Last updated: 31 December 2002
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 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:	That Darn Cold WX
Sent:	Monday, December 30, 2002 22:35:40
From: (Tony Bulat)
This is Tony Bulat writing and I haven't written for a long time. I had
a nice group of folks outside on Dec. 26th viewing Saturn on a perfect
night. The problem was it was cold. Sure enough, as hard as I tried to
keep that dang autostar warm, it finally gave up the ghost. What a shame
because my friends were all oohing and awing over the magnificent site
they were seeing, 4 moons and the Cassini division plus the bands of
colors on the Planet itself. My question is does Meade have any- thing
in the works to solve this miserable problem? I live here in So. Dak.
and it gets darn right cold sometimes but that's also when the skies
open up and present some of the finest vewing. If they don't have such a
plan, I think we all need to write them and persuade them of their short
sighted ways ie. guess where most large tele- scopes are constructed and
used! Nothing will make you madder than what I just described, plus you
lose out on a few other nice items to look at too, like Orion and
Andromeda and the Pleiades for starters that night. Bummer! Thanks for
the help Mike, if there is any and enjoy that new monster of yours.
Mike here: Yeah, the Autostar (and the batteries) doesn't like really low temperatures. I suppose they could make a "cold weather" Autostar that would be better insulated or have its own heat source. How much would you be willing to pay for that version? On the other hand, people have successfully used various types of "hand warmers" to keep the Autostar functioning. I haven't needed one myself (here in Southern California) where the lowest temp I used the Autostar is in the mid-40s.
Subject:	Mac OSX, Autostar and Starry Night Pro v.4
Sent:	Monday, December 30, 2002 7:47:55
From: (Edgar Blinn)
Okay, if anyone has any feedback on this, it would be greatly

I setup the ETX-125c with my Autostar controller and using a Keyspan PDA
(serial) adapter, I connected my computer to the Autostar controller.
Supposedly, you should be to control the Autostar from your computer at
this point, but I kept getting COM errors.  If anyone has has any luck
with this or a similar setup, please let me know.

The Keyspan controller indicator light showed that the
   signal was being carried across. 
I have updated my Keyspan drivers to support OS 10.2
I have updated Starry Night to the latest version

Ed Blinn
Watauga, TX
Mike here: I had success updating the Autostar from 10.2.2 using the Keyspan driver 1.4 with VirtualPC 5.0.4. I've not yet tried controlling the ETX/Autostar via Mac OS X software with this newer Keyspan driver (it failed with previous versions). I'm waiting for my new PowerBook G4 to arrive (not ordered quite yet...).


I haven't tried in VPC as of yet...the new Starry Night is OS X native
and runs really well.  I will try updated the Autostar and see if that
helps...then I will try to run everything from VPC..could be the Keyspan
adapter, i bought the PDA adpater (cause I'm cheap!) which might send a
different signal type than a true serial adapter.  Let me know if it
works when you get it in.

Mike here: VPC uses the Keyspan USB-serial adapter and the Autostar Updater application works through that. I have tried other Mac OSX native software and had problems communicating with the older Keyspan drivers.
Subject:	Cables or software?
Sent:	Sunday, December 29, 2002 21:57:24
From: (David Biegelsen)
My saga continues.

I have had bad luck in trying to download new firmware to my Autostar
handbox. To make sure that the problems are not specific to my laptop I
tried procedures on a desktop PC. I downloaded ASU, downloaded
Build26Ec.rom and moved it to the Ephemerides folder, connected the
Autostar to COM1 port, ran HyperTerm to ensure that I could see Autostar
(The ETX90 was connected to Autostar and powered on, display reading

With HyperTerm directed to COM1 I entered CTRL-F and got response "A".
After entering #:GVF# I got response VERSION# (no other output). That
seemed strange and may be a clue. I then quit out of HyperTerm to avoid
any contentions for the COM1 port.

So I repowered up the ETX, opened ASU and clicked on Upgrade Autostar
Software Now. I got message, "Is the handbox in Safe Mode? Does the
display read "Flash Load Ready?"" (The hbx display in fact still read
Setup/Align, so I hit No.) I got error message "Could not connect to
Autostar. Search all COM ports?" I clicked Yes. At this step I got one
of two responses in the various times that I have tried.

(1) "Autostar found at COM1" OK; "Upgrade Autostar Handbox software?"
OK. I get a dialog box with the upper window for Handbox is currently:
Unknown and the info in the window is grayed out. I click on radio
button for local source of firmware and click OK. "Are you sure you want
to upgrade now?" OK. "Clear user data ..." OK. "Check Autostar cable
then power cycle and try again."  So apparently there seems to be a
cable problem which does not disrupt serial communication totally (?)

(2) "Could not find COM port. Check connections and try again." So there
is intermittency also!

By the way, I have shorted Rx and Tx pins and get echoing of characters
in HyperTerm so cabling seems OK to that point (at least when I ran the
test! The uncertainty principle and Murphy's Law are conspiring!)

Do these symptoms ring any bells?

Thanks all.

Dave B
Mike here: Could there be some other software (faxmodem, for example) that is checking the COM port? That will interfere with the Autostar connectivity.


Thanks for the response. The only thing I could think of was the Visor
Hotsync which I had turned off. I don't think that inactive utilities
like faxmodem would cause contentions. When I check COM1 in the Device
Manager under System Properties, it says that the device is working
properly. I don't know how to check any further. The fact that HyperTerm
loop back does echo the characters I think means that the COM port is
accessible without contentions.

I am trying to get through to Meade customer support, but I have always
had problems doing so. I will probably end up faxing them.

Thanks for all your help and community support.

Dave B

Subject:	ETX questions
Sent:	Friday, December 27, 2002 8:27:52
From: (Jeffrey Stopa)
As a newbie to the Autostar realm of astronomy, my first attempt at
alignment last night was somewhat unsuccessfull.  The included
instructions were lacking in detail.  My primary question is: what
direction does the base of the telescope need to be facing before I even
try to find one of the reference objects?  Once I enter the reference
stars into the autostar I should be able to slew to any database object
right?  Hope you can help.

Mike here: There are several alignment tip articles on the Autostar Information page. Have a look at those. Basically, the base should be horizontal (assuming Alt/Az mounting) with the control panel on the West side. The telescope tube should be horizon and pointed to True North (not Magnetic North). If you can see Polaris (the North Star) use that to indicate the direction of True North. Then select Easy Two Star Alignment and following the onscreen prompts. Once you have successfully aligned you can select any of the objects in the Autostar's database and GOTO them. You can also enter any Right Ascension and Declination and GOTO that.
Subject:	Re:  Autostar 497 - Lost Memory During "Update"
Sent:	Friday, December 27, 2002 6:54:54
From: (Ron Schulte)
Thanks for the info Mike

It worked fine. I got the new software loaded and then loaded the
"Guided Tour" information as well. It seemed I was on a roll and really
getting the ETX to work - finally. Without training etc. I had it GOTO
Capella and Deneb on the desk. It appeared to be on and it showed
alignment successful. Strange, though, once aligned it continued to slew
in RA in about 15 deg segments without stopping. I shut it down and took
it out to "train" the drives. I "calibrated" them - only to find the DEC
drive didn't work and showed "drive fault." I opened the bottom to find
the yellow drive wire broken off at the gear train, as well as the black
battery wire broken off. This probably explained the strange slewing in
RA, and definitely explained the lack of response in DEC. This was "not
meant to be." Unfortunately the yellow wire broke so close to the gear
assembly (where all the other wires come together) that I couldn't
re-solder it.

Next step - call Meade. The tech was very helpful and finally suggested
I return the ETX and Autostar and for a flat fee of $75 they would
completely repair and tune-up the scope.  It sounded good to me if I
could get a working and calibrated scope in return. For whatever it's
worth I suggested they do the following:

* replace all the wires that come out of the "gearbox assembly" as they
were bent flat by the bottom of the battery box when the bottom plate
was replaced. There appears to be "0" clearance for those wires and they
were all weakened by being bent.

* re-attach the black and red battery wires with ones of sufficient
length so you can place the cover aside without strain on the wires.

* general "tune-up" and alignment (including collimation of the optics
"if necessary.") They actually look pretty good as is.

Have you had any reports on the Meade repairs and tune-up?

Again thanks for your help and listening to my story..

Ron Schulte
Mike here: Glad you got the Autostar set up but sorry to hear about the broken wire. Let me know how things work out with Meade. Turn-around time seems to be the only complaint on repairs.


They said about 3 weeks - or sooner. We'll see.
Ron Schulte

Subject:	Autostar 497 - Lost Memory During "Update"
Sent:	Tuesday, December 24, 2002 21:07:58
From: (Ron Schulte)
I'm wondering if anyone else has had the "misfortune" of totally losing
the memory (program) on the Autostar while trying to download from the
Meade website.

I recently upgraded my older Autostar 497 to the 26Ec upgrade from the
Meade site. It worked fine. I re-calibrated the motors and re-trained
the drives. The I had the bright idea of adding the Messier List to the
Autostar from the Meade website. The downloading procedure is
complicated at best - at least to me. I'm not even sure how I managed to
upgrade to the 26Ec.

Anyway, I hooked up the Autostar to the ETX90 and my computer and set
the Autostar to "Download" but didn't hit Enter to actually start the
download. I went to the ASU program and started to download the Messier
list to the computer. When I went to look at the Autostar, the screen
was "BLANK." The keys lit up but no keys responded. I tried to go back
to the Meade site to re-load the 26Ec, but now the program wouldn't
recognize the Autostar (nothing to connect to). "Can't find ComPort -
Autostar Not Connected"."

What was a very functional updated Autostar is now "junk." Not having
made any changes to the Autostar, I'm wondering how the Meade program
erased all the info from my unit.

Anyone have any ideas?

BTW I've Faxed my story to Meade and am awaiting an answer.
HELP !!!

Ron Schulte
Bayer Scientific Affairs
Mike here: With ASU 3.61 (and some earlier versions) it is no longer necessary to put the Autostar into Download mode to update it; the application does it automatically. Since you forced the Autostar into Download mode I suspect you need to now do a SAFE LOAD to reload the ROM. Hold down the ENTER and SCROLLDOWN keys and turn on the ETX power. Then run ASU and redownload the 2.6Ec ROM. That should get your Autostar functional again. Then to add objects to the Library, let the ASU do the work.
Subject:	re: can't find COM port
Sent:	Monday, December 23, 2002 8:03:45
From: (Richard Seymour)
If it's not some PalmPilotSync program hogging the serial port,
you might try the precedures listed at:

good luck

Subject:	Autostar upgrading -- cannot find Autostar
Sent:	Sunday, December 22, 2002 18:07:12
From: (David Biegelsen)
Thanks for the enormous effort you go to to support this community.

I have followed various tips to tune up the mechanical aspects of an
ETX90 and now am trying to download the newest versions of firmware for
the Autostar controller. I have a Sony VAIO laptop with an i.Link
replicator to provide the COM1 port. I have a Scopetronix 505 cable
connecting the DB9 serial connector to the plug on the Autostar hand
unit. I have checked that the COM port settings are correct and that the
computer sees the port. However, when in ASU 3.61 I try to set com port,
or I just try to autodownload, I get the error message "Could not find
Autostar.  Check connections."

I fine that if I just click to start ASU I get the message that it
couldn't find COM port.

Any ideas on what I am doing wrong?


Mike here: Based upon my Macintosh experience, not all port replicators will work satisfactorily. It took several revisions of the Keyspan software before my serial-USB converter would work with the Autostar. So, check the replicator driver settings. Also, check for something else using the port, like fax software.
Subject:	Firmware patch installation
Sent:	Saturday, December 21, 2002 20:29:58
From: (Alan McDonald)
One more question and then I'll try to leave you alone for a while . . .
This one involves Dick Seymour's patches.

I upgraded to 2.6Ec a few weeks ago, and all is well with it.  I then
learned about the functions added with Dick's 26Ec patch ( the ability
to view and edit training values, and autostart for tracking satellites)
and decided to I wanted to try it.  I was especially interested in
trying out Martyn Edwards spreadsheet on the training values
( because I think he
has really hit on something that can help avoid the aggregation of
errors in long viewing sessions (brilliant work, Martyn!).  So I
downloaded the patch and followed the instructions.  Everything seemed
to go OK, except that when everything was completed, nothing had
changed.  It is as though I never did anything.

I tried it twice, and I cleared out the ephemerides directory for the
second try, and I got the same results.  Is it not taking because I had
already loaded the 26Ec firmware?  Do I need to go back to a prior
version first?

The patch runs great, and I get both versions of the build.rom file when
done, but there is one thing that is odd - the file size of both files
is identical.  I would have thought that the new file would have been
larger with all the added command lines.  Also, during the load, it
finishes real fast once it gets to about 80 to 85% complete.  I did not
watch the progression of earlier uploads closely, so I don't know if
this is unusual.

Any thoughts? 
Mike here: When I did the 2.6Ec update to my Autostar from my Macintosh I also noticed the 86% and then done.


From: (Richard Seymour)
Mike wrote:
> When I did the 2.6Ec update to my Autostar from
> my Macintosh I also noticed the 86% and then done.

I believe the 86% is based upon total -possible- file size.
The Meade firmware does not occupy the final 1/16th of the memory,
and during a firmware (not User Object) update, it doesn't transfer
the 1/16th that is the User Object space... therefore about an eighth
of the possible mega byte is not transferred, which is 12.5%.
I approach the Updater itself as "black box" ... it has a number of
little quirks like that.

Alan wrote: (in a shuffled order, easy one first)
> The patch runs great, and I get both versions of the build.rom file when
> done, but there is one thing that is odd - the file size of both files is
> identical.  I would have thought that the new file would have been larger
> with all the added command lines. 

The ROM file size does *not* change... my patches replace unused bytes
in the -middle- of the file with the new code
(part of the job is -finding- those unused bytes)

>  So I downloaded the patch and followed the instructions. 
> Everything seemed to go OK, except that when everything was completed,
> nothing had changed.  It is as though I never did anything.

Saying "i followed the instructions" is not as informative as saying:
"first i clicked this, then i clicked that, then i clicked that..."
I know what i -wrote-, but i cannot guess (well, i will try) what you
-did- (or didn't do).  Please folks, tell me what you -did-, as explicit
steps (yes, it takes time, but the act of writing it down may reveal
the answer...)

>  Is it not taking because I had already loaded the 26Ec firmware?
>  Do I need to go back to a prior version first?

No, the updater allows you to put anything on anything... 
I -suspect- that you are simply not choosing the new verison when
telling the Updater to [update now].

With the patched ROM file in the Ephemerides folder,
attach the cables, power up the scope.
Get past the time/date/daylight.
Start the Updater.
Click [update now]

*stop*  (here comes the part i think you missed)

At this point appears a window which three sections:
The top part identifies the Autostar
The second part is a tick-box to retreive from the Internet
The third part is a drop-menu (see the [v] on the right?) to
 select a ROM file from your PC.

*first* you tick the "() Local"  choice    <-- did you?

*then* you drop-and-scroll the menu until 26c4 (or 26eC)
(**not** 26Ec) appears in the list ... -click on it- to select it.
That is the step which selects the version to transfer.

*now* click [ok] on the bottom.

Two more small message boxes will appear, click [yes] or [ok]
 as appropriate. The Update will commence.

When finished, you should see something other than 26E 
during the initialization boot-up, and you can triple check
by getting to  Setup > Statistics > [enter][scroll up} 
to see the full version number (you might do that -now-,
just to verify that you haven't actually loaded the patch).

good luck, please report success or failure (and the click-list)
In the future, I will be more detailed in my descriptions, but you hit
it dead on.  I "did everything" by your instructions step by step, but
missed the fact that the patched version of the firmware has a different
name - thus I selected 26Ec (instead of 26c4) believing that it was the
patched version of 26Ec (plus the "c" in 26c4 caused me to think it was
an older version of the firmware - I should have read your readme notes
more clearly at the end).

I shall try again tonight, as I am sure that it will work fine now.  Or
more correctly, the user error will be eliminated and I will work it
correctly now . . . .

Thanks for all the great work and support, and Happy Holidays to all!

Alan McDonald
My request for "what you did" was written mostly for the future readers
of the interchange, please don't take it personally (i don't think you

My usual trait on the patches is to convert 26Ec to 26eC
..but there are two versions of 26.. and the "c4" means that it
includes the 4504 addition.
So many nuances, and only two characters to cram them into....

have fun, good luck tonight
No offense taken, as I figured that was what you were doing.  But I
should have spelled out what I did better anyways, because I knew that
somehow or another I was the source of the problem.  I searched the
archives and saw that nobody else had any problems with your patch, so
it pretty much had to be user error (of course Windows always leave the
opportunity for it to be the computer software!).

It was mostly the fact that this was my first patch application (I've
used a 494 for about a year, but never wanted to spend the money on the
506 cable to mess with it - this is my first foray into the 497), and
the "c4" threw me a bit.  But it wouldn't have, if I had read your
readme file more carefully.

Thanks so much for all your help and all you do!

Mike here: Right now there are no updates or patches for the #494 Autostar anyway.

And lastly:

As expected, it worked. Thanks!


Subject:	Re: language autostar
Sent:	Friday, December 20, 2002 20:03:22
From: (Richard Seymour)
>  22 ES is that a new or old? 

It is about a year old.

The "E" means English.

The current English version is v26Ec

There have been 8 updates since 22Es.
22Es was never posted for users to Update, it was a Meade version
installed at the factory between 22Er and 22Et. (Sept 2001 to January 2002)

You can see the English versions released since 22Es on Mike's site

Each version listed there has the small "read me" file which Meade
supplies as a "caption".  (the current version is not there,
since that is an archive of -older- versions.)

The current version is at:

I do not know the status of any Italian versions.

have fun
Mike here: Dick, thanks for catching my error!
Subject:	Remounting an autostar
Sent:	Wednesday, December 18, 2002 7:52:47
From: (Joe Rodricks)
I searched your site and the web can came up empty. I was out using my
-90 with my autostar. I decided it's finaly too hard to push the
buttons. Do you know of anyone who has remounted the autostar in a
seperate box or replaced the buttons? I'm thinking I might venture into
a little autostar modification, maybe put it in a radioshack project box
or something. Thanks.

Joe Rodricks, 18, MA
Mike here: There is a tip on cleaning the Autostar on the Autostar Information page that might help with the buttons. As to re-hosting the Autostar in a different box, interesting idea. If you actually do it, please send me the info and I'll post it.
Subject:	Re: Autostar connector cable question
Sent:	Tuesday, December 17, 2002 16:14:39
From: (
To: (Richard Seymour)

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer that question.  Just
getting back to my email,  its nice to find people that take the time to
help newcomers.


Subject:	Re: language autostar
Sent:	Monday, December 16, 2002 2:58:52
From: (Paolo Spinazze)
i checked the version of my software on the Autostar, the version is 
the 22 ES is that a new or old? When i make the reset it says nothing
about the language so...
Thank you
Mike here: I believe the "S" in "2.2ES" is for Spanish.
Subject:	cable
Sent:	Sunday, December 15, 2002 18:55:42
From: (Thomas Mewherter)
Great site!! I took advantage of the Meade offer for of all those
eyepieces for $99.  I just happened to have to return my 105 and in the
process, upgraded to a 125. I wasn't sure Meade would honor the offer
since I had mailed the warrenty card before I saw the offer, and also
because my receipt showed an exchange (plus some cash) for the 125, but
sure enough the box got here the other day, no hassle.  I was wondering
if you have seen any info on connecting the autostar to a laptop using a
USB port. Bought a new Dell but overlooked the fact that there was no
com port, only a printer and 2 USB's. Maybe Meade is coming up with a
cable as we speak?
Mike here: Meade does have a USB converter. See the Autostar Information page for the Mac connectivity. I discuss using the Keyspan serial-USB converter there (available for Macs and PCs).
Subject:	Autostar connector cable question
Sent:	Sunday, December 15, 2002 13:05:47
From: (
I recently purchased the accessory port module so I can use my Pictor
216Xt with my LX90.  It appears I can use the RS-232 serial interface
adapter that came with the CCD camera to update my autostar program. The
serial face adapter has a 6 pin cable going out and into my accessory
port module 6 pin input.  From here the accessory pot module has a 4 pin
cable that runs out from it and plugs into the autostar hand controller.

I assume this accesory port module that I paid $50 or so for is nothing
more then a 6pin to 4 pin cable converter.

The BIG question is, "will this setup work for upgrading my autostar" or
am I making a dumb dumb(which I have done many times before.)

Very new to this stuff so any input will help me greatly.  Thanks

Mike Kertyzak
And from our Autostar expert:
From: (Richard Seymour)
If i understand your question correctly, the answer(s) are: no.

The 909 APM is -not- a $50 4-pin to 6-pin adapter.

The 6-pin socket on the APM is for a relay-closure-style CCD Autoguider,
NOT rs232.

The Updating hookup is from your PC directly to the AUTOSTAR second socket
(4-pin, on bottom, hext to where handbox cable goes to telescope), not to
the AUX ports or the APM's sockets.

PC ---->4>--- Autostar---->8>----(hbx)LX90(aux)---->4 >---APM--->6>---CCD

In the above picture, ONLY the PC->Autostar is "rs232".
That is Meade's "505 cable set", and you can build one yourself
from the plans at:

The 6-wire cable from the APM to the CCD has power, ground,
and 4 tie-to-ground-for-action leads, one for each direction.
(i built a box with 4 buttons to play with it)
The 4 wires from the AUX port to the APM are speaking "I2C" protocol
(what the LX90 and Autostar use for internal communications) and
is really a pair of the 8-wre cable's data/clock lines and power/ground.
Again: NOT rs232.

The APM actually has quite a bit of "smarts" and power-handling 
circuitry to drive a focuser, illuminated reticle, and sense the
CCD outputs.

Some CCD systems -do- speak Meade rs232 serial protocol... if
that is what you are using, that would feed into the Autostar's
4-wire socket.  That's the ONLY rs232 connection to your telescope.
Most CCD systems have an "Autoguider" 6-pin socket, and -that- 
is what gets connected to the 6-wire APM socket.
Not all CCD Autoguiders use Meade's socket layout.. and then you'd
need an adpater to shuffle the wires around.

Full pinouts of all sockets involved are at:
(one of Janet's excellent LX90 pages)

have fun

Subject:	language autostar
Sent:	Sunday, December 15, 2002 6:31:07
From: (Paolo Spinazze)
I just  bought a MEADE ETX-125 EC, the 884 Deluxe field TRIPOD and a
#497 (30,000 objects) autostar.

How can i change the language from English to Italian?

I have to use a filter to see the moon or is not necessary?

Thank you very nuch 

Paolo , Italy
Mike here: Check the version of the Autostar software. If it is something like 2.6Ec then it is likely to be English-only. I believe that the recent updates (on Meade's site) have been in English only. If you set the Country on first use (or following a RESET) then it will show the language for that country (if available). As to a moon filter, not necessary but see my comments on one on the Accessory Reviews - Filters page.
Subject:	New Meade Serial Command Document posted
Sent:	Friday, December 13, 2002 18:18:20
From: (Richard Seymour)
Meade has updated their Offical rs232 Serial Command document on their
website (it's dated early October, but just appeared recently).

The link to the page is:

The document itself is:

I haven't read much beyond the first page, but it does mention
the LX200gps...

have fun
Mike here: It also notes which commands are Autostar compatible.
Subject:	ETX-90EC tracking problem
Sent:	Thursday, December 12, 2002 13:16:04
From: (Delbert Crawford)
The last 2 sessions with my ETX-90EC I discovered a tracking problem.  I
will do the normal ALT / Azimuth alignment and go to an object.  At
first it seems to be doing fine, although it didnt get nearly as close
when it found the object as it used to.  Anyway after letting it track
for a while I would leave to do something else.  When I come back I find
it is way off in the ALT. direction. Sometimes it would be half way up
the sky away from the original object.  What could cause this?

Delbert Crawford
Mike here: There are two possible culprits: low battery power and a need to reTRAIN the drives. In fact, anytime the Autostar acts funny (such as poor GOTOs when they used to be good) and especially if you have updated the Autostar software, reTRAIN the drives.
Subject:	re: Alignments tips in the Southern Hemisphere - ETX 90 EC
Sent:	Wednesday, December 11, 2002 22:04:35
From: (Richard Seymour)
First, i agree with Mike... unless you really -need- "Polar/Wedge" alignment,
(say, for photography) i highly recommend using the scope in Alt/Az.
It's much, much nicer for simply visual observing.  Polar is a pain in the
neck, back, and nether regions (plus, you cannot reach a major portion
of your northern sky, due to the barrel hitting the base)

But let's address your questions:

> 1. Exactly where should the tripod leg marked 'N' be when I'm facing
> South (since i'm in the southern hem)? I.e shld the N leg be on my side
> (touching my leg) or across from me on the opposite side? a picture will
> help greatly!

The "N" leg probably wants to be pointed south (if you're using the wedge).
That way it's underneath the center of gravity of the scope, and helps
prevent the tripod from falling over.
I don't -have- a Meade tripod, so i cannot say for certain.

If the Wedge forces the Tripod to be in a certain orientation, then follow
> 2. The latitude scale on the tripod is between 90 and 20. For polar
> alignment, is it okay to back the scop all the way since I'm at -13.5?
> Or maybe there is something here I'm not getting.

Meade didn't design their Wedge for between +20 and -20 Latitude.
What you can do is put some washers, or a spacer, under the north edge of
the wedge on the tripod so it tilts further.  Other folks build their own
wedge (or equivalent).   I've seen a Brasilia LX200gps with a very tilted

> 3. Which alignment is recommended for best celestial viewing, polar or
>   alt/az?

I use Alt/az 95% of the time... i only use Polar to test stuff.
In Polar, the eyepiece is -under- the telescope for too much of the sky.

> 3.a. If I'm facing South, on which side should my computer control panel
>   be? I.e. East or West?

If you are using Alt/Az the instructions are the -same- for Northern and
Southern Hemispheres.. no reversals.   Start with power panel WEST,
barrel level to ground and pointed due NORTH.   The "hard stop" should be
about 30 degrees south of due west, if you unclamp and spin the forks
counter-clockwise.  Then spin them back to point the barrel north.
Clamp and apply power.

If you are using POLAR mounting in the Southern Hemi, then you -do- 
put the power panel on the EAST, and point the barrel at the Southern
Celestial Pole.  The hard stop is now about 30 degrees NORTH (still counter-
clockwise) of due EAST.

> 3.b. Does it matter what position the covered holes are in? I.e. on the
> same side as the N leg or the opposite side?

The covered holes?  Do you mean the holes on the side of the ETX90 base 
for the table-top tripod legs?  They would be on the north side in Alt/Az,
and the south side in Polar.

> 4. What star should I be looking for on the South side when trying t
> align, since a compass is not necessarily acurate? Note: I live in a
> remote area so, no calling airports, etc. to inquire.

Do a Alt/Az Easy Align.   It will use plain old (bright) stars.
When successful, press [mode] for three seconds.  Release.
You are now (hopefully) seeing the RA/Dec display.  
Tap [scroll down], now you are seeing Alt/Az.
Slew until the AZ is at 180 degrees.
Lower the barrel to point at some landmark.  
That is due south.
Elevate the barrel to your LAtitude (13.5 degrees).
It is now pointing at your Celestial Pole.
Try and see if you can see the 4 near-pole stars (the closest is Sigma Octans)
I realize it's a fairly dim star,  but if you can learn
 (sketching on paper helps) that part of the sky, you'll never be lost.
Remember that the stars go -around- the pole very 24 hours, so -when- you
look will affect their rotational displacement.

> 5. What function does the RA setting circle serve and how should it be
> set?

If you are Polar Mounted, GoTo a star with a known (see "press [mode]" 
above) RA.  After it arrives and is centerer, spin the tape until that
RA value is above the pointer.  Your scale is now set (this is how it's 
really done! Really!   "Point at known star, set RA circle").
Expect it to slip.  It should be carried by the scope as the scope moves
(either by the sidereal drive, or by you slewing).  I use a piece of
masking tape (easy to peel and re-attach) to hold the RA tape to the moving 
fork assembly.

If you are not Polar mounted, the RA scale is relatively useless
(it can be used to gauge rotation... one RA hour is 15 degrees)

> 6. Same question for the Dec setting circle

When scope is sitting on a level surface, with the barrel level, the Dec
scale should read zero.  IF it doesn't, loosen that side's knob and spin it
until it does.  Tighten knob.  Fini.  Unless it slips (it shouldn't), it
is now set.

have fun

Subject:	Alignment
Sent:	Wednesday, December 11, 2002 9:54:08
From: (Hasan Askari, MD)
I am Hasan. I have no astronomy experience. I wanted to stat with a
telescope that would help me start and keep pave with me as I grow more
in amateur astronomy.

I bought a MEADE ETX-125 EC, the 884 Deluxe field TRIPOD and a #497
(30,000 objects) autostar.

I aligned the scope lenses, trained the telescope once, Home(d) the
scope (Alt-z-Home) and then aligned it by using EASY ALIGN method. After
it said the alignment was successful. I asked it to show me the
Tonight's BEST and selected MOON. The scope went to the general vicinity
of the moon but was way off. I had to manually adjust it.

Is this normal? Or is the autostar defective?

While looking at the mirror my telescope from outside, I see a wave on
the scope's mirror (as if there is some water on the mirror - like an
extra coating of mirror in a 1 x 1 cm area in the lower right corner of
the scope's mirror). Is this normal or should I exchange my scope.

Please help... Thank you.

Mike here: Alignment successful just means that you centered what the Autostar thinks are the positions of the alignment stars. For example, place the ETX is a really bad HOME position (like with the ETX pointed East instead of True North). Select each alignment star as centered when prompted (don't do any slewing). Do a GOTO an object. It will miss it by the amount that the HOME position was off. So, you have to be reasonably close on the HOME position (the known starting point) AND you need to get the right stars centered. If the wrong stars are centered and the error is sufficient for the Autostar to know is wrong, then you will get the alignment failure message. So, check your HOME position as well as the other Autostar settings (date, time, DST, location, telescope, mount, etc). If you know the HOME position is close (True North, remember, not Magnetic North) and you can't identity the star that was selected for the alignment, then just accept it as centered and see what happens on the GOTOs. One least item: don't forget to TRAIN the drives (both altitude and azimuth) before first use of the Autostar with that telescope (and whenever you update the Autostar). By the way, which version of the Autostar software do you have? 2.6Ec is the current one on Meade's site. As to the "wave", some distortion is normal since the mirror is spherical and not flat.
Subject:	ETX and Autostar II compatibility
Sent:	Tuesday, December 10, 2002 16:26:21
From: (Gary Heath)
I've been searching the EXT archives and the web in general to see if
the ETX 125 is compatible with the LX200 GPS's Autostar II. I thought I
had read somewhere that the Autostar II would work with an ETX. Do you
have any information that would either confirm or deny this?

Mike here: According to Meade's site, it does not work with any telescopes but the LX200 GPS models.
Subject:	Alignments tips in the Southern Hemisphere - ETX 90 EC
Sent:	Monday, December 9, 2002 11:08:01
From: (Tamyam)
Thanks a bunch for being available to help some of us completly confused
wannabe astronomers... I'm having a heck of (and frustrating) time
trying to align my ETX 90 EC. I'm at about -13.5 degree in the Southern
hemisphere and am using a #883 deluxe tripod and a #497 autostar.
Meade's manual seems to ignore us down here! Here are my q's:

1. Exactly where should the tripod leg marked 'N' be when I'm facing
South (since i'm in the southern hem)? I.e shld the N leg be on my side
(touching my leg) or across from me on the opposite side? a picture will
help greatly!

2. The latitude scale on the tripod is between 90 and 20. For polar
alignment, is it okay to back the scop all the way since I'm at -13.5?
Or maybe there is something here I'm not getting.

3. Which alignment is recommended for best celestial viewing, polar or
3.a. If I'm facing South, on which side should my computer control panel
be? I.e. East or West?
3.b. Does it matter what position the covered holes are in? I.e. on the
same side as the N leg or the opposite side?

4. What star should I be looking for on the South side when trying t
align, since a compass is not necessarily acurate? Note: I live in a
remote area so, no calling airports, etc. to inquire.

5. What function does the RA setting circle serve and how should it be

6. Same question for the Dec setting circle

I know these are a lot of questions and am sorry but I really need help.
Again, thanks a bunch!

Mike here: Since you have the Autostar, I wouldn't worry about the setting circles at this stage. They are only needed to locate objects when you are not using the Autostar. There is a faint star sort of near of the SCP. It is Sigma Octans (also known as Polaris Australis). It is a Magnitude 5.5 star located at 21h 48m 46.7s and 88d 57m 23s. I don't recommend using Polar Mode unless you really need it (astrophotography is the usual reason) so stick with Alt/Az; beside you'll be able to see more with the base getting in the way, you won't have to worry about setting the tripod for your latitude, and the telescope/tripod combination will be more stable. In Alt/Az mode it really won't matter where the tripod North leg is; what matters is getting the ETX in the proper Alt/Az Home Position for the Southern Hemisphere. See the article "Southern Hemisphere Alignment Tips" on the Autostar Information page.
Subject:	How to abort Autostar Satellite tracking?
Sent:	Sunday, December 8, 2002 3:38:28
From: (Ted Landy)
Had a quick search for the site and could not find the answer. Maybe
someone can help me.

How do I tell the Autostar to stop tracking a satellite and return to
normal operation? Sometimes after attempting to track a satellite I
realise it is a lost cause due to cloud cover or whatever and want to go
back to normal operations. Short of powering off and re aligning how can
I get out of the tracking mode. Pressing Enter will pause it. Enter
again will resume the tracking. None of the other keys appear to do
much. Am I missing something here or do I have to wait until the pass is
complete before i can return to normal Autostar operations?

While I am on the topic of satellites is there any simple way to look up
what satellite I observed given that the siting was a month or so ago.
Location 30S 17517W @ 5November2002 1540UTC. Two satellites in close
formation each with flashing lights at different intervals. tracking
approx SE to NW.


Ted Landy
Mike here: For things satellites, check As to aborting, I would have thought that MODE would back you out of it.

And from our satellite/Autostar expert, Dick Seymour:

From: (Richard Seymour)
> How do I tell the Autostar to stop tracking a satellite and return to
> normal operation? 

About a year ago Meade changed that abort a satellite
pass you have to press the [Mode] key for more than 4 seconds.
(it seems forever)

> While I am on the topic of satellites is there any simple way to look up
> what satellite I observed given that the siting was a month or so ago.
> Location 30S 17517W @ 5November2002 1540UTC. Two satellites in close
> formation each with flashing lights at different intervals. tracking
> approx SE to NW.

Mike described, which is what i also use for 
"checking history" ... but i believe the "historical" lookup uses 
today's orbital parameters (TLEs), so a month back could be very inaccurate.

Satellites travelling "in formation" are moderately rare... they usually
fall into three classes:  the ISS and approaching supply ships (Progress
or the Shuttle); rockets deploying their satellites (so booster and 
satellite(s));  and finally there are classes of surveillence satellites
which travel in pairs (or a triangle of three).

You might also have seen something reentering the atmosphere, breaking
up (hence the multiple bodies) and the erratic "flashing".
Many satellites are de-orbited to land in the Pacific, so frequently
Australia is "treated" to meteoric (or skipping-stone) displays.
MIR was a good example of this.

The "flashing lights" bothers me... some orbiting bodies tumble, but 
that causes their normal not-very-bright to dim and brighten, but rarely
do they appear to flash.   If i see flashing, it's invariably airplanes.
Even rocket launches don't flash... they're steady burns (unless something
goes wrong).  The satellites are deployed after the engines have shut down.

I tried asking "november satellite australia flashing"
and got a number of hits... but have not chased them all down...

have fun

Thanks for the tip on the Mode key. I had tried it, but not for 4
seconds. Is there anywhere where a comprehensive list of Autostar
commands is written? The one in the manual is pretty abrdiged IMO.

Most interested in your comments on the satellites we saw. I am actually
an airline pilot and the observation we made was from a 747 at  37,000'
over the pacific. We were flying from LAX to Auckland and were a couple
of hours out from Auckland. About two hours before sunrise. There was
nothing erratic about the flashing. The frequency was different between
the two objects however each was constant. One was at about a 1 second
cycle and the other at about 3 seconds. Initially we thought it was
traffic. ie another aircraft higher than us, as the one second cycle is
much the same as an aircraft strobe and it looked very similar. But then
we saw the second somewhat dimmer flashing light that was separated by a
reasonable distance (maybe 0.5 degree) but clearly in formation. It soon
became obvious that what we were observing was much higher and much
faster. We were doing about 500kts and it was only visible for three of
four minutes as it overtook us at an oblique angle. Also I can recall
mentioning to my crew mates that there was a crew change going on at the
ISS at the time and they were exchanging supply ships. I think they took
up a new one and brought down the old escape ship back. We wondered if
we were seeing some part of the docking manoeuvre and also if they have
some sort of strobe system so it can be observed from earth? The
frequency of these lights definitely appeared as flashing rather than
brightening and darkening. I have spent the last 15 years flying 747
aircraft around at night so I have a fair idea what an aircraft strobe
looks like and initially it looked just like this.

In terms of the three classes of satellites in formation I think it
unlikely to be the NOS satellites as they would not spin fast enough to
flash every second (if they spin at all) given that they are tethered.
And I am sure no one would want to advertise their presence. The
deployment phase of a payload or the ISS rendezvous seem more likely to
me but really I have no idea. As you say the flashing is the conundrum.
Will look around the net and see if anywhere else I can find reference
to flashing lights on satellites.

In retrospect I should have chased it up sooner but I got distracted by
other things for several weeks.

Thanks very much for the most informative feedback.


Subject:	Goofy autostar performance
Sent:	Saturday, December 7, 2002 9:46:22
From: (Joyce Stenstrom)
When the scope is in the home position, pointed north, pressing enter
does not put the scope into the two two star alignment. Using the mode
key and goto it finally does the alignment. Any ideas?                  
                              Thanks, Bob
Mike here: Odd. Does the ENTER key work when you confirm you have centered the alignment stars?


Mike here: Try a RESET.
Subject:	Autostar 23E
Sent:	Friday, December 6, 2002 8:46:57
From: (Mitchell Strauss)
After several attempts, I am still not successful at getting my GoTo
function to work acceptably... the Meade folks suggest that upgrading
from my current version 23E might improve accuracy of the Autostar... I
just bought my whole kit within the past month... I would have expected
that Meade supply a recent version of the software... did they? Are
there bugs in the 23E that an upgrade would improve?

Please let me know what you think...

P.S., I have been meticulous in training and levelling the scope and
have read everything the your site suggests about training the scope...

Mitch Strauss
Mike here: The software version may or may not be the cause of your problems but upgrading won't hurt (if you have the cable). Usually when GOTOs are not accurate it is because the date/time/DST/location/telescope/mount entry/training is incorrect. When training be certain you do BOTH axis as accurately as you can on a stationary target. As to versions that are shipped, remember, the dealer may have had the box on the shelf for months (or perhaps years). Same with Meade. To open every box and update it would increase the product's cost.


Thanks again for your cordial attentiveness to us rookies out here in
the cosmos! I went out on my back porch again... it was a beautiful
evening in Iowa... temperature cool but bearable... sky was pretty
clear, and finally aligned the scope properly as I bagged Saturn for the
first time! It was a sure dead ringer, for something I've never seen!
What a treat it was and a relief to know the GoTo aspects of my
investment work, if I use it properly... the Meade folks were also way
patient with me too...

Way fun to set the 105 up just out the back door...

Vega to the west and Capella to the east... all lined up!

Best regards, Mitch

Subject:	terrestrial observations
Sent:	Wednesday, December 4, 2002 4:02:23
From: (ben wooding)
I've enjoyed your site over the last year since acquiring an ETX-90EC.
It's been very helpful and useful, thanks very much!

However, unless I've missed it, (in which case can you point me to the
relevant section), I can't seem to find much on terrestrial observing. A
bit sad, I know, but I want to set up the scope to view the birds in the
garden. We've several feeding stations and I want to get the scope to
GOTO each using the AUTOSTAR. I've tried setting them up as Landmarks
and putting the scope in the Home position, but when I GOTO, it whizzes
all over the place and has hit the stop. I don't want to knacker the
motors. Any ideas?

Mike here: I suspect that Landmarks is a little used feature of the Autostar. Be certain you have selected Targets --> Terrestrial mode (so that tracking does not occur). Then when you start from a known position (the same position as when you marked the landmarks), it should go to those.
Subject:	Autostar
Sent:	Tuesday, December 3, 2002 8:47:13
From: (Schilling, Henry)
I am sending this to you to see if you or Dick has seen this before. The
other night I was out with the 125 and started getting motor drive
errors. I did a power cycle on the scope to redo the alignment and
something weird happened. The lower set of LED's on the autostar were
just gibberish. I also got more motor drive errors, so I gave up (too
bad, it was a very clear niter and had Saturn in the center of the
eyepiece). It was pretty cold. I don't know how cold but would guess in
the lower to mid 30's F. Have you guys seen this during cold weather? I
did not find anything on the site about this. BTW: The scope worked just
fine the next day inside.    thx Mike
Henry J Schilling 
Mike here: The Autostar does not like cold temps. If you keep it warm (like in your pocket) when not in actual use it seems to help.


I guess not. I did try to warm it with my hands but it did not help. The
scope was cold anyway and would not slew, so I guess if it's too cold
I'll just stay in.   Thx Mike   hjs

Subject:	AUTOSTAR & ETX 125 are maddened
Sent:	Monday, December 2, 2002 1:43:44
From: (
Suddenly two days ago, my ETX 125+ Autostar is maddened!!! After, have
parked the telescope, when I have taken back the activity of
observation, l'ETX125, has begun to stir in the varied directions by

I  have noticed, that pressing for more 2 seconds the button MODE of the
Autostar, the values of RA, DEC continues to change, very quickly,
while, the values ALT and AZ are stopped to 000'00 both, up to that I
don't press the directional keys, and then also to stopped computer
these values begin to change quickly. After few seconds, from the
alignment, the ETX begins to move quickly in random.

I have tried to do the RESET the AUTOSTAR it is not served to anything,
the release of the Autostar to the lighting is 01 Autostar (22I) .

What happened? Could anybody help me?  
Thank you very much.
Giancarlo - Italy
Mike here: Any time the Autostar loses its mind it can help to reTRAIN the drives (both axes). If that doesn't help, RESET, RECALIBRATE, and then RETRAIN. Also, check the batteries.
Subject:	etx60at
Sent:	Sunday, December 1, 2002 17:03:44
From: (nancy)
HELP...we have a etx60at with the stock controller...we used it when we
first got it and decided we were happy with it and then put it away till
we would be where there were clear skies (we live in NW
Oregon)....unfortunately we were unable to use it again till just the
other day ...(cant miss the chance to see Venus) we took it out and
the display is text...just red...lights up and beeps but cant
read the there any way to reset it...have you heard of this

thanks in advance,

steve and nancy freeman
Mike here: It sounds like the brightness or contrast of the display has become too much. To get to the brightness setting, turn on the ETX and press the MODE key five times (to get to the Setup menu selection), press the UP scroll arrow key once (to get to the Utilities menu selection), then press the DOWN scroll arrow key 4 times (to get to the brightness adjustment) and press ENTER. Then use the UP/DOWN scroll arrow keys to adjust the brightness. Press ENTER when done. To adjust the contrast, press the DOWN scroll arrow key 5 times from the Utilities menu. Again, use the UP/DOWN scroll arrow keys to adjust and press ENTER when finished.


thanks for your reply back...but it didnt work..will be calling meade
tomorrow...we do also own a etx90 (the early ones )...we just love
it...not just for star/etc gazing but for bird watching...(baby osprey
can fly really well off the nest but landing again is fun to watch)
And also a big thanks for your terrific web site...

steve and nancy freeman

Subject:	re:  Hope you have some input 
Sent:	Saturday, November 30, 2002 23:02:55
From: (Richard Seymour)
Your symptoms almost sound like your base's RA clamp isn't clamping

Try:  Power up.  Enter past date/time/daylight.  Don't align.
  Lean on [mode] key 3 seconds, release.
You should be seeing the RA= / Dec=  display.
Scroll down once.  Now you should be seeing Az=00/ Alt=00
Note (by looking thru the viewfinder) where the scope is
pointing (you may rotate the -entire- telescope and base
to point at something memorable)

Now: slew the scope 360 degrees clockwise by the right slew key.
Use either the numeric readout, or the view through the finder,
to tell when you've turned a full rotation.

Did the two measures agree?  Did the Az=  return to 00 when 
you returned to the Landmark?  (within a half-degree is OK
for the first quick test.. you can repeat it to -really- check
the accuracy.
If you are seeing more than a half-degree, suspect the clutch.

Perform a Setup> Telescope > Calibrate [enter]
Rerun the above test.

If your clutch is fully rotated clockwise, use the supplied hex-wrench
to remove the handle and replace it one step counterclockwise on the
underlying nut (this will allow you to tighten it further).

good luck
After receiving your e-mail I did as described in it and here are the

Set the scope so as to center a telephone pole ( roughly 300 meters ) in
the view finder

Followed your instructions on e-mail and after going 360 degrees the
view was way past the object

Calibrated the drives and preformed it again, this time how ever use the
RA scale on the scope to get a stop point, it was at  ( 0 ) the object
was center of view finder, how ever the AZ read ( 350 05' 23" )
Calibrated drives again and moved the handle over one, preformed the
test again and same results, tried several more times and ever time it
was with a small amount of mins and secs. of each other. Even though
should be no differance even checked the location setting to be sure it
was correct. this is a 10 degree error any ideas as to what to do to
correct this.

Thanks for the help in this.

Mike here: Could the RA scale tape be slipping?


That could have happened, but will repeat with it taped to see. Autostar
unit  still shows to be 10 degrees off from target when I take a full
360degrees. It however is on target at 350 degrees. an error of 10.

Could the update have transfered this from the previous software since
this started before I did and update. Was thinking of reloading update
not sure if that would help or not, but guess it can't hurt

Scanning through the Autostar I see  ( Min. AOS ) which I am not
familiar with but it is set at 5
Mike here: If you do reload, remember to at least reTRAIN.


From: (Richard Seymour)
> That could have happened, but will repeat with it taped to see.
> Autostar unit  still shows to be 10 degrees off from target when
> I take a full 360degrees. It however is on target at 350 degrees.
> an error of 10.

And, strangely enough, the Autostar is travelling too -far-.
It is not seeing -enough- encoder pulses.

Perform a Setup > Telescope > Calibration [enter]

That may fix it.  Otherwise, i suspect exactly -one- encoder vane
is dirty or grease-covered (there are 36, so missing one would produce
only 35 pulses per rotation.. which matches your 10 from 360 error).

In that case (is this an ETX90 or a 125? I forget), you would remove
the bottom (ETX90) or the inspection plate (125) and use a flashlight
to inspect the encoder (a small gear-like wheel on the non-gear end
of the motor).  Clean it -very- gently with a Q-tip or cotton swab.
(if it's an ETX90, be -very- careful removing the base (screws under 
rubber feet)..the battery wires are short and delicate)

You could also simply change your RA Ratio number by 1/36 (i can't
quite wrap my head around if it should be increased or decreaased.
I think increased).

> Could the update have transfered this from the previous software
> since this started before I did and update. Was thinking of reloading
> update not sure if that would help or not, but guess it can't hurt

What -might- help is a Reset, or at least re-SELECT your telescope model.
That sets the Ratio values.

> Scanning through the Autostar I see  ( Min. AOS ) which I am not familiar
> with but it is set at 5

Min AOS is the lowest elevation the scope will attempt to start tracking
a satellite... it has no effect on any other telescope operations.

have fun

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