we get here in Colorado. Just a thought. Not much else of interest from the night - bright moon and not the best seeing conditions. Did try the M42 star test that Mike mentions in in his Nexstar/ETX comparison - will have to try it again on a dark night. Cheers, Ells
Subject: Autostar Update Experience Sent: Thursday, December 23, 1999 06:48:59 From: email@example.com Here is some news from one of the suspected "Silent Majority", i.e. an ETX user who has not experienced major problems. First I cut and pasted all your Autostar Feedback archives and Information postings into a Word document, and read them during the Thanksgiving holiday. Then, using the info on this site, I built a cable using an old telephone handset cord (never throw anything away!), a $1.50 9 pin serial jack and $1.50 jack cover from Radio Shack. It worked perfectly and I upgraded the Autostar from original 1.2c to 1.3c. The whole process, from driving to Radion Shack, building the cable, to completing the update took 3 hours. My complaint with my original setup was that I have had to use a 40mm eyepiece to get a GOTO object in view. I am hoping that with the software upgrade, and retraining the drives I will be able to achieve GOTO with a 26mm eyepiece. Several points to consider: 1. I have never built a cable before, and was quite skeptical of my chances for success throughout the whole process. Following the directions on this site, it really was simple. 2. The only ambiguous/confusing instruction for a beginner like me was the numbering of the pins on the serial jack... Was it numbered looking at it from the back (where you connect the cable) or looking from the front which plugs into the computer? Upon very close inspection of the jack, Radio Shack has numbered all the pins, on both sides of the plug. (They are very small, I needed a magnifying glass to read the numbers). The important thing is that they matched the numbering convention in the instructions on this site. 3. I chose the solder type serial jack since the crimping looked too unstable. Putting the jack in my workshop vise and using electric tape to hold the cable in place, I was able to use two hands with the soldering iron and the solder. 4. Thanks to the local ROTC commander, I found the correction between magnetic north and True North to be a full 7 degrees. (Later, I found the same information on Meade's LX200 homepage, http://meade.com/manuals/lx200/apxa.html#apxa4). This correction was larger than I expected, and probably explains why the alignment stars have been so far out of view. 5. Even though I am a computer programmer, I found the Update software very confusing and unintuitive. I am still not sure what the references to Tours were. Please let me know if some extra Tours are available and need to be uploaded separately. Of course it has been cloudy since I upgraded the Autostar, so it will be a few days before I will know if the upgrade has helped with GOTO accuracy. Anyway, thanks again for the great site, and Happy Holidays! David KMike here: A Tour editing capability is coming from Meade.
Subject: the sky Sent: Thursday, December 23, 1999 05:59:28 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Alisa Streitfeld) HAPPY HOLIDAY AND Y2K. I HAVE ASEEN ANYTHING YET BUT DO YOU KNOW IF "THE SKY" WILL RUN THE ETX? I KNOW IT'S GREAT HAVING THE AUTOSTAR BUT I HAVE USED "THE SKY" WITH MY 8" SCT AND IT'S NICE TO HAVE THE COMPUTER SCREEN TO SHW YOU WHAT UP AND NEAR BUY WITHOUT HAVE TO LOOK IT UP AND A SKY ATLAS. ALSO, I'M HAVING TROULBE DOWN LOADING THE UPDATES TO THE AUTOSTAR. I'M USING VER.1.2 AND NOT SURE WHICH FILE TO DOWNLOAD. PAUL .B PERLMUTTERMike here: If TheSky has a LX200 driver (or plug-in) it might drive the ETX/Autostar. As to your Autostar update question, I'm a little confused by it. If you have downloaded the TLE files, put them in the Ephemerides folder. If you have downloaded the whole updater, just run it once installed on your hard disk.
Subject: ETX alignment Sent: Thursday, December 23, 1999 05:58:53 From: email@example.com (Gary) I wanted to respond to Ronald's posts - he seems a bit lost (like my scope) Even though I've NEVER gotten my scope pointing the way i think it's supposed to, one tip I have for new users (I'm an old user because I've done this on 4 ETXs now!) is to make sure the lat, long, and time are all correct, and that the pluses and minuses are where they should be - the quick test is, after entering your date, find out when sunrise and sunset are to be, and also moonrise and moonset (sunrise/sunset may be more obviously useful). If you enter the wrong longitude, for instance, you may be telling the autostar that you're in china - good food, just wrong side of the world for autostar), and when i tried that once, it said sunrise was something like 2:00 p.m. - which seems to be wrong (although I've never been to china) - anyway, make sure the sunrise/sunset times are ballpark, and also make sure your lat/long are expressed in minutes and seconds, rather than the decimal format - hope this helped! Gary
Subject: Re: more on Proc Traps and Polar Pointing in Alt/Az Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 21:49:23 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dick Seymour) Ellis, Well, this morning i played with my ETX90/ec and 497 autostar... First, i told it to GoTo Polaris (which got the star drive going), Then i manually tried to achieve 0 00' 00", 47 40' (seattle). Due to the step-size of the system, i couldn't -nail- 0 Az. It'd hop plus or minus a few (7?) seconds. But i -could- (and did) get it to a point were it say silently for well over five minutes... not hung, just pointed due north, and it knew it didn't have to track. After that 5 minutes (or more, it sat beside me at breakfast), i moved it a bit sideways (plus Az), and the star drive picked up and started whirring again. "Well", sez i, " it must'a been the cold", and i Parked my scope. Then, whilst brushing my teeth, that little niggling thought pestered me.. and i said: "Hey! It's a computerized scope... rather than fighting for 0 Az, why not just tell it to GoTo the celestial pole by RA and Dec?" So i took this opportunity to enter my first User Object... Name:N Pole, RA: 0 Dec: 90 Size (huh?): 1 (units unknown) Mag: 2 (polaris, right?) Select/Enter/GoTo... it went. To (again) verify that the star drive was running, i slewed it 6.32 degrees east (az), then tried to get it back (by pushing GoTo)... and -that- started the weirdness... First, the 6.32 stayed visible on the lower line of the display. followed by three periods. Then, it kept fighting me when i'd try to move it back west...it'd go east. Setting the speed to "1" and trying to home in on RA 00 Dec 90 (or Az 0, Alt 47 40) i kept overshooting a bit (plus it'd move east). Then it happened... no, not a Proc Trap... it just stopped listening to Autostar button presses. The display remained fixed in the last Alt/Az readout... but the motors kept going "burp" [1 second silence] "burp" [ 1 second silence]... for a minute or so. No button pushes would get its attention (the handset isn't an interrupt to the 68hc11... it "polls" it... so if the program is lost somewhere staring at its navel, the handset is ignored.). The power switch definitely woke it up (well, killed it.... turning it back on restored proper operation.) That's all i've had a chance to do so far... but there definitely is/are problems in Alt/Az pointing due north. I'll look into it further. If you're brave, i can provide a patch to the code which, with a serial cable to a PC, will let you regain control during/after a Proc Trap. That would mainly be useful for better diagnosis... (as in: -where- was it (and what was it doing) when the Proc Trap occurred?). Since you wouldn't know where in its tortuous path of logic it fell on its nose, you couldn't reliably "resume" normal operations from there. But we -could- locate the pothole. You also asked/commented upon: >1. general accuracy of pointing and tracking -- Why isn't better than it is? > 2. focusing problems during the very extended cool down period -- takes too long, sometimes never gets there. >3. and now, sudden slewing while tracking (hopefully a AS temp. problem) I've never (knock on miscellaneous natural surfaces) had number three. While running v1.3b i'd have it aggressively mess up (but only a degree or so) after doing a Sync... i'd do the sync, tell it "enter", it'd track for 15 seconds... and then tear off in a positive (CW) motion, slewing the object -just- out of the 26mm's 1.1 degree FOV. During a Satellite track it once paused -dead- for 3 seconds, and then resumed. But that's it so far (too few attempts? i -have- done 20 minutes tracks of Jupiter). Number two: i dash out with my warm scope, play around for a half hour or so, then go back in (Seattle clouds...). On cold night i just don't bother to take out the 8mm eyepiece. So i tend to not get into the iffy stage of cooling. You mentioned the possible spherical abberation... i wonder if that's due to differential cooling between the front corrector lens and the rear mirror? If they get "out of sync" you're gonna have problems. Number 1 (lack of accuracy) has -lots- of sources... one is that the software uses only 6-plus-some digit accuracy floating point numbers... and inaccuracies can quickly accumulate. Consider the Az readout: one second of arc is one part in 1,296,000 ... just about the limit. But the scope can't -position- that accurately... my morning test couldn't get the scope to better than plus/minus 5 seconds. And the GoTo 00/90 ended up over a reported-by-Autostar minute off when the beep sounded. I'm more amazed at how (apparently) random it can be: my first night (v1.1j) a "novice" rough-centering with the 26mm eyepiece on the two Easy Alignment stars... and the next object chosen was the Ring Nebula... which ended up -dead- center. I was sold. Since then i've had evenings with the opposite "luck"... Jupiter and Saturn over 2 (or 4) degrees "late", inability to -return- to one of the alignment stars, etc.etc. Other nights it's been very, very good... full-sky slews to target Mars from Saturn, Constellation-star-hopping (with an initial Sync if needed).. all ending up well within the 26mm FOV. I will admit that it -rarely- gets a target into the 8mm FOV. (my equivalent of a cross-hair). Sattelite prediction and tracking it's been very hard to test... the nights -i- could see the satellite the Autostar has been either way off (old ephermerii) or too -just- too long to set up. And it seems to have a definite case of being about 5 minutes late in Acquisition timing predictions. So i'd put the pointing inaccuracy to: (1) "loose" calculations with possible compounding errors. (2) inadequately precise feedback. (3) slop... the beastie does have ferocious backlash and "looseness" (such as worm end-play). > market for AS warmers? i use my pocket... (and don't stay out that long.. nor that cold... yet) Hmmm... a Zippo-powered two-pocket sock... More later --dick
Subject: a few ETX questions Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 20:05:03 From: email@example.com (Kirk Andrews) I just got my new ETX-125 and I was wondering if you might be able to give me any help 2 problems I have. Tonight I aligned (easy alignment) the scope and used the Autostar to slew successfully (via the Go To button) to some stars. When I tried to slew to Jupiter and some deep sky objects, the scope did not respond. My other problem is that I'm not sure if I'm getting the right magnification. I've looked at some of the pictures taken with ETX's and it seems that the views of Jupiter and Saturn are much better than what I have been getting. Being new to telescopes I'm not sure what problems I should be looking for. I've scanned your sight and will continue doing so. Any thoughts on my problems would be appreciated. Thanks, Kirk ===== Kirk A. Andrews University of Virginia Class of 2002 TAWVFCI/OP(?)MPB&CSRU!!!! Trumpet http://www.people.virginia.edu/~kaa5r/ **Quiquid latine dictum sit altum viditur.** **Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound**Mike here: Magnification depends upon the eyepiece used. If you have only the supplied 26mm eyepiece then you only have one magnification. You will need to purchase additional eyepieces and/or a Barlow Lens to have other magnifications available. But in any case, don't compare photographic and visual views. As to not GOTO-ing to some objects while still going to others, that is strange. I assume you are properly identifying the stars used for alignment. If you can, you might want to update to the latest Autostar version on Meade's web site.
Subject: Proc Trap 2 ... Illegal Op code Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 22:05:11 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dick Seymour) To: email@example.com I saw your note on Mike's site, and thought you'd like to know that a Proc Trap 2 is the Autostar's grab-and-hold (as you noticed) if the 68hc11's Illegal Opcode Trap happens. The Autostar 497 has a Motorola M68hc11e1cfn2 processor chip controlling it. That chip has 21 different "interrupts" built-in. An interrupt is caused (or "triggered") by an external event occurring at some random time, compared to the sequential execution of the computer's program. The Autostar uses only four of those 21... some for the rs232 line, some for clock "ticks", one for "reset". The remaining 17 should (in proper operation) never occur. Demonstrating good programming practice, the Meade engineers directed those unwanted/unexpected interrupts to land in a section of the program which would do two things: report which one triggered, and then (effectively) halt the Autostar until you turned it off. The reason for such Draconian action is that they never -should- happen. If they do, something's seriously wrong, and the Autostar can't make any bets on the rest of its environment being logically correct. I haven't used my ETX in Polar Mode, so i can't say for sure that what you hit -isn't- a bug in their code. Given the circumstances of your viewing that night, i'd tend to suspect: (1) low batteries (many hours, very cold)[but you were probably using an ac adapter...] (2) cold electronics (ditto)[many of the components are only rated to 32F, but "ratings" and "will hang in there" can be far apart] (3) flakey connectors (cold shrinks parts)[such as the cpu chip itself in its socket] (4) flakey memory (again, cold) A quick test would be to repeat the "go to 0.000", but indoors with it warm. If you Trap again, it's probably a bug. Send Email to firstname.lastname@example.org detailing how-to-hit-it. Explain clearly. An illegal opcode (i.e. the number the processor was supposed to execute (as in "2 means divide, 27 means Add A to B," etc.)) means that the processor was given a numeric code which was -not- one of the 200-odd legal numbers. That either means that the memory handed it a bad number, or that, due to bad data (again, a bad number from memory, or a bad calculation result), the processor "jumped" to the wrong location, where it encountered such a bad number. (i believe zero (as an opcode) can cause this <--untested by me (yet)). The Autostar's expected interrupts are: Reset (power up), Real-Time Interrupt, Timer Overflow and SCI Serial System. The rest aren't used, and are trapped by the Proc Trap (hex number) message, the number ranging from Zero for the Clock Monitor Fail interrupt to 10 (hex) for the SPI Serial Transfer Complete interrupt. Have fun... keep the Autostar in an inner pocket (or somewhere warmish). --dick
Subject: Re: aligning Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 09:09:26 From: Ronald08@aol.com I don't understand what you mean by the latest software. I read all the hints on the manual. If I didn't see the bright star that it was supposed to show me. So I pushed scroll in order to search for another star. It searched but it never found the star. I have not a clue as to what I am doing here. Maybe I should try aligning it a different way. I read that it was possible to align the telescope to Polaris. How do I do-so. Thanks again for everything. RonaldMike here: The Autostar has software that allows it to do what it does. Meade has frequently released newer versions since the first release. Those are available from Meade's web site (link at the top of the Autostar Information page on my site). You need a special cable to connect to your computer to the Autostar however. It is had to tell what you might be doing wrong, if anything. When trying to align to the first star, if any bright star is nearby, center the ETX on it unless you know it to be the wrong star. Then do the same with the second star. If you can't see any star or you know it is the wrong star, then skip to another star. I suggest reading through all the Autostar Feedback pages (included the archived ones) and the Autostar Information page. Lots of info there; perhaps something will help you determine if you are doing something wrong.
Subject: ETX pointing accuracy Sent: Monday, December 20, 1999 21:49:15 From: Aquilii@aol.com I recently got my ETX 90/EC back from the "Meade Hospital". I had sent it back for repairs and also because its pointing accuracy wasn't anything like what others were reporting on your site. Originally after doing a very careful leveling and alignment to true north, slewing to an object would consistantly be off by 2-3 degrees. This didn't seem right,hence the need for repair. After getting the ETX back from Meade, I notice several improvements. Alignment stars are much closer than before, and no longer bangs into the stops. However, there is still a problem in pointing accuracy. I almost never get an object within the 26mm ep. like most everyone on this site seems to be getting. After careful alignment, I almost always get it into the FOV of the finder scope, but never the ep. I'm obviously doing something wrong, but I'm not at all sure what it is. My alignment technique is as follows: level the Delux field tripod via a carpenters spirit level across the foot that the ETX sits on. Attach ETX. Elevate tube to 36 degrees (my latitude). Sight on Polaris using the manuel azmith adjustments. (Now have true north). Lower the tube to 0 degrees, and place in home possition (counter clockwise to stop the clockwise to sm arm over the on off panel. I proceed using a redicle ep. to make the alignment as accurate as possible. Alignments have always been "successful", but still the inaccuracy exists. Any comments or suggestions would be sincerely appreciated. thanks, Aquilii@aol.comMike here: I don't see anything wrong with your technique. One thing you don't mention is your Autostar software version. Check Meade's site for the latest version.
I want to thank your for your reply. After repeated failures, it's good to get an outside opinion. For your question, I was using 1.3b befor sending my ETX to Meade. They were suppossed to have eraced the autostar programming and re-installed the latest versions. The autostar still states 1.3b, however, I note little differences in it, so they obviously did something. I'd like to state that even with the problems that I've had, I still love my ETX. If only getting an object into the FOV of the finder scope is the best that I can achieve, I'm willing to accept that. With the light dome here in Las Vegas, without the Autostar, I would't be able to find anything at all! From my backyard Polaris is a very dim star usually found by averted vision. again thanks for your help, best wishes, Aquilii@aol.com
Subject: aligning Sent: Monday, December 20, 1999 20:44:59 From: Ronald08@aol.com I am clueless as to aligning my telescope to certain stars. I did all of the turning the clockwise, and clockwise the way the manual says. After I am finished with that, I let it search for the brightest star in the sky. I did all of the time, date, daylight savings, etc. It is always off. I tried the Moon and it over-rotated by far. Thanks for your time and consideration! RonaldMike here: Be certain you have the latest version of the Autostar software from Meade's web site. Second, review all the tips on the Autostar Information and the recent Autostar Feedback pages.
Subject: Question Sent: Monday, December 20, 1999 18:55:58 From: email@example.com (Scott Kaplan) I have put a bid for the ETX90-EC on Ebay. I have just discovered your site and I am worried I may get a "lemon". If the telescope is sealed brand new, should I be concerned? Are there different versions of the scope and/or Autostar software? Thank you ScottMike here: I don't know if you should be worried but there have been improvements in the ETX-90EC model and the Autostar software since they were first released at the beginning of 1999. You should at least plan to upgrade the Autostar using the latest software on Meade's web site.
Subject: Autostar alignment Sent: Sunday, December 19, 1999 18:53:43 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrew L. Mace) I have a permanet pier that I mount my ETX to on my patio. The base that I mount the ETX is fully tiltable and can rotate. I have a nice southerly view from the pier but cannot view to the north fo my house blockes the view. Can you recommend the best way to align my ETX w/ Autostar without being able to see Polaris? Thanks, ANdy MaceMike here: You just need to locate TRUE NORTH using a terrestrial map and/or a magnetic compass. If using a compass, you'll need to know your local magnetic variation. Alternatively, take your compass and ETX to a nearby location that can see Polaris. Find Polaris in the ETX and measure the angle between the ETX tube and the compass north direction. Use this difference when you mount the ETX on the pier. Once you have TRUE NORTH, just mark the pier for this direction.
Subject: POWER Sent: Saturday, December 18, 1999 18:53:50 From: email@example.com (Andrew Jackson) There have been a few posts about the ETX slewing and stopping or just running away. I have had 5 ETX, 1 RA and 4 90EC. All the EC were completely different and had there own plus and minus. Most had good optics, but all had motor issues of one sort or another. Most had vibration issues all had the 5 degree slew problem (so that is probably the Autostar). One them had the runaway DEC and occasional sudden stop when slewing. I originally had a modified 12 Volt 500 ma power supply and that worked fine. When I had to change my ETX I could not get the new one to work with the power supply. After much trouble I bought the Meade power supply (I had to wait as I needed the 230Volt to 12 Volt mains version). What I discovered then was that any time you change power source you should do a Calibrate Motor (not the DEC and RA Training). The previous ETX had not needed this but both my current ones do need it. Hope this helps someone Andrew firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: How do you enter data into the Autostar update tool software Sent: Saturday, December 18, 1999 07:22:40 From: email@example.com (Ray Turvey) Thank you for everything your site offers it has helped us all immensely. I am having a problem for which I can find no information. I have looked here, Meades website, my Autostar manual and the help files in the Autostar update tool. I can not figure out how to enter individual element downloads from the Meade Website into the Autostar update tool software so it can be downloaded into my #497 Autostar. I have downloaded the following files from the Meade website: Orbital Elements:Comets, Orbital Elements:Bright Minor Planets, International Space Station (ISS), Hubbell Space Telescope (HST) and Starshine. Now that these files are on my desktop saved as text files how do I get them into the Autostar update tool so they may be brought into the #497 Autostar. I've tried for example dragging and dropping the Orbital Elements:Comets file onto the button labeled comets on the update tool software but it did not work. How do I enter this data? Must each individual line in the text file be entered manually 1 at a time usingMike here: Basically, put the files into the Ephemerides folder. Also, check Dick Seymour message "adding elements and links" on the November Autostar Feedback page (in the Feedback archives).
in the update software? Please help!!!
Subject: Stupid question # 634 Sent: Thursday, December 16, 1999 09:24:52 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gary) I seem to remember reading some time ago, perhaps from you? to align the autostar with the finderscope - do you recommend performing the two star alignment with say, a Rigel Quickfinder, etc., as opposed to the (seemingly to me) more accurate but more time consuming process of using the eyepiece? I had been trying to align with my 24 mm zoom, but often i spend time zooming around the skies trying to center the star, etc. I have yet to get really good alignment (i'd settle for mediocre) - I once tried with a 9 mm lens, but that took quite a while to align, and i'm not sure how well autostar compensates for the difference in time between starting the alignment and finishing. As always, thanks for your help! Gary p.s. the new dns entry works like a champ - no problems entering the site!Mike here: For many purposes, aligning with just the finderscope may be adequate. If that session will only be on visually observing the planets or other bright objects for say the next 30 minutes, why spend the extra time getting that perfect alignment?
Subject: ETX Slewing Problems Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 20:20:19 From: email@example.com (Gary Greaser) I wrote you earlier about the ETX slewing problems. I keep seeing this complaint crop up on your website. I finally eliminated my problems by keeping the Autostar warm, I place it inside my coat when not using it. The problem seems to occur at around 40 degrees or below. I contacted one of your followers by email and told him of my experience, he used a dry chemical hand warmer rubber banded to the back of the Autostar and said it seemed to work, although he hasn't had a lot of opportunity to test it out completely. With what I have seen I believe this is a temperature related problem, as I'm an Electronic Technician by trade and have experienced this type of problem before in my work. I have tried to contact Meade about it but haven't had much response from them. You might tell anyone else having this problem to try keeping the Autostar warm and see if it helps, if it does they should contact Meade also. Thanks GaryMike here: Good tip. If you send your report to firstname.lastname@example.org it will be seen.
Subject: NexStar5 alignment question Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 1999 03:25:20 From: Peter.Van.den.Eijnde@zooantwerpen.be (Peter Van den Eijnde) I am an amateur astronomer living in the suburban area of Antwerp, Belgium (Europe). I have come across your website on the Internet and have found many interesting things about Meade's ETX125EC and NexStar5. Since I am not sure yet which of the two I will purchase, I am eagerly looking for a thorough comparison between these two GOTO-scopes. Your information on the web greatly helps. Thanks! However, I do have one specific question. From my backyard, parts of the sky are blocked by houses (mine included!). I was wondering how both scopes can be automatically aligned then? The chances are that the telescope will slew to an alignment star that is not visible from my backyard. Do I have the possibility to choose the alignment stars myself with both scopes? Or am I able to skip a proposed star and go to the next one until I have found two suitable stars to obtain the necessary alignment? Thank you for your reply. Peter Van den Eijnde email@example.comMike here: Both the NexStar5 and Autostar allow you to choose/skip the alignment stars. So if one is behind an obstruction you can use another star. I will discuss this in a little more detail on my comparison report (to be posted within a few days).
Subject: Nitpicking Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 1999 15:45:29 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David MacAfee) Your site is awesome. I've learned so much. You have saved so many people from frustration. I noticed a small typo in Adrian Ashford's Satellite tracking article for the Autostar. In the part where he talks about adding a "0." to the eccentricity it should be "making '0.0005939". Not a big deal but I'm eaisly confused. Thanks for your great site. Regards, -- David MacAfee Senior Member of Technical Staff System Level Integration group SID Engineering Toshiba America Electronic Components 1060 Rincon Circle, San Jose, CA. 95131 Phone (408)526-2728 Fax. (408)526-2420Mike here: Corrected. Thanks.
Subject: Re: LX200 vs ETX protocol Sent: Monday, December 13, 1999 10:26:16 From: Stantastic@aol.com In regard to Jeff's message "Does the C & G's InfoGenie LX200 plug in for Starry Night software work with the Autostar?" -- I can confirm that, YES, it does. Unfortunately, I'm not able to utilize this feature "in the field" because my computer is a tower model located upstairs in my office, and the scope is always located downstairs in the backyard (about 75 or more away). But when I bring the scope up into the room and cable everything together, I can slew all over the place, pointing to the walls, the ceiling, the floor, my foot, and all under control of Starry Night!! It's a lot of fun!!! Stan Glaser email@example.com
Subject: Autostar and an iMac .. Sent: Sunday, December 12, 1999 02:10:15 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joe Artale) Any suggestions as to how to connect and Autostar to an iMac DV in order to download the latest software version? -joeMike here: You can check out one of the USB to serial converters for the PC. Or you can use one of the iMac USB to Mac serial adapters but then you would need a PC serial to Mac mini-8 serial adapter (comes with some digital cameras). Plus you'll need VirtualPC or SoftWindows, at least until Meade releases the browser java-enabled Autostar download software. Let me know if you have any success. At next month's MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, I expect there will be some of the astronomy software companies exhibiting. I'll be asking them about Mac-Autostar-ETX control. I'll report here on my findings.
Subject: LX200 vs ETX proticol Sent: Saturday, December 11, 1999 06:30:04 From: email@example.com Does the Casady & Greene's InfoGenie LX200 plug in for Starry Night software work with the Autostar? Thanks! - jeff
Subject: Autostar - first use Sent: Friday, December 10, 1999 08:12:12 From: MNacincik@aol.com Its been a long time since I've sent you a message but I wanted to update you on my first experience with the Autostar. I finally bought the Autostar for the ETX 90EC last Wednesday as a XMAS gift to myself. :-) I'd been avoiding this because of some negative comments I'd read the Autostar. I must say mine worked great right out of the box!!!! I read the complete directions about 3 times before doing anything. Then I powered up the scope and set the telescope at the home station and entered the rest of the basic get started information. I went outside and set my ETC up, I have the Meade delux tripod, used my compass and set the North leg of the tripod to the north (magnetic) and leveled the scope. I did the easy 2 star alignment. (The ETX pointed close to the star it asked for and I then centered the stars in the 26mm eyepiece with the 2X barlow lense before entering the star.) The Autostar then told me it was properly aligned. I next proceeded with the guided tour. Everything I went to was within the field of view of my scope with the 26mm/2X barlo combination. I made minor corrections to center the objects and the tracking was very consistent. I'm not going to go through the list of everything I observed, lets just say I saw more in hour than I've seen in the last 6 months! This is wonderful, the frustration for a novice in not being able to find what I'm looking for is now gone. I can't waite for the next clear night!!!!! Mike
Subject: Power Sent: Monday, December 6, 1999 9:09:08 AM From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrew Jackson) Last night I put a new set of batteries into my ETX90EC. I then connected my computer via the Autostar. The scope had a motor failure error. The batteries had depleted to 50%. When I tired the scope without the computer the batteries, although now somewhat depleted, powered the scope OK. I know the connection must use a lot of power but this was a surprise. I was wondering if you or any of your readers could confirm this to be normal behaviour and power drain. Regards Andrew JacksonMike here: I don't recall seeing this behavior with the Autostar attached. There certainly is a higher drain on the batteries with the Autostar in use. What the Autostar requires and what the standard controller requires to run satisfactorily are probably different.
Thanks for your reply. I don't think I was very clear with my explanation. The Autostar usually works fine, it was when I attached my lap top to the Autostar I had the problem. Since I wrote the first message I discovered that one of my batteries had leaked fluid (black acid) all over the battery compartment. I replaced the batteries and cleaned up, no damage I am pleased to say. I still wonder what caused this with new batteries.
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