Last updated: 31 December 1999

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 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:	 thanks, and an old site
Sent:	Thursday, December 30, 1999 06:45:55
From:	john@gastineau.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,
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

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

Again, thanks.

John, KC8IEW


John E. Gastineau                                 john@gastineau.org
953 National Road, #163                         (304) 243-9636 voice
Wheeling WV 26003-6440                            (304) 243-9637 fax
USA                             http://gastineau.home.mindspring.com
Mike here: Sorry about the out-of-date mirror site.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:	atestani@ibm.net (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

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) 891-6334
Mike here: I doubt that retraining would correct this. Perhaps it is a glitch in 1.3c. Have you reported it to engineer@meade.com?

Added later:

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:	ggreaser@tscnet.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.



Subject:	 ETX-90EC & Autostar: tracking of Saturn/Jupiter
Sent:	Monday, December 27, 1999 22:46:48
From:	ifeldman@hotmail.com (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.

Mike 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?

Mike 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:	rlonn@home.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

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:	fgoldner@worldnet.att.net (Frank Goldner)
To:	engineer@meade.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

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.   fgoldner@worldnet.att.net

Subject:	 Re: more and more on Proc Traps and Polar Pointing in Alt/Az
Sent:	Friday, December 24, 1999 20:56:01
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)

[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

Subject:	 Re: more on Proc Traps and Polar Pointing in Alt/Az
Sent:	Friday, December 24, 1999 07:18:33
From:	edutton@bouldernews.infi.net (Ells Dutton)

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.


Subject:	 Autostar Update Experience
Sent:	Thursday, December 23, 1999 06:48:59
From:	david.kaufman@railinc.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

Anyway, thanks again for the great site,  and Happy Holidays!

David K
Mike here: A Tour editing capability is coming from Meade.

Subject:	 the sky
Sent:	Thursday, December 23, 1999 05:59:28
From:	pleiades@erols.com (Alisa Streitfeld)
Mike 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:	gbgesq@earthlink.net (Gary)
I wanted to respond to Ronald's posts - he seems a bit lost (like my

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!

Subject:	 Re: more on Proc Traps and Polar Pointing in Alt/Az
Sent:	Wednesday, December 22, 1999 21:49:23
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)

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.

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

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

Subject:	 a few ETX questions
Sent:	Wednesday, December 22, 1999 20:05:03
From:	kirkaandrews@yahoo.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 A. Andrews		
University of Virginia	 Class of 2002		
**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:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
To:	edutton@bouldernews.infi.net
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
engineer@meade.com 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).


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.

Mike 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.

Mike 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.

Added later:

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,

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!
Mike 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:	scott@hero.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 

Mike 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:	andymace@mediaone.net (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?


ANdy Mace
Mike 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:	andrewj@netvigator.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



Subject:	 How do you enter data into the Autostar update tool software
Sent:	Saturday, December 18, 1999 07:22:40
From:	radarb8@mediaone.net (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 using
 in the update software? Please help!!!
Mike 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).

Subject:	 Stupid question # 634
Sent:	Thursday, December 16, 1999 09:24:52
From:	gbgesq@earthlink.net (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!
p.s. the new dns entry works like a champ - no problems entering the
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:	ggreaser@tscnet.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

Mike here: Good tip. If you send your report to engineer@meade.com 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
Mike 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:	macafee@taec.toshiba.com (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.

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)526-2420
Mike 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

Subject:	 Autostar and an iMac ..
Sent:	Sunday, December 12, 1999 02:10:15
From:	joe@cunninghamfamily.com (Joe Artale)
Any suggestions as to how to connect and Autostar to an iMac DV in order
to download the latest software version?

Mike 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:	saranac.tv@worldnet.att.net
Does the Casady & Greene's InfoGenie LX200 plug in for Starry Night
software work with the Autostar?


- 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


Subject:	 Power
Sent:	Monday, December 6, 1999 9:09:08 AM
From:	andrewj@netvigator.com (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.


Andrew Jackson
Mike 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.

Added later:

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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