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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
Last updated: 14 October 2010

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:	 Doing without an Autostar, and comet calculations with the Autostar
Sent:	Sunday, July 30, 2000 18:09:24
From:	kbarger@navpoint.com (Kyle Barger)
Mike, a comment on your reply to Gary D. that "The Autostar is handy but
not a requirement. Afterall, astronomers have been successfully finding
objects without computers for a few centuries... "  I would have said
the same thing a year or so ago, but now after using an Autostar I'm not
so sure.  For the past few centuries astronomers didn't have to deal
with the light pollution most of us have today.  I got pretty good at
star-hopping with my homemade Dob and Telrad, but the fact is my
limiting magnitude is so lousy (about 2.5) I usually had to start off
wayyyy off from what I wanted to look at.  For example most people would
consider M13 an easy target, but I can barely see even the brightest
stars in Hercules from my back yard.  If I wanted to look at M13 I would
usually have to start off at Vega and hop my way over.  The first night
I had my Autostar working properly I saw several objects I had never
seen before because they weren't convenient to any stars, and I saw
others that I had seen before but were a lot of trouble to find.  If the
Andromeda Galaxy is a naked-eye object from your usual observing site,
then you will probably enjoy learning to hop your way around manually. 
If you're heavily light-polluted, the Autostar becomes more of a
necessity, in my experience.

Second, the "real" reason I wrote, a question about entering comet info
in the Autostar.  I have tried to set up the Autostar to track Comet
Linear, but the results are making no sense.  I entered everything from
the elements, first from Sky and Telescope, and then from the
originals at the IAU (cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/1999S4.html).  I've been over the numbers several times & I'm
pretty sure I'm putting all the right numbers in the right places.  Yet
for example, for 8:51 PM EDT July 30 it's giving me a position of
12:00.9 h +28 14'.  But the ephemeris calculated at the web site gives
12:02.53 h +15 19.2' for 0000 July 31 UTC (= 8:00PM July 30).  Any
suggestions for what I might have done wrong?  Or is there a bug
somewhere?  (I am using the model that comes with the ETX-70AT if that
makes a difference.)
Mike here: Excellent point about the Autostar being able to help users see things that would be difficult, if not impossible to find by starhopping, from light polluted areas. Even using the simple setting circles on the ETX wouldn't be much help there. As to the Comet Linear elements and the Autostar, your Autostar software may not be able to handle the >1 eccentricity. Users have had success seeing the comet by just directly entering that day's RA and DEC coordinates. Of course, this was before the comet "exploded" and became fainter.

Added later:

Hmm well actually I left some stuff out :) The Sky & Telescope web site
had elements with a >1 eccentricity... it didn't like that at all &
refused to take it.  So I thought I'd double-check against the IAU
Astronomical Telegrams site and the elements they had showed <1 ecc...
so I dunno, I'm completely clueless about any of the math involved.

Subject:	 Is West Longitude + or = ????
Sent:	Sunday, July 30, 2000 15:15:52
From:	brandeisguy@aol.com (Dr. Paul Fougere)
This is my first email on the ETX125EC; specifically on the computer
controller.  When setting up a new site should I enter the West
Longitude as positive or negative??  My  Longitude is 71 degrees +15
minutes WEST.  I always thought that longitude was measured as positive
when East of Greenwich.  This question is not answered in either the
autostar "manual" or the ETX "manual".  I use quotes here because I am
not really happy with these user manuals especially the Autostar manual.

Is there an official cable set for MAC yet?  My software is version
1.3b. Is it important to use the latest software?

I think that Meade has a nerve selling their flimsy 883 "Deluxe Field
Tripod"  for $199 +shipping.  This is really a piece of junk as is also
their #825 viewfinder!!

Thanks in advance for your help.

Paul F. Fougere
eregouf@hotmail.com
Mike here: In older versions, west longitude was positive but was changed in 1.1m to west being negative. There is no "official" Mac serial cable but you can use a Mac-PC serial adapter as I did (see "Update Autostar using a Mac" on the Autostar Information page). Or you can make your own cable (see the Autostar Information page). Currently there is no USB support (except via a serial-USB adapter).

Added later:

Thank you very much for your quick reply to my email on longitude.

Subject:	 Re: Autostar 2.0 Problem
Sent:	Saturday, July 29, 2000 10:28:35
From:	stevepvolz@home.com (Steven Volz)
Thank you for the response.  However, I  have not been able to implement
fix 1 because I can't read the screen language to scrol to the correct
screens.

I've tried 3 and can't get that to work

I will try 2 again, but I'm having trouble with a fresh load because I
can't get the controls in the proper mode because I can't read the
languae on the screen.

Unfortunately Meade's office hours are when I work so tech support isn't
helpful.

I know you only do this as a labor of love, but I'd appreciate any
suggestions you can offer.  Thanks

----- Original Message -----

> Sounds like you need to select the language.  As our resident Autostar
> expert reported on the June 2000 Autostar Feedback page:
>
> From:   rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
> There are (at least) three ways to set the language:
>
>  (1) Turn on the telescope, hit "enter" to get past the date and time
> questions,
>      When you get to "Align:Easy", press MODE once.
>      That will get you to "Setup:Align"
>      Press the up-scroll key (the "^" to the left of the "?") once
>      You will now be at "Setup:Reset".
>      Press ENTER twice to perform the reset.
>      The next question you will see will be the "which language?"
> messages.
>   (2) It comes up when you download the telescope with new firmware.
>   (3) You can sometimes reach the Language question by holding the Mode
> key down during the Initialization sequence.
>
> The "reset" method does reset some other stuff (such as where your site
> is), but it's a sure bet. I have managed to reach the Language question
> via (3), but it doesn't always happen (and i don't know why... it's in
> the code!)
>
> good luck
> --dick
Mike here: In Dick's method #1, don't try to read the screens until you get to the last prompt. Just press the keys as he indicates and when you get to the last step you should be able to recognize "English" in whatever language it is currently in. When you see it, press ENTER.

Added later:

Thanks so much.  At the same time, I was able to make a clean install
using method #2 and initialize in English.  Just in time.  I'm off to
the Nebraska star party tomorrow.

And some final thoughts from Dick:

another way the Autostar might be stuck in non-Roman characters would be
if you acciently mixed up versions... such that you downloaded the v2.0i
firmware... but the v2.0h database.

Although "all" they fixed was the non-English pointers, the two database
files are wildy different... (from a computer's point of view)

So that's another thing to check. Perhaps the dates shown on the files
would identify their correct pairing.

Subject:	 Autostar 2.0 Problem
Sent:	Wednesday, July 26, 2000 21:30:52
From:	stevepvolz@home.com (Steve Volz)
Help!

It's just a few days until the Nebraska Star Party and I can't get my
Autostar to properly update.

The Autostar had version 1.3 on it so I downloaded the Meade Autostar
updater 2.1 from their website.  After I uploaded the software into my
Autostar, all I get when I start the ETX is the initial screen which
says" C (99) Meade [2.0] Autostar" then it scrolls to a mix of chinese
and jibberish.  It will apparently ask for input of time, date etc.

I read an earlier post on your website about someone who apparently
loaded the wrong software and got the same type of jibberish on his
display.  The fix for him was to reload the software then and everything
was OK.

I put the unit into Flash load mode and tried to upload again (and
again).  No luck.  Same performance.

I would appreciate any suggestions you or your readers might have about
how to fix this.

Thanks
Mike here: Sounds like you need to select the language. As our resident Autostar expert reported on the June 2000 Autostar Feedback page:
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (richard seymour)
There are (at least) three ways to set the language:

 (1) Turn on the telescope, hit "enter" to get past the date and time
questions,
     When you get to "Align:Easy", press MODE once.
     That will get you to "Setup:Align"
     Press the up-scroll key (the "^" to the left of the "?") once
     You will now be at "Setup:Reset".
     Press ENTER twice to perform the reset.
     The next question you will see will be the "which language?"
messages.
  (2) It comes up when you download the telescope with new firmware.
  (3) You can sometimes reach the Language question by holding the Mode
key down during the Initialization sequence.

The "reset" method does reset some other stuff (such as where your site
is), but it's a sure bet. I have managed to reach the Language question
via (3), but it doesn't always happen (and i don't know why... it's in
the code!)

good luck
--dick

Subject:	 Re: ETX 125EC
Sent:	Tuesday, July 25, 2000 23:14:38
From:	yenal.ogmen@emu.edu.tr (Yenal Ogmen)
Sorry to bother you again but i have some more questions. First of all i
am not happy to say this but i didnt train the drives. Do you think that
my problem will be solved when i train the drives? Because it seems to
me that the problem is mechanical, (something goes wrong within
telescope). One more question, What do you mean by HOME position? Thank
you for your interest.

Yenal
Mike here: Training the drives is necessary so that the Autostar is calibrated to the drive position encoders in your telescope. The HOME position is described in the Autostar manual (as well as on the "Autostar Alignment and GOTO Tips" page (see the Autostar Information page). The telescope has to be put into this HOME position as a known starting point for the Autostar.

Subject:	 ETX 125EC
Sent:	Tuesday, July 25, 2000 04:02:07
From:	yenal.ogmen@emu.edu.tr (Yenal Ogmen)
Hi, last month i bought ETX125EC, Autostar and Deluxe Tripod. First
night i tried to use it. i entered my location to the autostar and also
the time. But i didnt adjust tripod for my location. I tried "guided
tour" on Autostar. Telescope started to rise and it didnt stopped and
when it rised to much (90 degrees) there was a sound like trrrrrr on the
right side of the telescope. Now telescope can be moved to down, right,
left but not up. When i try to move upside electronically there is again
that sound and it is not moving. But when i try to move it manually
there is no problem. What can i do now? i really feel bad.
Thank You
Yenal
Mike here: First off, did you follow the instructions in the Autostar manual about training the drives? If not, you need to do that. Then you need to set the Autostar for either Polar or Alt/Az mounting, whichever way you have the ETX on the tripod (I'd suggesting using Alt/Az mounting for now). Finally, you need to put the ETX into the proper HOME position before letting it go through the alignment process.

Subject:	 Meade Autostar Update page (official Meade site)
Sent:	Tuesday, July 25, 2000 01:42:47
From:	drounds@jvlnet.com (Dave Rounds)
Have you looked at the Meade Autostar update page lately? As of this
morning, it is showing the current Autostar Updater program to be
version 1.1 and the firmware to be version 1.1m.  Any ideas why they
have reposted these very old files (dated 4/13/99)?  The page is also
showing orbital elements from 3/22/99.

On a different topic, I called Meade's tech support regarding the
problem entering the comet eccentricity values greater than or equal to
1.000. They told me that this will be corrected in the next release.
They claimed that version was currently undergoing quality testing and
should be available in a few weeks.  What surprised me about this was
that they actually called me back, not once but twice. I had left a
message on their voice mail about 15 minutes before they opened and got
a call back about an hour later. Because the support tech was not
familiar with the problem, he said he would talk to engineering and call
me back.  About 90 minutes later, he called back and left a very
detailed reply on my voice mail. He indicated that eccentricity values
in the range of 0.9992 and larger should be entered as 0.9992.  He
further stated that the current softwere (rev h and i) would give the
same results using 0.9992 instead of 1.0002 for the comet 1999/S4.

Dave Rounds
Mike here: Apparently the Meade webmaster goofed. I notified Meade. [Back to normal on 25 July.]

Subject:	 autostar firmware 1.1m and 1.1 updater, dated 4/13/00
Sent:	Monday, July 24, 2000 16:41:54
From:	john10882@hotmail.com (John)
Meade has posted autostar updater 1.1, with autostar firmware 1.1M, and
is dated 4/13/00. Has anyone incurred difficulty downloading and
extracting this auto.zip? Tried it several times and get a windows read
file error. Had to delete it in dos each time.
John 
Mike here: The web page is bogus. It is from 1999. Apparently their webmaster messed up.

Added later:

Thanks for the info Mike. It's appreciated.

Subject:	 Comment on recent Polar Alignment Anguish comment
Sent:	Sunday, July 23, 2000 17:58:51
From:	fgoldner@worldnet.att.net (Frank Goldner)
Dick Seymour's July 15th comment on "Polar tracking accuracy" in the
Autostar section  asking the question as "why would you (anyone) want to
use an Autostar in polar alignment?" and citing anguish, leads me to
comment as to why I use polar mode, other than for photography?

I have found, using a wedge type of tripod (I use the JMI Megapod with
my ETX)and even very crude polar alignment (accurate only to within a
few degrees of true north - which I can set up in 5 minutes using a
level and magnetic-declination corrected compass), that the ETX with the
simple hand-controller set in polar mode holds objects much better (i.e.
much longer) than I can with the Autostar in ALT/AZ, even with the most
careful alignment.  I have left the telescope on the sun and moon for
hours requiring only slight touchups.  One could also do such a simple
set up with an Autostar controlled ETX but would have to fake Autostar
into thinking the alignhment's were o.k. (i.e. accept wherever it goes
in the alignment process); but, it really is much easier, and quicker,
without Autostar.

Tip: to make polar-mode life really easy on bright objects, such as the
sun, moon, and other objects that can be seen with the naked eye, such
as zero or first magnitude stars or Orion, I use a Rigel finder to pick
out the object and get it easily in the finder scope which can then zero
in on fainter near-by objects.  This really aided my enjoyment recently
in facilitating exploring the Lyra system, jumping off from Vega. I
found all the doubles, and even faint M57 from my light polluted
backyard, all a few minutes after setting up the crude polar oriented
scope, so "back-strain" and setting-up anguish were not problems.
 
Best regards to you and your faithful.

Frank Goldner, Bethesda Md.
Fgoldner@worldnet.att.net
Mike here: I tend to use my ETX-90RA on the JMI Wedge and Tripod combination (pre-Wedgepod) more than any other scope.

Subject:	 Re: Autostar 'Jumps' when Tracking
Sent:	Sunday, July 23, 2000 11:44:39
From:	mikebt@ihug.co.nz (Mike Thompson)
Hey, thanks for the fast response (I've heard nothing from Meade as
yet...)

I popped outside early this morning to try an catch a glimpse of Saturn
through the clouds, and what do you know, no problems (With the scope)
at all. (But the clouds did spoil my fun!)

I noticed (when re-training the motors) yesterday that the 'Random Slew'
only seemed to occur when the scope was powered by an external 12 V
power supply. Run the thing on its batteries and it was fine, tracking
Saturn for 15 - 20 mins this morning (Behind Cloud!)

Hmmmm I think I'll check out the power supply....

Thanks for your help

Clear Skies

MikeT :)

Subject:	 downloading to v1.0c
Sent:	Saturday, July 22, 2000 20:32:37
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
To:	djmullen@facstaff.wisc.edu
Hi...

I saw your note on Mike's site...
If you're using the Updater from Meade's -published- website, 
it cannot download to v1.0c of the Autostar...
their recommended fix is to use an older Updater to first download to
v1.3, 
*then* use the current version to go to 2.0h/i.

That's the "official" way.

The -unofficial- way (this week) is to grab an updated Updater from

www.meade.com/support/auto/AutostarSupportCustomers/NaturalWonders/auto.zip

(if you'd rather a self-extractor, replace the final ".zip" with ".exe")
Once unpacked and installed, if you read the readme.txt file found in 
ProgarmFiles>MEade>Autostar>AutostarUpdater
You'll see that this is v2.2 of the Updater (and v2.0i of the firmware)
and that v2.2 *can* deal with "all versions of Autostar"

The picture of the Autostar which appears during the installation of the
updater still says "vA2.1", but the updater itself know it's v2.2

good luck
--dick

Subject:	 Autostar 'Jumps' when Tracking
Sent:	Friday, July 21, 2000 16:05:47
From:	mikebt@ihug.co.nz (Mike Thompson)
I'm having some trouble with my Autostar. (Software Version 2.0i)
I align the scope in Alt/Az mode... No problem here
Then I GOTO some object.... No problem here either, The Autostar seems
to reliably point to objects. But, as the Autostar tracks the object, it
will inexplicably jump approx 5 degrees in Alt after aroung 10 minutes
of tracking. The jump is clearly Motor Driven (You can hear it!) So the
problem does not seem to be with loose bolts etc. Once this has
happened, the Alt reading on the Autostar (Pressing MODE for 2 seconds
and then the Down Arrow key) does not match the Alt reading on the Scope
Alt Dial. Thus it seems that the Autostar is unaware of the 5 degree
jump. The scope and Autostar then need to be re-aligned to accurately
GOTO objects.

Note that the 'Home Made' cable that I talk about later is disconnected
when this problem occurs, so the Scope and Autostar are in a 'normal'
Meade-Cable only configuration. (In other words: it's not my cable
that's causing the jump)

Has anyone else out there experienced a similar problem? Or perhaps have
a fix I can try?

Incidentally I have successfully updated my ETX 90 EC and Autostar with
my laptop running Windows 2000 Server and I note that some of your
subscribers have had problems. Initially I had loads of problems
attempting to upload the new version of the Autostar software to the
Autostar, using the Mead update tool and a home-made RS232 cable. Each
time I tried, the upload would hang at a different point of the process
(Sometimes bank 4, sometimes bank 10, you get the picture). I had
convinced myself that the problem stemmed from electrical noise
interfering with the upload and thus rebuilt my cable, ensuring that the
free core of the 4 core cable was connected to the signal ground - This
made no difference! (Rats, another great idea bites the dust) Then, on a
whim I stripped down the services running on my Windows 2000 machine,
stopping any services that were not immediately required by the OS
AND...... The upload proceeded perfectly first time. I can only assume
that the serial interface code in the Meade upload tool is VERY time
dependant and the extra services running on Windows 2000 disrupted its
communications flow. (Enabling Flow control on the Autostar would REALLY
help here, but may well ned a hardware change!) In Windows 95/98 a
running task can much more easily overrun the system, keeping ALL (or
almost all) processor time slices to itself. I suspect that this is why
the Meade Update tool works fine in Windows 95/98 and not in Windows
2000.

I hope this helps

Clear Skies

MikeT :)
Mike here: Some ETX-125EC models have experienced this "random slew" but the -90EC seemed to be pretty much immune to it. As has been suggested on the site by others, retraining the drives when any oddity occurs can help.

Added later:

OK, I'll give that a try.

Thanks for the help

Subject:	 stop to motors
Sent:	Friday, July 21, 2000 06:10:33
From:	garyc@voicenet.com (Gary)
I've only been using my etx90 for a week and I am still having trouble
getting the autostar to align properly. Is it normal for the motors to
be so jerky they are not very smothe thats for sure and when I center an
object like a star it moves off the fov in about a minute. I thought the
etx90 was suposed to keep an object somewhere in the fov for awile.I
have the tracking set on siderail.

thanks    
gary

PS I wish I knew someone in the philadelphia area that has an etx90 that
could show mwe how to set it up right!
Mike here: Check the aligning tips on the Buyer/New User Tips page and on the Autostar Information page; they may help you.

Subject:	 Comet LINEAR Sighting Technique
Sent:	Wednesday, July 19, 2000 22:22:21
From:	dpersyk@worldnet.att.net (Dennis Persyk)
I finally saw comet LINEAR with my ETX 90 EC! My technique was as
follows: Visit the Heavens Above web site at
http://www.heavens-above.com . I write down the current RA/DEC
coordinates. NOTE: They vary with time as the comet is moving against
the star field. Then I do the two-star align with the ETX in alt-az
mode.

I then press and hold MODE for several seconds until it displays RA and
DEC. I then slew to the current RA/DEC given by Heavens Above and I am
pretty close! You will find that there is considerable interaction
between RA and DEC when in alt-az configuration, but after several
iterations, you will be there.

Tonight I set up at 9:47 pm with a Chicago suburbs sunset at about 8:35.
The forecast was for overcast skies but I had great transparency and
seeing (for my limiting magnitude 4 site, that is). I saw the comet at
10:37 but it seemed very dim  about magnitude 7.5 to 8.0, and it seemed
to come and go in the 26 mm standard eyepiece. It looked neat, but I was
disappointed at the dim view.

At 10:44 I realized that 75% of the sky was obscured by clouds! My dim
comet seeing was due to clouds rolling in but I didn'tt know it.

Dennis Persyk Hampshire, IL

Subject:	 Computer can't see Autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, July 19, 2000 21:24:48
From:	djmullen@facstaff.wisc.edu (Dave Mullenix)
I've got an ETX-90EC with Autostar firmware version 1.0c.  I'm trying to
upgrade it using the latest Meade Autostar Update software, but it can't
find the telescope.  It finds devices on ports 1 and 2, but  times out
on both ports with a "Windows Failed Read".  I've got a Microsoft Mouse
on one com port and the telescope is on the other.  I've set both ports
to 9600/8/1/no flow control using Control Panel / System.

I've tried with two computers, a Pentium 233 running Win 98 and a 200
MHz Pentium running Win 95.  The former is networked to a DSL modem, the
latter is networked to a Novell network.  The telescope is turned on,
aligned and sitting at "Select Item: Object.  I'm using a factory cable
set, connected as per the factory diagram.  (That is, the phone cord is
plugged between the serial port adapter and the RS-232 port on the
Autostar.)

The telescope runs fine, otherwise.  Anybody have an idea of what I'm
doing wrong?

Thanks,
Dave Mullenix
Mike here: Have you tried with the Autostar in the Download mode? Other than that, not being a Windows person I can't think of what might be wrong. I'll post your message on the next site update.

Added later:

Yes, I did with no luck.  I'm going to try a new cable next.  Thanks for
posting the message.

Thanks for your site - it's a blast!

Subject:	 looking North
Sent:	Tuesday, July 18, 2000 15:56:16
From:	garyc@voicenet.com (Gary)
I am very new to astronomy and I am using a compass to point my etx90
north. I am having trouble with alining it after I set the home position
north by the compass and set the dial to zero (level) when the etx slews
and stops at a star the star is way out of the fov can you tell me if
magnetic north is very far off true north and if so should I move the
home position alittle east or west to get a better true north. I hope
all this didn't sound dumb but I am a newbee and at one time everyone
is.

gary
Mike here: In many locations, Magnetic North and True North are different. The difference is called "magnetic variation". In most cases, the difference is minimal and if your Autostar is missing the target by more than 10 degrees then I suspect something is affecting the accuracy. Like the daylight savings time selection, or your location being input wrong, or your date/time being wrong. What happens if you center the first alignment star and it goes to the second one (two star easy align method)? What happens after you center the second star? Do selected objects get in the finder or eyepiece FOV?

Subject:	 W2K and Autostar Update
Sent:	Tuesday, July 18, 2000 09:21:18
From:	DJiang@fp-associates.com (David Jiang)
Thanks so much for your work.  Although I am new, I have learned a lot
from the information contained in your site!

I have a question: what are people doing about the fact that Autostar
Update 2.1 is not Windows2000 compliant?  Is there a workaround?  Or do
we just wait for Meade to release another version of Autostar?

Thanks,
David
Mike here: It is not Mac OS or Unix "compliant" either. Right now we all have to use Windows95 or 98 or wait for the Java-based version.

Subject:	 Re: tracking accuracy (again)
Sent:	Monday, July 17, 2000 21:11:24
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Well, i made the mistake of trying a Polar evening again...
this time using Easy Alignment (effectively two star).
And the results were as bad as Pierre kept encountering.

Despite using the same pier, north-point, etc. as two night's ago test,
tracks, slews and GoTos were all wildly erratic.
SYNCs would help locally, but 90 degree slews would end up 4 to 8
degrees off.

Thinking about it the next day, i wonder: what's Polar except an Alt/Az
if you're standing at the Earth's pole?
(extra points: how do you set the "home" position?)

Or, why not tell the scope that you -live- at the North Pole, (at your
own longitude), and that you're just doing a good old Alt/Az setup?
Mount it on your wedge, and off you go.

I suspect there might be some pitfalls due to singularities at 90
degrees of latitude, but we're experimenting, and the worst that can
happen is it'll be confused.

Some nearby targets (satellites, Moon, perhaps) will be mis-aimed by
this technique, but anything more than a half-AU away won't care...

have fun
report results
--dick
(who then set it to Alt Az and caught Linear S4 by entering 17th Jul
RA/Dec coordinates and then panned towards the 18th's numbers.)
(at least, i think it was S4... tonight's check will see if it moved)
Hint: preload the User Object list with RA/Dec targets for the next few
days... 
then you've got a one-button GoTo for S4.. and GoToing  the next day
will pan over the region it is moving through


Subject:	Comet LINEAR S4 problems...yeah, me too!
Sent:	Sunday, July 16, 2000 18:29:33
From:	Stantastic@aol.com
Just got done reading how a number of people are having problems with
getting the Autostar to find Comet LINEAR S4. I was doing my first test
for locating it the other night (from inside the living room!), and got
similar "unhappy" results. My scope also pointed about 180 degrees out
of phase (i.e., pointing south, and it was obviously pointing too high,
also.) So, something funny IS going on for a lot of people.

I double checked all orbital elements and they were correct (as of the
latest postings) -- Starry Night Pro used the same numbers and displayed
the correct location, but Autostar is not.

This has nothing to do with Dick Seymour's "eccentricity patch" by the
way. That was to fix an ecc = 1.000000 bug that I had uncovered and
informed him about. The current ecc for Comet LINEAR is 0.999998, so
entering the correct elements to the Autostar should NOT be a problem,
with or without the patch.

Wonder what's going on?

Stan Glaser
stantastic@aol.com
Mike here: There is the new Autostar version on Meade's 3rd party support site that Dick Seymour mentioned (further down this page). He seems to think it fixed the problem.

Added later:

I'll check it out -- maybe I misread his comment, or possibly
misunderstood -- I thought he said that only the "Updater" program had
been modified, something in regard to the Comet upload part, but that
the Autostar was still running 2.0i -- I would think that if only the
Updater program changed, that wouldn't affect how the handbox handled
Comet data. Thanks for the comment, though -- when I get a chance, I'll
take a look.
Mike here: You may be right; I may have mis-read it.

And:

yeah, I went back to your site to see exactly what Dick said -- there's
no new firmware update, just the Updater update (that's a mouthful). Too
much trouble to spend time dealing with that. I'm still waiting for the
next handbox update.

Meanwhile, it seems that some people ARE having problems with Comet
LINEAR S4. My ETX definitely pointed to the opposite sky!!!! Yet the
same numbers in Starry Night Pro work as expected. Hum??
And lastly:
this is like beating a dead horse -- I tried AGAIN tonight using the
same parameters as the other day to get the scope to aim at Comet LINEAR
-- instead of 180 degrees out of sync, now it pointed somewhere eastward
and closer to the horizon. It seems to be closing in as each day passes 
;-)  I hope it finally can find the darn thing come this weekend --
we're going to Anza Borrego to take a look. But I expect I'll just have
to use my star charts and binos to take my first glimpse, and manually
aim the ETX once I find it.

I definitely think the software is buggy regarding comets -- it managed
to get pretty close to ISS when I tried a couple of weeks ago to track
that. And there haven't been any comets to view since the Autostar came
out, have there? So nobody's really been able to give it a real test?
(Just guessing, here.)

sigh --

Stan Glaser

Subject:	 re: incorrect placement of Linear S4
Sent:	Saturday, July 15, 2000 22:08:30
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
I do -not- have a patch for the Autostar's 5-RA-hours-off misplacement
of S4.

My patch was merely to allow eccentricities equal to one to be entered.

I suspect that the Autostar calculation:
(a) cannot properly handle greater-than-or-equal-to one eccentricities
(b) has other problems with highly eccentric orbits, those nearing one.

The normal Updater (found at http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html )
is -broken- with respect to transferring Comet Ephemeris data.

The newer one
(www.meade.com/support/auto/AutostarSupportCustomers/NaturalWonders/auto.exe)
corrects that.

I've done a little testing with the newer Updater's comet ephemerides,
and they do give better results. (compare favorably with the Harvard
numbers) However, the Linear S4 mis-aiming has not been a consequence of
that. Manually entered (i.e. keypad) Comets have been "ok", but S4
isn't.

--dick

Subject:	 sent to engineer@meade...
Sent:	Saturday, July 15, 2000 15:55:41
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
ETX Autostar firmware v2.0i -- Align Star list hiccough 

Abstract: scrolling up past the beginning of the Alignment Star list has
a problem.

Environment: #497 ETX Autostar, v2.0i firmware, v2.2a updater, Pentium
PC, Windows 95 OSR2
   ETX90/ec, 14th July 2000, Seattle (47.7 N, 122.3 W), 9:30 PDT.
 
How to see it: In Polar mount, select Setup>Align>TwoStar
After the user-slew to the celestial pole, 
the Autostar suggested "Arcturus" as the first alignment star.
I wanted to use Vega, so i used Scroll Up (^) to "roll over" the
beginning of the list.

The first scroll-up got a blank display.
The second scroll-up got  "47 47 47 47 47 4"

I scrolled up once more, and got a similar (but different) string (not
as easy to remember).

Scrolling Down (v) -did- return me to the Align Star list, and i
scrolled down to Vega.
From Vega i scrolled down off the bottom of the list, and got (as
expected) to Arcturus.
Scrolling Up (^) once from there got the blank display, 
and once more returned me to the "47 47 47 47 47 4" display.

I have not tested this in Alt/Az mode.

So: unlike every other scrollable list (that i've met) in the Autostar's
repetoire,
the Align Star list doesn't capture and loop an "off the top" operation.

Sincerely
--richard seymour

Subject:	 cc: on Polar tracking accuracy 
Sent:	Saturday, July 15, 2000 12:55:55
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
(also sent to etx.listbot.com)

Pierre Henrotay, in a continuing state of anguish, wrote:
 
> I just would like to add that I have never been able to get my ETX-90/EC to
> GOTO correctly in polar mode (running Autostar 2.0i), despite many
> help/tips/advices received and several attempts: the target was always 3-4
> degrees away from center of eyepiece. I finally resigned and went back to
> AltAz where GOTO is OK (most objects within eyepiece) and tracking is quite acceptable.
> If anyone manages to get Polar mode working, I'd appreciate to hear.

After a second clear night ("controlled experiment")(caveat:
"uncontrolled experimentor")
I can toss in a few more cent's worth of opinion and experience.
Equipment: ETX90/ec, #497 Autostar with v2.0i firmware.  
Seattle (47.6N 122.3W) 9 to 11:30pm 14 July.

Result: Polar can work fairly well... "fairly" is a qualitative, not
quantitative, judgement.
(but my back says: "why are you DOING this to me?")

I spent two hours last night GoToing all over my visible sky... (chunk
of E and ENE obstructed).
Due to the bright moon, i couldn't duplicate two nights ago's "all
DeepSky>Named" Alt/Az tour.
I -could- go to many bright stars, and constellation-tour Draco, Libra,
Aquila and bits of Cassiopia.
In most cases the targets came to repeatably within one-quarter of a
degree (i.e. same spot in 26mm eyepiece).
I also discovered another probable bug in the Autostar, but not directly
affecting Polar operation. (list processing of alignment stars)

The Big differences between this and previous tests:
(1)  i used "two-star" alignment.  I think it helped.
(2) i actually -followed- (to the letter) the scrolling
how-to-align-polar instructions.

Story: i set up my two-hinged-planks (with two turnbuckles as braces)
Polar "wedgie" atop my C-clamped-plank-to-railing Alt/Az "table".
Checked with carpenter's level for "level". 
I attached the ETX90/ec to the wedge with two thumbscrews.  Some slight
lack of -firm- attachment was noted, since the three rubber feet of the
ETX can be compressed if lateral pressure is applied.
I set the base to the CCW-to-stop, back to north position (north located
by local landmark).
I then used the bubble level to ascertain level barrel.  I used the Dec
number scale to tweak the turnbuckles to bring the wedge to my latitude 
(i'm at 47.6 degrees North.. so the Dec scale was set to 42.5 degrees,
then the wedge adjusted until the level (on top of the ETX barrel)
showed "level")(47.6+42.5 equals 90, to accuracy of reading).
I then turned on the ETX.  Set time and date. 
Following scrolling instructions, Used Motion button to swing barrel to
90 degrees on the Dec scale.
I asked for a one-star align.
It wanted Polaris.  
There was a cloud *exactly* there.
I lied and told it [enter]... it went directly to Arcturus.
Guess where the second cloud was....
(if i remember correctly, in Alt/Az we have the ability to override the
choice of star.
In Polar that doesn't seem to be the case.)
So i says to myself: "Self,  i can -see- Vega.  I can -see-
(occasionally) Arcturus.  I cannot see Polaris.   Let's try two-star."
So i swing back to the level/north position, and [Mode] [^/v] around
until i'm at Setup>Align>TwoStar.
-That- allows me to specify my stars.  First Vega (hmm... about 4
degrees off -- the ETX pointed too far south).  Then Arcturus. (that
cloud was breaking up).
I sat waiting for Arcturus to peek through the growing (in size and
frequency) holes.
It took over five minutes to get it, the ETX and my (ouch, my back!)
viewfinder to coincide.
It also appeared to be about 4 degrees off, but i'd done so much blind
(lost in cloud) slewing i couldn't guarantee that impression.
Finally centered: Align successful.

First target: Moon (rising near full in SW) ..whirr... ETX a little
high...
 but: my Dec/Alt axis has almost two degrees of mechanical slop... when
i'm doing things like this i have to remember to gently push the nose of
the barrel down to remove (or consistently counter) the slop.  Moon
achieved, at least top half in eyepiece.
Now [GoTo] Vega (i've had Alt/Az alignments -not- be able to return to
their targets).
A little off... but peeking into the left edge (hence ETX a bit south)
of eyepiece.
Antares... dead center.  Arcturus... dead center.
Dubhe (bowl of Big Dipper).. off-center, in eyepiece. 
Oh, the cloud's gone... Polaris!  (off center, right side of eyepiece)
Back to Vega... Arcturus... Alberio... Antares... Spica...
Then i started the Tour of Draco...
(Draco's handy for testing like this... it snakes all over the sky)
Here i encoutered a strange quirk... if i SYNCed on Tyl, the ensuing
stars were off about the amount i SYNCed.  If i SYNCed on one of -them-
(and ignored Tyl being at the edge of the eyepiece), the -entire- Draco 
set were well-centered, except for Tyl.
I haven't dug into why this happened (yet).

Well, you're already bored to tears... we'll leave me happily GoTo'ing
all over the sky with very few occasions of targets being outside of the
eyepiece.  
Most sequential targets (such as Draco's stars) arrived very near the
same -spot- in the eyepiece.
I even threw in the occasional "ringer" (Ring Nebula, that is)...and,
while it wasn't -centered- (compared to the Alt/Az test), but it was
only a quarter degree to the lower right of centered.

So: one night is not a "statistically valid" sample.  I'd say i visited
about 30 or 40 unique targets, many involving cross-sky slews.  I
revisited many, to see if my rare SYNCs had  messed any up. 
Repeatability was pretty good.
A cross-sky (Spica to Cassiopia's Schedar) ended up about two degrees
off, SYNC made the rest of Cass dead-center.  

Among the things i noted: alignment did -not- involve Polaris.  I used
known landmarks and site latitude to "point to celestial pole".  My
later [GoTo] Polaris got it within a third of a degree.
I haven't dug into this theory: but i suspect that a two-star alignment
is basically an Alt/Az alignment, whereas the one-star involves Polaris,
which doesn't -tell- the ETX much about what's where.  
Meade recommends -against- using Polaris for an Alt/Az alignment, due to
the lack of information it provides.  Two-star (and maybe "easy") either
believes your mount's alignment, or completely ignores it and does the
Alt/Az calculations.

Personal back-pain-driven comment: Other than photography (and the
periodic error of the ETX is pretty huge), why would you -want- to use
Polar alignment with an Autostar? (ok, ok... you can get to the
viewfinder for zenith operation)(i can't... one of my planks is in the
way... until i get out the saw).  The ease of my Alt/Az Deep Sky survey
kept jumping on my memory as i twisted and bent to get around to the
eyepiece for some of this night's work. Ouch.
And there are a lot more tabletops awaiting an ETX's visit than there
are polar piers...

So, I'm slightly sorry to have to tell Pierre "it works for me".  
I'm not at all sorry to agree with Jeffrey that a relatively careful
setup seems to yield reasonable targeting.
My ETX90 has very little RA mechanical slop, but huge amounts of Alt
slop.  Remembering to compensate for that (gentle push on nose)
corrected most of my pointing errors. 

Wishing you clear skies, flexible lumbar region, and (for myself)
returning to Alt/Az...
--dick
(ok, ok... maybe one more short Polar jaunt tonight)

Subject:	 Autostar update
Sent:	Friday, July 14, 2000 20:48:06
From:	rseymour@wolfenet.com (Dick Seymour)
Today (friday 14th) Meade just posted a new (updated) version of the
v2.2 Updater with (still) v2.0i firmware in the NaturalWonders section
of their site. Plus one tour.
The differences of note are:
fixed downloading of Comet Ephemerides,
added checksumming to all versions of Firmware,
theoretically able to update any Autostar back to (and including) v1.0c.

www.meade.com/support/auto/AutostarSupportCustomers/NaturalWonders/

No other news nor notice of updates publicly visible.

----

You've been missed, life's been boring without your focal point.
--dick
Added later:
Lots of folks are trying to Comet-hunt at the moment, the new Updater
fixes comet downloads. (it doesn't improve what the Autostar -does- with
the data, but at least it stops sending mangled bytes), the improved
Updater has been out there, unannounced, since 20th June, It's a full
kit with v2.0i so non-english users get better/easier downloads.
The kit deserves publicity.

I should have sent a note to engineer@meade asking -why- the main
"support" page didn't have that build available.

By the way: the (included) bitmap picture of the Autostar still says
"updater v2.1", but it's really v2.2 And, since it checksums the 497
kit, it may not accept a patched 497 firmware (until we work out the
checksums).  Untested. I -have- used the  June20th non-checksumming v2.2
Updater. After satellite-editing (on the Updater) and [send
ephemerides], it blew my Autostar's Ephemerides database to smithereens.
It required a FLASH LOAD to recover. Then a clean satellite
drag-and-drop and [send ephemerides] worked. (i was trying to reduce my
in-Autostar list from 150 to 10 satellites...)

Subject:	 Autostar not EZ-Aligning--Spining around
Sent:	Thursday, July 13, 2000 15:19:42
From:	jmurphy@touchnet.com (John Murphy)
I am an owner of a classic ETX-90 sans Autostar.  A friend of mine
bought a new ETX90 with Autostar. We were excited to set it up, but
whatever we seemed to do, during Alt/AZ easy alignment the ETX would
just revolve around twice until it came to the motor stops while
searching for the easy align star.  The documentation was no help.  Then
I noticed that at the bottom of one of the MENUS was RESET.  Being a
computer guy I recognized that this may be the magic REBOOT command.  We
hit reset and started from scratch and IT WORKED.

Then challenge 2.  After resetting, the EZ align sorta worked but was
way off. The scope was way ahead and below each star during the ez
aligh--to the west. Then we sent it to find the moon, again way off, but
consistantly off.  Then we realized the ETX was probably pointing to
where the moon would be later--about 1 hour later.  Then it hit us,
during the setup it asked DAYLIGHT SAVING TIMES ON or OFF.  We weren't
sure so we said OFF. That was our mistake.

We started over and said ON (or off, whichever was opposite) and it
aligned perfectly.  Very cool.  Simple mistakes can make a big
difference.  (Still like my manual autostar (the knobs), although I
can't wait for him to find the objects in the sky so I can manually make
sure I'm looking at right items in the sky...)
Mike here: Sometimes following the manual can help... But glad you got things working.

Subject:	 Etx question
Sent:	Thursday, July 13, 2000 13:48:34
From:	jdcjdr@skynet.be (JdcJdr)
Thanks a lot for your wonderful web site.

I search the way to construct my self an rs232 cable for my etx90ec. I
would like to know the way to connect wires on the etx side. I have not
seen that in your pages.

Do you have any idea ?

Best regards,

Michel (in Mons, Belgium)
Mike here: Glad you like the site. Check the Autostar Information page for Autostar Cable info. Also, check Meade's Autostar page for info.

Added later:

Thanks a lot for your fast reply.
I am a new Etx user and your pages are of great value to me.

Excuse me if I disturb you, I guess you have tons of email but I have
another problem with the Autostar and inthe newsgroups, nobody seems to
have the answer :

I have entered the parameters of S4 Linear comet and nothing works !
Those parameters are ok for my Skymap program but Autostar drives the
Etx in an opposite way. The comet was somewhere around 4H and the Etx
pointed around 17H !

Any Idea ?

Excuse me if there are a few english mistakes.  I speak, read and write
6 languages but english is not my best.
Mike here: See the "Autostar Comet Eccentricity Patch" on the Autostar Information page.

And this:

thanks a lot Mike but I think I have a severe problem :

I tried to upload the 2.0i rom.  All was fine when an electricity
failure occured. The computer and Etx went down. As the electrity came
back, I switched on the Etx and the Autostar seems now to be unable to
initialize. It just shows the screen (c)99 Meade [2.0] ....  and from
time to time flash once and shows the same screen. I tried to start the
software. It searchs a while for the Autostar and after a moment,
announce that no device was connected.  :-(( Of course, this append on a
saturday when I can not get help from the Meade dealer.

I will now check you pages to see if something exists about this
problem.
Mike here: Try the SAFE LOAD procedure (search the site for "safe load".

And:

YES ! I did it and all is now ok.

I do not know how to thank you Mike, I am an airline pilot and often fly
to the States. I do not know if you live near an international airport I
fly to but if so,next time I will brings a huge belgian beer bottle
(probably the best in the world) for you. :-)

Again, thanks a lot for your help and great pages.

Subject:	 Linear S4 Tracking with Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, July 11, 2000 10:21:44
From:	rmariotti@excite.com (Carrie and Ron Mariotti)
I, too, am having trouble getting the Autostar to point to the right
part of the sky with the current orbit data that I have. Has anyone
gotten it to work? If so, what orbit data did you use?

Thanks,
Ron M
Gainesville, VA

"Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder" 
- Anonymous Refrigerator Magnet

Subject:	 HELP !!! HELP !!! HELP !!!
Sent:	Monday, July 10, 2000 18:13:30
From:	deleow@datasys.com.mx (De Leo)
I bought the Autostar #505 connector cable & downloaded the Autostar
Update tool (version A2.1), and Autostar firmware (version 2.0h). When
finishing the download and following instructions I powered off the
telescope and disconnected the cables. Upon getting the telescope "ON",
the Autostar gave new instructions in an unreadable, illegible language,
chinease mixed with symbols.

I tryed to reinstall everything again.  But the program kept saying (in
my computer monitor) the capacity of the Autostar was not the one needed
for the rom files.

What can I do?

Thanks,

Mario
Mike here: Did you download the proper ROM files for your model Autostar from Meade's web site?

Added later:

I downloaded the 2.0i version exactly as a message said in your webpage
and it worked perfectly.
Thanks very much for your help.

Subject:	 New ETX 125-EC
Sent:	Saturday, July 8, 2000 18:26:42
From:	js2@telus.net (John Stan)
I like your site, nice to see all the feedback from interested users and
the result of your work keeping the site going...Thank you!!

I just received my new ETX 125-EC two days ago and would like to know
what the newest version of "Autostar" is, I have ver 2.0g.  The reason I
ask is that the plastic bag that it comes in looks like it was
previously opened and after reading some of the user's comments on your
site, I may have one that someone replaced at the dealer's store and
possibly inherited the problem they were experiencing with it.  Any way
to know for sure?  Look forward to your reply.

Regards........John
Mike here: Current version available on Meade's web site is 2.0i.

Subject:	 comet orbit calcs fixed anywhere?
Sent:	Tuesday, July 4, 2000 09:52:27
From:	craig@di.com (Craig Prater)
CC:	engineer@meade.com ('engineer@meade.com')
Mike & the gang + Meade engineers-

Great website, thanks!

Hey, I have the exact problem that Richard Seymour mentioned on June
18th where my Autostar calculates garbage positions for the 1999 S4
(LINEAR) comet.  I've used the numbers downloaded from Meade's site and
orbital elements from other web sites.  None of the results are anywhere
close to predicted coordinates for the comet.

Has anyone found the solution to this problem?  Any word from Meade?

By the way, here's a nice set of daily comet positions (I believe at
0:00:00 GMT):

www.bdl.fr/ephem/comets/HTML/english/EPHA0270.html

Since this comet is moving pretty fast, you may want to interpolate the
coordinates to find the comet's actual position at your observing time. 
But it would sure be nice if GOTO worked for this comet!

Craig
Mike here: Dick Seymour provided a patch. See the Autostar Information page on my ETX site.

Added later:

Thanks for the email.  I found the patch regarding not being able to
enter comet eccentricities >1, but I didn't find any patch about
calculating totally wrong orbits.  Since the recent eccentricities
posted for the LINEAR comet are 0.999998, that bug shouldn't be the
source of my problem.  Am I missing another patch?
Mike here: I haven't heard that the current elements are being calculated incorrectly in the Autostar. Since I'm away from my Autostar I haven't worried about the elements and hadn't noticed they were now <1. The only patch I recall is the >1 one.

Subject:	 comet linear
Sent:	Monday, July 3, 2000 19:29:50
From:	phils11s@home.com (Phil Schauweker)
Do you have, or can you tell me where to get the numbers to put into an
ETX Autostar for the comet Linear. I went to many of the astronomy links
on your site but I can't find what I need.

Thanks for any help you can give me.
Phil
Mike here: Try this one: http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/Ephemerides/Comets/Soft16Cmt.txt Also, read through the June Autostar Feedback page for more on Comet Linear and the Autostar.

Added later:

Thanks for taking the time on a holiday to answer. I am very new at this
just got the etx a short time ago ) and am trying to learn so I can work
with my grandson. With your info plus what I found in the Sky and
Telescope web page "Comet Linear's summer show" ( a very good chart of
it's locations < I think> ) I hope to be able to see it, IF the clouds
stay away.

Thanks again

Subject:	 Home Position
Sent:	Sunday, July 2, 2000 17:46:56
From:	plasmaknight@hotmail.com (Wei-Chieh Chen)
Hi. I can't decide either to put the computer panel of my ETX-90/EC
facing west or east (after pointing the tripod leg north). If I put it
facing west, it would be the proper home positioning. But if I face it
east, I can observe the sky better without the constant stops. Is the
panel facing west really that necessary for observing deep sky objects?
Mike here: I've always placed the control panel on the west side and don't have a problem hitting the stops. Others have reported successful usage when the control panel is on the east side. In either case, if you do the proper rotation before pointing the telescope north for the HOME position, and then use the Autostar for all movements, I would suspect you would never hit the azimuth stop.

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