Last updated: 29 February 2004
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: etx-125 acuracy
Date: 2/29/04, 13:57
From: neo (
hi and gongratulations on you great site.i do not know if i could ever
started the astronomy as a hobby if it wasn't this is
something that i learned today about the precision of my etx-125.

i made a two star polar alighnment on betelgeuse and after to misar then
a go to saturn .but things was not going so good.the slew was off ' way
off and although i slew the scope to center saturn in the eyepiece the
scope was slewing back to the previous position were it was in the first
place.a sync did not help because altough i centered saturn and pressed
enter the scope again was drifting away.then i selected high
precision.thinghs was a little better know but no so well to justify te
1700 euros i gave for the scope here in greece.after that  i tried
something else that i had  in mind.i did a go to asked to center
sirius.ok then it slewed reaseonably well to the cluster.then i choose
M46.back to  center sirius but know it went far better to sirius and
almost to the cluster .then went dead on to sirius and to the
cluster.i did the same thing with the M48,M67 and procyon.each time i
centered the refenceerestar better and better.then i choose M35 it asks
for alhena the same star it was asking for saturn.centered and slewed to
the cluster dead on. then M36 same star(alhena)now very well centered
and after a very small corection dead on the cluster.then i did a go to
to asked the same star(alhena) but now it was so well place
that no corection was  neccesary.enter and i had saturn right on the
center of my smallest eyepiece and it tracked for almost 2 hours if you do not have the go to's that you want try a litlte
mesier hopping around the object you want and you will get very good thing.the mesier object and the object that you want to find
must have the same reference that a couple of times and you will
have really heavenly slews.(by the way it is something like smt on LX200
only a lot lot cheaper).....he he

clear skies to everybody

Subject: Switching Autostars
Date: 2/29/04, 12:41
From: J (
Can you switch the 494 Autostar controller with the 495?
Mike here: The #495/497 Autostars are compatible with telescopes that use the #494. For more info, see the Meade Autostar Update page (

Subject: 70AT to Palm
Date: 2/29/04, 11:54
From: Gary Crossley (
I would like to connect my 70AT to a Palm or pocket PC device and point
it with TheSky or something similar.  I know I need a cable to connect
to my PC, but can find no information specific to a 70AT.  Tried to find
something on you page, but can't find a solution.  Can you help?
Gary Crossley
Mechanicsburg, PA
Mike here: I don't know if there is a cable for the #494 Autostar for a PDA connection. The #494 Autostar requires the #506 cable, which is not a simple serial cable. I know there are solutions for the #497; I just don't recall from where.

Subject: etx 125 motor unit fault
Date: 2/28/04, 19:18
From: Jessica (
I am having alot of "motor unit fault" error readings on my autostar. 
It worked great for the first few months I had it and now it "faults"
out whenever...sometimes after a few hours of star gazing, other times I
can't even get set up!  The forum dated October 2000 had a blip on
attaching a capacitor of 1mf on the output of power supply.  Do to my
lack of knowledge in this area, I was hoping you had another answer.

Thanks for any input on this
Mike here: There can be many reasons for a Motor Fault. Low battery power, extremely low temperature, bad cable, bad connection, dirt on the encoders, not setting up in the proper HOME position, wrong telescope selection. If none of these, do a CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES. If that doesn't clear it, do a RESET, CALIBRATE, TRAIN DRIVES. If you are still having a problem, upgrade to latest ROM from Meade's site. One other thing that can help, especially if the telescope has not been used for awhile: unlock the axes and move the tube by hand from hard stop to hard stop, in both directions, several times. This can redistribute the grease.

Subject: Help please with Meade LX 90
Date: 2/28/04, 12:20
From: Paula (
I recently purchased a Meade LX 90 and have tried using it 3 times with
the same results. ..The 4 arrow keys for adjustment on the key pad work
only before I engage the autostar alignment. Once I enter the easy
alignment mode, on the telescope the arrows will not move the telescope
in any direction and therefore I cannot align any stars in the eyepiece.
I have talked with Meade and they told me to press the enter button
twice and also to try holding the enter button down for 2-3 seconds and
that would give me manual control but this does not work to give me
control, it only forwards the telescope to a new alignment star and I
wind up with the same problem of not being able to move the telescope
with the alignment keys. Do you have any suggestions which could help me
solve this problem?

If you could please send a response back through this e-mail address It
would be greatly appreciated since I am not familiar with using bulletin

Thank you
Edward Alexander
Mike here: I don't run a bulletin board system. Emails are posted on my ETX (or LXD55) Site and responses from others will be posted on the next update. As to your specific question, I don't have an LX90 but some obvious questions: have you done a CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES? Have you selected the proper telescope model and mounting mode? Can you change the slewing speed from the Autostar? What steps are you taking to do the alignment?


Thank you for your response!

As far as calibrating and training the drives, I have not done so
because the manual did not call for having to do that in order to use
the telescope for the first time. I have selected the proper model and
mounting mode, ( Alt/AZ) and the slewing speed can be changed from the
Autostar controller.  The steps taken to align the telescope are  set up
,align and then easy. The telescope will slew to the correct position,
but then the directional arrow buttons on the autostar controller will
not allow me to move the telescope to site in on a specific target.  In
fact , the directional keys do not function at all once I enter any
autostar function at all. This is my first computerized telescope and my
experience so far has been frustrating. Any help you can give is very
much appreciated.
Thank you !!!!
Ed Alexander
Mike here: Can you change the slewing speed?

Subject: Autostar "Site" Question
Date: 2/28/04, 11:42
From: Ronnie Blazer II (
How do I find out the proper time zone number to enter into Autostar for
my observing location? I am in Ohio, which is Eastern Time.
Ronnie Blazer II
Mike here: The simplest way is to use an existing nearby site location and edit that for your lat/long. The existing one will have the proper time zone info.

Date: 2/27/04, 05:32
From: King Frank (
Hello, to cut a long story short. I had a 2001 model etx125 and

It recently developed numerous "motor unit faults" slewing problems and
"under construction" messages.

It was sent for repair and lost. All the basic tests were done such as
power supply motor calibration and it was decided that there was a
problem. It has been replaced with a new latest model & autostar so I am
back to square one (no complaints there) a more than satisfactory

My question is this:-

As the original units were not repaired I will never know the cause(s)
of the various faults, but one thing did occur to me.

When I used the previous setup, and it was many many times. I connected
and disconnected the coiled cable every time I setup and finished the
observing session.

Would this in your opinion be detrimental over time to the
cable/connectors and the contacts or does it not matter?

Do you leave telescope/autostar permanently connected.

Also would there be any advantage or disadvantage in using a light
automotive moisture repellent spray such as wd-40 to prevent contact
problems due to damp.

All of this may have had nothing to do with the original problems but I
would appreciate your opinion.

Many thanks

Mike here: I leave the Autostar connected to the telescope. Over time it is certainly possible to wear down the pins or perhaps even damage the connections by repeating connecting and disconnected. This is nothing unique to the Autostar cable; it applies to just about anything, from computer cables to vacuum cleaner hoses.

Subject: AutoStar 497 question...
Date: 2/26/04, 19:00
From: Mike (
For some reason or another it looks like I've lost Polaris in my
AutoStar 497... I've used Polaris a couple of times for a quick one star
alignment and it worked fine... Today while checking to see if I could
use WinStars to control the scope, I started with a one star alignment
and polaris was not in my list, it goes from Phad then Pollux... Any
ideas how to restore this?

I've upgraded the Autostar to the newest version 31e about 2 weeks ago
once I made up a 505 cable with no problems...

Mike here: Polaris is not listed as an alignment star.


Thanks Mike for the quick reply...  I could have sworn I used it
(Polaris) that is...  But I'm sure it was for something else...


Subject: Autostar 494 connection problem with DS2070
Date: 2/26/04, 07:19
Mike, great website.  I sent this message earlier with the tagline,
Need Help.  I had read the etiquette page but forgot about your
tagline instructions.  Sorry.   I am having problems connecting my DS
2070 with Autostar 494 to my computer.  I am using a USB port and bought
a usb to serial cable from Radio Shack.  It has software.  It assigned
to Com 4 and made the appropriate designation on the ACP preferences
screen.  It will not recognize that I have a telescope connected.  I did
the alignment before trying to connect, as suggested on your site, but
still no go.  Do I have to have the Meade USB cable?  I am using the
appropriate #506 serial cable.  I am just about to send it all back. 
Can you help?  Thanks.

Jim Kyle
Mike here: I have no problems connecting to my Autostar #497 with #505 serial cable through a Keyspan USB-Serial adapter on my Macintosh (running Windows in VirtualPC). So, one would expect that if all that works on my Mac, it should work on PCs (and it does, according to other reports). But I don't know if Com4 will work. Have you tried other ports? Of course, you always need to be aware of port contention from other apps (like fax software).


I finally got through to Meade tech support tonight, and they said they
have had numerous problems with the 506 cable, so they're sending out a
tested replacement.  I hope that solves my problem.  I'll let you know. 
Thanks for the reply.


Subject: Re: Meade ETX-125
Date: 2/25/04, 15:11
First I would like to thank You for replying to My e-mail.  I'm not
really sure of the autostar version I'm using, but I Just bought My
scope in May of 2003.  I have trained both axis's and calibrated the
motors and also checked and double checked location and daylight savings
time settings. All these things just doesn't seem to help all that much,
the pointing Accuracy just isn't there. Again thanks for returning My
e-mail, and I would still appreciate any advise You can offer.  Again!! 
        Thanks! N. Wion  ( From Ohio ) 
Mike here: The short version is displayed when you power-on. The full version is available Setup-Statistics menu. Without knowing exactly what you are doing, I suggest you read through the alignment tips on the Autostar Info page; something there may help you.

Subject: Re: ETX 125/AutoStar alignment
Date: 2/24/04, 16:42
From: Oddbjrn Skogstad (
If you turn the beep off (Utilities -> Beep -> OFF), the display of the
Autostar will blink a couple of times insted of beeping.

Mike here: Gee, I didn't know that (or maybe I had forgotten since I liked the beep)! Thanks!!!

Subject: Controlling LXD-55 slew speed with computer
Date: 2/24/04, 14:11
From: "Amiet, Andrew" (
Hi there, I posted this question on the Yahoo groups server and got no
response. I hope you may be able to help.

I just took collection of an LXD55 SN-6 and I'm going to control it
using a computer (I have had previous experience controlling an LX-200
mount). The LXD55 has 9 slew speed settings available on the Autostar
handset, but it appears that only the fastest two and slowest two are
available via the RS-232 cable (obviously a hang-up from the LX-200
where only 4 were possible) using the :Rx command. Does anyone know if
it possible to get all 9 speeds when controlling the mount with a

Thanks in advance,

Andrew Amiet
Mike here: I've forwarded your inquiry to our resident Autostar Expert.

Subject: Meade ETX-125
Date: 2/22/04, 18:08
I have had trouble, from Day 1 that I received My ETX, with the autostar
alignments, no matter which mount I used. ( Polar or Alt ) I can have
the tripod and scope leveled and pointed at Polaris in the home
position, for which ever mount I'm using, and then start My 2 Star
Alignment/ Center the stars as instructed and have a successful
alignment and the pointing accuracy is still WAY OFF!  I don't know what
else to do to help with this problem! I would appreciate any advise You
can offer Me!       Thanks!

Nick  from Ohio
Mike here: You didn't specify which Autostar ROM version you have. But if really old you should update to the current one on Meade's site. Have you tried a RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES (don't forget to train on both axes)? Have you checked the location and Daylight Saving settings?

Subject: ETX 125/AutoStar alignment
Date: 2/21/04, 18:33
From: "George C. Stradley" (
Does the ETX 125/AutoStar "beep" during the the alignment procedure? 
The Manual says it does when it completes a GOTO, but what about
alignment?  I am hearing impaired (severely) and I never hear a "beep"
at any time.  Maybe this is the reason I am unable to use the scope. 
Where is the sound source (AutoStar handbox or ETX base)?  Maybe I can
hold my ear next to it.

This scope has given me "fits" as I can't get a star alignment.  I'm not
a beginner and I'm about ready to chuck the whole thing and go back to
my Dobs.
George Stradley
Mike here: Yes, it beeps (from the handset) when it finishes slewing to the alignment star. And then it prompts you to "Press ENTER" when you have centered the star. So, even though you can't hear it, just watch the screen for the prompt.

Subject: AutoStar Update Questions - Please
Date: 2/21/04, 11:30
From: Larry Harrison (
Thanks the other day for the assist.

I have an ETX-70 with an Autostar Control #497.  First I desire to use
the computer to update my telescope data and to use software to run my
telescope at times.  I ordered the #506 AstroFinder Kit.  I downloaded
Astronomers Control Panel 1.3.  From the #506 I plugged into the #497
handset and the other end to the place of my Toshibas port for the
modem.  When I test the ACP 1.3 as stated, the answer comes back that a
modem is in its place.  So I disable the modem, but ACT 1.3 does not
recognize the COM PORT 3.  I tried on the software to see if it will
recognize other ports, but it does not.  Hmmmmmm.

I noticed in the #506 kit of some sort of adapter.  The end with the
pins does not fit anywhere on my computer.

If the above paragraph does not work, then I guess that I cannot update
the AutoStar.

Am I doing something wrong?  Or am I out of luck with my computer?

Did I order the wrong Kit (i.e. #505)?

Many thanks,

Larry Harrison
Mike here: For the #497 you need the #505. You can easily make one (see the Autostar Info page) or you should exchange the #506 for a #505.

Subject: RE: Autostar Hanging Up
Date: 2/20/04, 21:10
From: Bill Kelly (
No, I can't get to the menu. I can't get past the location step. I tried
all combinations of key presses but no luck.

Mike here: If you want to try testing see the article "Testing Autostar Communications" on the Autostar Info page. But it sounds like it has failed. Your choices are to replace it with another #494 or get a #497 (or a #495, which you can upgrade to a #497 via software).


Appreciate your help Mike.


Subject: Autostar Hanging Up
Date: 2/20/04, 18:00
From: Bill Kelly (
I have an ETX-70AC with the basic Autostar (not sure if it is a 494 or a
495). I have a problem that I am wondering if anyone else has seen.

I have had the scope for several years and it has worked fine up to this
time. I powered up the scope after some weeks of non-use. The Autostar
came up in the Sun warning screen, I went through the usual date and
time set up and Country/State, Town. After entering my state and town
the display goes back to Afghanistan/Kabul. No matter what I do it wont
accept any change. It keeps going back to Afghanistan/Kabul. I cannot
access any other menus either. I replaced the batteries to no avail. The
initial screen shows  00 Meade[1.0].

Any ideas?

Thanks Bill.
Mike here: If there is no number keypad it is a #494. It is not usual to have to enter the Country/State, etc. on powerups after the first one. Apparently your Autostar forgot its settings. (How long was it unused? Were the batteries dead?). It sounds like it is now confused. If you can get to the RESET, do that.


Thanks for the reply. It's a 494. It was probably unused for 6 weeks.
Not sure if the batteries were completely dead. I replaced them but
still getting stuck at the location step. Is there a way to reset from
the front panel or do I have to open the unit? If I do have to open is
there a technique to reset internally
Mike here: If you can get to the menu: SETUP->RESET.

Subject: Dead but ticking Autostar #497 controller
Date: 2/20/04, 13:24
From: Matt Greenwood (
Hello from the UK, first I would like to thank you for a great site that
really helped me when looking for a new telescope and has provided lots
of info. I finally purchased a new ETX 105 three weeks ago which arrived
damaged (something rattling around inside the base and no hard stops on
the horizontal axis which I guessed was linked!). Sent that telescope
back and for the five days I waited for a replacement we had five
perfectly clear nights, the day my replacement arrived so did the

Finally a week later, two days ago I got a chance to use it at last and
everything worked perfectly. However when I came to set up the scope
tonight and switched it on the Autostar was dead. It just makes a
ticking sound, nothing on the display and the telescope moves left to
right and then right to left every 10 seconds or so. Tried new batteries
and still the same.

I really would like to get this problem sorted without having to send
the Autostar back and not being able to use the telescope for a while
again. Is this a problem that has come up before?(I have looked through
the site and couldn't find a similar problem). Also I would prefer not
to have to send the whole telescope back again, is there any way of
knowing if it is the Autostar at fault or the scope, (without plugging
in to another ETX as I know nobody else with one).

Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks, Matt..(with a clear night sky and a 700 telescope shaped
paper weight!)
Mike here: Sorry you've had some problems. If you have connected the cable to the right port on the ETX, it sounds like a dead Autostar; it should not "tick". If you have a #505 cable you can test the Autostar communications (see the article "Testing Autostar Communications" on the Autostar Info page). If that works, it could be that the ETX has a problem.

Subject: autostar escape codes
Date: 2/20/04, 08:13
From: andrew sprott (
i'm developin a program called NTC, which means network telescope
control. it allows remote control of a lx200 or autostar system over a
network. the network can be wireless.

i have the meade escape code documentation and it mentions the tracking
codes. it says that the autostar partially implements tracking, but dont
say what commands it supports.

there are 4 commands, lunar, which i assume is 57.9 hertz, reset, which
i guess resets to 60 hertz. and two codes to increase/decrease the
tracking by 0.1 hertz. i cant work out what codes are supported, because
the trackin is out anyway wiv the scope set to alt/az mode. i haven't
yet set the orientation to equatorial which i guess will improve it.

i also bought a focuser. the documentation says the focuser has 4
speeds, but when i used the commands as documented ie., #F1:# for lowest
speed, it makes no difference. but if i use the #FS:# and #FF:# for
slowest/'fastest speeds it works. shurley shome mishtake here.

at the moment the software can be used to focus - maybe track - and
slew. i intend to make it freeware and will shortly make it available on
the web. if you like i will announce it here. i'm demonstrating the
software at the qcuiag conference tomorrow [sat 21st], bein held in
milton keynes, england.

andrew sprott
Mike here: There are some articles on the Autostar Commands on the Autostar Info page.

Subject: AutoStar power from battery (incl drive motors)
Date: 2/19/04, 15:26
From: Tony Miller (
I continue to use your site for great AutoStar info, and am becoming
more proficient in its use as a result.

The 10-AA battery power pack supplied with my Meade DS90AT would seem to
put out 15 volts (need to bring it in to the shop to be sure, but a
"tongue test" gives a more powerful shock than a 12-volt car-type
battery).  That seems logical -- 1.5v x 10 batteries = 15v.  And yet the
Meade literature and the power connection port on the telescope
altazimuth mount indicate the power supply is 12v -- in fact, some of
the literature indicates the power pack uses 8 batteries instead of the
10 it actually requires.  I've seen some info on your site seeming to
indicate the unit will run on a range of DC voltage from 15 down to
about 7; the info also indicates you can corrupt the internal register
if you operate below 5v, with complete unusability the result.

I'd like to use the car-type battery, but want to make sure I don't fry
(or damage by under-powering) the scope.  If my polarity is the same, is
it any problem to connect such a battery to the DS90AT and run it that
way?  Will the (supposed) lower DC voltage affect operation?

Also, the connector I had with the 12v power source is the same outer
diameter as the Meade power supply connector, but the Meade takes a
larger center pin (has a bigger hole) than the 12v power supply
connector.  I don't see any problem (all other things above being equal)
to cutting off the connector from the 12v supply, and replacing it with
the connector cut off from the Meade power supply cord.  (Or buy one at
Radio Shack instead, if they have them).

This would give me the ability to carry the portable 12v supply with me
anywhere, or hook the power into the cigarette lighter receptacle in a
motor vehicle.  Sounds better than buying a bunch of 12v NiMH AAs and
recharging often to make sure I don't hit that sub-5v "danger zone".

Thanks for your help.

Tony Miller
Columbus, OH
Mike here: 12VDC car batteries work fine (normally).

Subject: Keeping the AutoStar controller warm
Date: 2/18/04, 18:59
From: R&JS (
I have seen battery-operated dew heaters for eyepieces, objective
lenses, and just about every other part of the scope -- has anyone seen,
made, or improvised a heater for the Autostar paddle controller?

I set my scope outside tonight to cool down and was not able to get back
to it for 3 hours -- temperature went from 32 F down to 20 F.  When I
turned it on, the Autostar display would not come on.  I unplugged the
controller, took it in the house and warmed it up with a blow dryer --
took it back outside and it worked fine.

Maybe a small strip-type heater like you would use on an eyepiece would
keep it warm?

Joe S.
Mike here: Chemical (or battery operated) handwarmers have been reported to be effective.

Subject: Autostar problem
Date: 2/18/04, 10:37
From: James Lickerish (
I have been using my ETX125 with autostar for a few months with no
problems But now when I press goto or try an alignment the scope just
goes round and round until it reaches the stop. Is this me or a fault?


James, England
Mike here: Whenever the Autostar goes berserk, the first remedy is to CALIBRATE and reTRAIN DRIVES. If that doesn't cure it, do a RESET, CALIBRATE, TRAIN DRIVES. Let me know.


Yes callibrating and training the drives has worked so thanks very much.
I can now track jupiter and it's moons properly if the clouds go away!

Great website, I would have bought my etx if I hadn't read your
articles. Meade owe you a few bob.


Subject: Meade ETX Autostar problems
Date: 2/18/04, 02:29
From: Anthony Conn (
Recently I have been having a few problems with the #497 Autostar (with
ETX-90EC). Whenever I have an object near due north, I seem to have
problems using Go To. The scope will slew 360 deg. between objects near
due north which is understandable as I guess their has to be an
invisible stop somewhere to prevent contacting a hard stop through
continuous rotation in one direction. The problem is it often almost
reaches the object and then wants to swing back in the other direction
at full speed. Sooner or later it will hit a hard stop & alignment
appears lost. Batteries are newly installed (new Energizer e squared AA
bateries which give the scope a louder slew sound than previously on the
alt axis). Any suggestions?

Also there seems to be a few other bugs in the software:

LED light doesn't come on automatically when entering date and time
(unless I quickly turn it on and off first).

Magnification calculator under utilities does not let you enter eyepiece
focal length.

Have you heard of these problems before?
Anthony Conn.
Mike here: What version of the Autostar ROM are you using? If not the current 3.1Ee, I suggest updating. Also, you didn't say whether you were using Polar or Alt/Az mounting mode.


I think it's 1.1 I'll have to check.

I have it mounted in Alt/Az mode. I was out again the night before last
and noted the problem occured only on objects approx. due north. I was
viewing Saturn and noted the problem only briefly. I think the Autostar
must get confused as to which way around the Az axis it should go, since
the object is right near what appears to be an azimuth coordinate (i.e.
North) that the computer must see as some type of stop. Out again
tonight & no problems so at this stage I am not worried. I will see how
it goes.


P.S. Saturn looks great at the moment. Titan was easily spotted tonight
& I'm 99% sure I saw Rhea (fainter than Neptune at mag 9) about a
'ring-length' to the planet's NE - hard to detect for Saturn's glare.
Mike here: Definitely upgrade it!

Subject: Need advice on the Autostar
Date: 2/17/04, 06:08
From: "Werner, William J." (
I have an ETX90-EC with a brand new Autostar 497. One problem I had,
after training the drives, was that the Autostar, when doing the "Easy"
align, would move upwards, about 10-20 degrees at a time, to the 90
degree Alt; of couse, the hard stop would stop the scope from moving
beyond 90 degrees. Resetting the Autostar fixed that; but now I think it
needs either some medication or needs hospitalized, because the align is
WAY off. I follow the directions pertaining to putting the scope in
"home" position; and the stars it tries to go to are nowhere NEAR where
it says it was..... so, just to see, I would hit enter with each star it
said was there, then told it to go to Venus... here again, at least 20
degrees off and the alt setting was too high. When I trained the drives,
I used the farthest away object I could see (probably about a tenth of a
mile)... and I trained it to center the object each time, per the
Any suggestions???

Bill Werner
Mike here: Check that you have the proper ETX model and mounting mode set. Check that your location and date/time/Daylight Savings settings are correct. Do a CALIBRATE and reTRAIN DRIVES. If those don't help, do a RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES. You didn't say what ROM version you have but you might want to download the latest (3.1Ee) from Meade's site. You will need to buy or make a #505 cable and use a Windows system to do the update.


The proper telescope model and site is set correctly; I have tried the
calibrate and train drives, but will do it again.

The ROM version is 2.6E I believe; that may help to d/l the latest...
thanks for the advice!


Subject: Problem with the LX200GPS
Date: 2/17/04, 02:27
I have for some time now a problem with the LX200GPS and Autostar II;

In the automatic alignment procedure, it doesn't find the "home
position" resulting with a message saying that there is a problem with
the sensors.

Is this the ind of problems that someone experienced already ?

If yes, is there a simple solution ? I'm leaving in Austria and I don't
think that this is a good idea to send back the scope to USA. I guess it
could be very simple to change the sensors. IN that case, I'd need some
instructions on how it works and how to change it.

There may be another solution, which is to bypass the "home position",
to set up the home position myself and proceed with the level, true
North ... But the firmware bypasses everything !!

Thanks for help.


Subject: 201xt AutoGuider
Date: 2/16/04, 22:06
From: warpcorp (
Is there a way to interface the Meade 201XT Autoguider to the LXD55
Mount / AutoStar 497?  If so, what else would be needed?
Thanks in advance!
Mike here: Not that I recall hearing about.

Date: 2/16/04, 17:44
From: Robert Zobel (
Hi i got a meade DS-114AT telescope and i have the autostar 494 computer
controller which one is better 494 or 495?    THX
Mike here: PLEASE read the Email Etiquette item on the ETX Site home page; your message was determined to be SPAM and originally deleted UNREAD due to the missing subject line.
The #495 (old) and the #497 (current) are better than the #494 in that they have a full numeric keypad and allow for user updates of the Autostar software.

Subject: Autostar Question
Date: 2/15/04, 11:02
From: Larry Harrison (
First, you have a great site.  Many thanks.

Second, when I update the #497 Autostar data, will it remove the other
information such as the tour? And the stars that are used to setup the
telescope for first-time usage? And the 2-star setup for the telescope
to use that night?  Another words I do not desire to lose information
for one such as me being a newbie.

Many thanks,

Larry Harrison
Mike here: Nothing is removed when doing a normal update. Unless it is supposed to be removed (sometimes planet data is updated).

Subject: ETX 125 Astro Software?
Date: 2/14/04, 16:51
From: Rick Hudson (
This is Rick Hudson, new owner of an ETX-125 scope, and if you could be
so kind, I have a couple of simple, silly questions for you, answers to
which I can't seem to find in any scope documentation.

The first relates to simple scope alignment and the use of Autostar, and
the others are about supporting PC and pocketPC software. I hope asking
you these questions is not an undue imposition on your time; please feel
free to simply refer me to one of the FAQs on your site if I am asking
something that someone else already has, and that you have already

First off, my equipment, so that you have an idea what I'm using, and
the context within which I am asking these questions:
- Standard Etx-125 AT on a Deluxe field tripod
- Autostar contoller
- Electric focuser
- several eyepieces and a 2x barlow lens
- a fairly adept and nimble brain, I hope.

1. Apparently, in order to track objects effectively using Autostar, I
have to have the scope in Polar alignment, is this correct? However, the
Autostar manual states that "Easy Align works ONLY when the scope is
mounted in teh Alt/az configuration."
...So since the only other two options available in the Autostar
interface are "One-Star" and "Two-Star", can each of these be used when
the scope is in the Polar alignment?

1a. A "Polar" mount is the same thing as an "Equatorial" mount, right?

2. Software: in my manual, I see references to "SkyChart Astro Software"
but I find no references to that on the Meade site. However, I DID find
references to "Epoch 2000" astro software. I assume that this is the
new, snappy, fancy, new & improved, does-more-dishes version of the old
SkyChart software? I notice it is Win2K only (says the Microsoftie!) so
it must have been written this century. Any ideas? Is it any good? I
think it would be perfect for an idiot like me, who only thinks when I
can see it on a computer screen...

2a. Hardware: the cable for that software package: apparently it's a USB
cable with a serial jack on the autostar-contoller end. Any idea where I
can get one? WOuld it be packaged with the software?

3. I saw that there was software for the Palm, do you have any idea
whether any smart cookie has ported Epoch 2000 to the Pocket PC?? That
would be ULTRA-cool, since you could literally clip the pocket PC to the
tripod (My pocket PC is also GPS-equipped) and use it (theoretically)
not only to align the scope but also as an autostar visual interface,
basically. How cool would THAT be?

In any case, if you DO have time, and you would like to answer these
questions, it would be most marvellous of you, and I should be very
thankful for your help. Regrettably, the Meade documentation for the
scope is kinda obtuse, and does not really explain the WHY of the
situation: particularly with respect to this business of alt/az vs.
Polar alignment.

Thanks in advance, and happy valentine's day!

Cheers and clear skies,
Mike here: Most of your questions are answered on the ETX Site. 1. The Autostar will track in either Polar (same as Equatorial) or Alt/Az. See the Autostar Information page for alignment tips. 2. There are a lot of software packages that will control the Autostar, which in turn controls the telescope. See the Accessory Reviews - Software and the Autostar Information pages. There is a package of old software from Meade but newer software is better. You might also want to check out the Autostar Suite from Meade; see my article "Autostar Suite on the Macintosh" on the Autostar Information page for an extensive review of this Windows set of apps. 2a. The Autostar Suite comes with the serial (not USB) #505 cable for connecting a serial port to the Autostar #497. You can also make one; yes, see the Autostar Information page for cable info. You can use one of the USB-serial adapters (I do on my PowerBook 17"). Yes, there are Palm apps too. Some are discussed on the Accessory Reviews - Software page.

Subject: Homemade 505 Cable Tip
Date: 2/14/04, 08:40
From: Yurtle Turtle (
Your site is great, and I've only just begun to explore it. The
following can be posted if you think it could be of some help.

Adam Minchey

I offer this for anyone having problems connecting, after building their
own 505 cable.

I already had a DB9 female and a 4 pin handset jack. I soldered them up
just as indicated on:

When I hooked it up and tried to connect, all I got was an error message
that my pc couldn't find the telescope. After spending hours looking for
other pinout diagrams and checking for possible loose connections, I
finally tried plugging the phone cord only part way into the Autostar.
It worked! Apparently my phone cord and the Autostar jack weren't quite
compatible. When fully inserted, the pins failed to connect.

Subject: Autostar Question
Date: 2/13/04, 02:28
How do I find a star like beta-monocerotis in the Autostar database. Do
I need to know something called the SAO number - if so what is that?
Thanks    TFortune
Mike here: Check the "Database Information" section on the Autostar Information page. Lots of info there.

Subject: Autostar update
Date: 2/10/04, 14:44
Just updated my 497 from 2.6ec to the latest rev using Dr Clays
method.The update went fine but i noticed that when i initialize
Autostar now shows 22Ee,can this be true.
   Mike Cook
Mike here: If you updated using the version from Meade's website, you should have 3.1Ee.

Subject: Slewing Problems in Alt/Dec Axis
Date: 2/8/04, 19:27
I have tried everything recommended on this site (short of taking things
apart and putting back together - which I feel is completely uncalled
for in a brand new scope) to fix the serious slippage, backlash,
rubberbanding, etc they I am experiencing. Aligning and centering can be
accomplished but only with much effort and frustration. What do you
think about sending the scope back to Meade for "tune up" or
replacement. In your experience are these problems simply endemic with
the ETX line? Can I expect Meade to actually be able to fix the problem
(I'd just settle for significant improvement).   I really love the scope
but I think the problems I and others are experiencing in this area
don't do much for Meade's reputation for quality control and
workmanship.      Thanks    TFortune
Mike here: Actually, most times it is user error or just a need for increased experience. As I indicated earlier, doing the training and aligning as accurately as possible will increase the overall performance of the Autostar. That's not to say that there aren't things that can be done to improve upon that; things like adjusting the "percentages" (which I presume you've already tried since you say you've done "everything recommended on this site". However, if you feel that something is still not right, you have two choices: contact Meade or contact Dr. Clay Sherrod for his "ETX Tune-up Service" (link on the ETX Home Page).


I have adjusted percentages and trained drives several times. The
problem I am talking about is very prominent during training. It can
take 10 - 15 seconds for movement when pressing the up or down button
while trying to center the training object. That can't be normal can it?
Of course I won't discount user error but I'm reasonably intelligent and
have carefully troubleshooted as recommended, so if I'm having a "user"
problem then a lot of other folks must be too. What does it say about
Meade that I have to send a brand new scope for a costly "tune up" .
There's something wrong with that.     TFortune
Mike here: Taking 10-15 seconds for movement to start during training is NOT normal. Couple of thoughts: Could you be overtightening the axis locks? They should be just tight enough to all the telescope to slew when you press an arrow key. What happens if you change the slewing speed? Is the delay reduced?

Subject: Tracking Planets
Date: 2/8/04, 19:19
I find that my ETX tracks stars and other "fixed" objects pretty well.
It does a poor job with planets, however, with the planet drifting out
of the field over 5 minutes or so. Why is this and how can it be
corrected?    Thanks TFortune
Mike here: Are you running the current version of the Autostar software? Also, see my previous comment about training and aligning. Be certain that you have entered the correct date and time.

Subject: Go To Accuracy
Date: 2/8/04, 19:17
I notice that my Go To accuracy is pretty good for the first 2 or 3
objects, then it progressively deteriorates. Is there any way to prevent
this? I assume it is the accumulation of small errors over time. Can the
system be realigned "on the fly" without having to go through the whole
alignment steps from scratch?  Thanks. Tfortune
Mike here: Well, you can SYNC of use High Precision. That helps on objects in that area of the sky. BUT since the problem occurs so quickly I suspect that drive training needs to be done; be as accurate as you can when centering the object during training. Same for when centering the alignment stars.

Subject: Autostar #497 - "RS232 Read Timeout ! Help !
Date: 2/8/04, 14:16
From: Patrick Vermote (
I bought my own LX90 last month with a great pleisure ... As you can
imagine ... I used it immediately to improve my knowledge of this
telescope ... It was a great time !

Last week I tried to connect my computer via my USB-RS232 converter to
the Autostart #497 ... without success ... This converter run's
perfectly with onother software and hardware.

Autostar suite say's in a simple box 'Read Timeout ...coomunication
Terminated' when I choose 'Telescope/Protocol/Autostart wia Comm port'
and nothing else. Is any body had the same problem ?

Best regards

Pat, Poitiers, France
Mike here: You didn't say whether you were using a Macintosh or a PC but the most likely cause of this some other application, typically fax software, tying up the serial port. Check for that first. Also, check for updated drivers for your serial-USB converter. I use the Keyspan one with my Macintosh and it took several driver updates for Keyspan to get to the point where the communication to the Autostar worked properly.


Yes ... I'm using a PC Centrino - 1.4 Ghz - 512 Mo Ram ... The
usb-serial port run's perfectly with the windows terminal software to
communicate with ham-radio system or weather station ... If I plug my
Autostar nothing appear on the screen when I turn on the Telescope ...
Typically this procedure let me see some special caracters in normal
operation. Is the Autostar use's a special protocol or needed special
driver ?

Tnx for oyur answer.

Best Regards

Mike here: The Autostar is a 9600bps serial device. No special driver needed; just software that knows its language. But if the Autostar Update application doesn't see it then either something is wrong with the #505 cable, the USB-serial conversion, or the Autostar itself.


Tnx for you quick answer ... what do you think when you talk about #505
... it mean's only the wire from the PC to the Autostar or the wire from
the Autostar to the lx90 ? or both ?

My usb-serial conversion is ok because I can use it for another

Can I do a reset of the Autostar menu ? is that a solution ?

Many tnx

Patrick, Poitiers, France
Mike here: The #505 cable is the one that runs from the Autostar to the serial port on the computer (or USB adapter). If it is wired incorrectly the communications won't work. Reseting doesn't hurt anything; it puts the Autostar back into its "factory default" condition.


Thank's for all ... I'll verify the cable ... if nothing is wrong I'll
test the connection with another  #497 this week-end. Many tnx for your

Best Regards

Patrick / Poitiers / France

Subject: Drive training for polar alignment
Date: 2/7/04, 15:31
From: Jack Fox (
I  have received a lot of excellent help from the EtxAstro group on on
instruction on how to polar align and train drives and feel more
confident in trying it. But I am still confused on the telescope set up
for training. After you change the Autostar from Alt/Az mode to Polar,
how do you configure the telescope?  Do you train in the Alt/Az home
position or do you configure the scope in the polar home position where
the OTA is at 90 degrees and you tilt the platform to your latitude
pointing towards Polaris and then train?  I have checked your site and
found Dr. Sherrod's article, but found it confusing. Does your book go
into detail on this, if so I will purchase it for this and all the other
good information it provides. Perhaps I should stick to Alt/Az, but
eventually I would like to try astrophotgraphy.  Thank you for any

Mike here: No, the book doesn't cover it. To TRAIN in Polar mode is the same as in Alt/Az. Just pick a distant target; you can rotate the tripod so that object can be viewed through the telescope. Using Polaris in Polar mode is not too good since the tube just rotates around Polaris when doing the RA training.

Subject: Autostar #497 display issues
Date: 2/6/04, 03:05
From: Oacs (
Great site.. As a new etx owner, its been a great help. Got the #505
cable, 12v dc power supply, etc. already set up!

Alright, here's a weird problem Im having. Ive recently got a 2nd hand
ETX-125 with an autostar unit. Came with firmware 2.0i, obviously a bit
old. Here is what happens:

1. Autostar is powered on (fresh batteries, etc).
2. Copyright, Version and A U T O S T A R are displayed on the 2 lines.
3. Display goes blank.
4. However, from the user manual I can go through the various menus and
perform operations. ie. change contrast, etc.. without any text
appearing on the display. Occasionally text like A.. (for glossary) does
appear, but thats about it. Its like working with windows on a dead
monitor.. you sort of remember where the icons are, know keyboard
shortcuts, but cant see anything.
5. Control via pc (using Cartes Du Ciel), works fine.

Since then, its been flashed up to the latest 3.1ee. However, this didnt
fix problems with the display. I wonder why everything works fine on the
bootup screen, and craps out elsewhere??

Have you or anyone else seen such a problem before? Any way to fix this?
Any help would be appreciated. Cheers.


P.S: hopefully not related to
Mike here: Following the initialization of date, time, etc, the display dims to night use. I suspect you need to just further adjust the brightness and/or contrast.


Thanks for the quick reply. Ive tried adjusting the brightness, and
contrast.. All I can see is a ":" (colon) on the screen, no matter what
mode Im in. Strange thing is that summary display (i.e. pressing menu
for 2 seconds) works fine. Nothing else shows up. I might try flashing
it with different versions of firmware to see if it makes a difference.
Mike here: Since you are using an external power supply, what happens if you use fresh batteries?


Wow. online quickly.. Yes, Ive just tried it with fresh duracell AA's.
Same thing. Also, tried out 2.5ea and 3.0ee, no difference. Funny thing
is I think the autostar itself is working properly, just the display
controller seems to not be showing things on the screen properly (or
just occasionally, eg. key 3 shows 8x on the screen, so both lines of
the display are working, just not showing all the tags I think.).

Thanks and regards,

Mike here: Got me stumped. One last try, even though you have installed different versions. Do a RESET.


Same here.. Too bad Im in New Zealand, cant really call up Meade support
very easily.

Its a bit hard to do a reset without any characters on a screen.
However, I did try to follow the manual and (blindly) got to the RESET
menu I think. The handset blanked out, and shut down. Didnt reboot. Is
this normal? Is there any other way of doing a reset (maybe a hard reset
by shorting out some wires on the PCB?). Thanks.
Mike here: No, not normal. Not good. We'll see what our resident Autostar expert has to say.


Thanks a lot! Hopefully there's a way around this. Apart from the 497
issues Im enjoying my ETX-125. Despite terribly windy and turbulent
conditions, the optics on this scope are excellent.

From: Richard Seymour (
Questions: if you tilt the display with good lighting,
can you see if the characters are being formed?
(i'm wondering if it's merely that the LEDs behind the screen
are not illuminating properly...)
The keypad LEDs and the screen LEDs are on two different
drivers, with isolated control from inside the Autostar.
So it's entirely possible for the transistor driving the
screen LEDs to be dead, whilst the keypad lights up merrily.
Since you -sometimes- get screen illumination, it could be
that some of the current-sinking drivers are not working
(this is how they change the brightness).

Contrast is controlled by the amount of voltage being fed to
the LCD plate itself.  If the contrast circuit is bad, then
you would either see nothing forming on the screen, or all pixels.
Again, some portions of the Autostar's drivers could be sick.

The screen itself has a flexible flat cable going into a socket.
That socket is a "zero insertion force" socket, with a clamping
piece (which slides out about a millimeter to unlock).  If that
was loose, or the cable was ever-so-slightly-askew, you might
get bizarre symptoms.

You can open the 497 by removing the four screws in the rear,
and "unsnapping" the cover pieces (the little red cover on the
top LED will go flying...).  That provides access to flat cable,
and lets you watch the four screen-illuminating LEDs in action.

> ... just the display
> controller seems to not be showing things on the screen properly (or
> just occasionally, eg. key 3 shows 8x on the screen, so both lines of
> the display are working, just not showing all the tags I think.).

Pressing hard (especially [mode]) flexes the board near the cable
socket, and may help make momentary contact.

If could also be a "cold solder joint" (difficult to spot) or a cracked
circuit trace ... both of which are easy to fix with a soldering iron
and the patience to locate the fault (at least you're limited to the
traces which control the LEDs)(or screen)

> Same here.. Too bad Im in New Zealand, cant really call up Meade support
> very easily.

As it happens, i'll be in New Zealand starting Feb 18th on a self-drive
holiday for 3 weeks... mayhaps we can make contact?

> Its a bit hard to do a reset without any characters on a screen.
> However, I did try to follow the manual and (blindly) got to the RESET
> menu I think. The handset blanked out, and shut down. Didnt reboot. Is
> this normal? Is there any other way of doing a reset (maybe a hard reset
> by shorting out some wires on the PCB?). Thanks.

Hard resets are a bad idea (damage could happen).
You can command a reset on the serial line, using Hyperterminal.
Send control-D's  until you see a ">" or "?" returned.
Now send an uppercase I  (eye).
It will reset.

The blind-keypad method is: power up, wait for init beep.
Tap [enter] three times,  (gets past time/date/daylight)
tap [mode] three times,   (escapes from Align, gets Select/Object)
tap [scroll up] once,    (Select/Setup)
tap [enter]              {Setup/Date}
tap [scroll up] once,    (Setup/Reset)
tap [enter] twice.        (past Reset warning, do Reset)
Reset should happen.

I suspect a mechanical/electrical fault, perhaps with a bad part
at the root... but frequently it's mechanical (loose connector).

good luck
Cool. Thanks. Here's what Ive tried:

1. Tilting (or pressing) the display doesnt make a difference.
2. In Test mode (i.e. pins 2 and 3 on the db9 shorted out), both lines
   function properly, as I go through all the keys.
3. Just flashed to firmware 3.0ed. Both lines were displayed momentarily
   in "Tonights Best", including some scrolling. But then I hit "MENU" once
   more and it went away. There was no flickering, etc.
4. Tried manipulating the ZIF socket, pretty secure though.
5. Reset via terminal didnt work either.
6. Might grab a magnifying glass and look for cold solders, but since
   the display itself functions alright, I suspect a controller problem?

February's not a bad time to be here in NZ. The weather's been shifty of
late though. Im in Auckland (09-4424494), so if youre around and Im
still here (since I often work from Wellington) let me know. If youre
bringing any scopes, then perhaps the South Island is the place to be.
Extremely clear skies, no light pollution in most areas (in fact you'll
be lucky if you see many cars while driving through rural areas!), and
not too windy (in the canterbury plains usually).


Oacs (aka. Achint).

Subject: Finding true north.
Date: 2/5/04, 07:21
I am new to astronomy and have recently bought a EXT 70. To speed up
alignment I have purchased an Align-Mate . It is a small cylinder which
fits in the eyepiece tube. One end is a compass and the other a spirit
level. The compass reading has to be compensated for variation but the
set up takes a couple of minutes at most. I dont know if this handy
device is available in the US but it can be seen at: www.  It costs 22.95 (GBP).
Regards Chris Wood

Subject: CAREFUL with update 3.1e !!
Date: 12/3/03, 13:32
From: "P. Clay Sherrod" (
Just a quick note to those who are loading v3.1eE into the Autostar 497

Be careful before you begin to TRAIN drives.....note that this version
will default your Alt/Dec and Az/RA  percentages to "50%" on both right
out of the chute.

Go in and change those settings back down to "0%" to train your drives
and then adjust normally to levels that you had prior to uploading....if
you do not, your training values will be poor and you will experience
significant jerky motion.

Again, change both sets of percentages BACK to "0%" before training OR
back to whatever you had set before if you do not re-train the
Dr. Clay
Arkansas Sky Observatory
Harvard MPC H41 (Petit Jean Mountain)
Harvard MPC H43 (Conway)
Harvard MPC H44 (Cascade Mt.)

Subject: autostar setup
Date: 2/3/04, 19:37
From: Richard Shields (
on 1/1/04 you wrote Mr.Schlatter reset/calibrate/train,when i press
reset,the message says it will erase everything.could you elaborate?
Mike here: Reset restores the factory default condition.

Subject: Re: ETX Autostar - Any Plans for GPS?
Date: 2/2/04, 23:10
From: Michael Masters (
Thanks for your previous response and well done establishing such a
great site for ETX fans.

Back to my query on ETX and GPS. Meade may have no plans but these guys
have done it. Take a look at where you can get
plug and play GPS with an independent power supply. There is no
addtional software required and this also solves the accurate time
issue. This site is worth browsing in any event as there are some
interesting alternate solutions to Astrophotography attachments
including a camcorder attachment via the standard eyepiece. Interesting

Regards...Mick Masters

Subject: Starfinder patch?
Date: 2/2/04, 08:46
Do you happen to have the software patch for the Starfinder Go-To
controller?  I found the Autostar patch on your web site, but I need
Starfinder.  Please advise.  Thanks!
Mike here: I'm not aware of any Starfinder patches.

Subject: re: telescope with gps
Date: 2/2/04, 08:36
From: Moazzam Ahmed (
yeah thanks guys! for both y'alls responses.

I guess I just need to spend more time working with the telescope. Ive
already learnt the sky quite well. Its the meade that I have trouble
with. bottom line is, I can ask it to GOTO m31 , but STILL not see
anything in it. so its got to be my alignment.

I'll work on it more!


From: Richard Seymour (
Have you tried locating M31 by hand?

All it looks like in an ETX90 is a faint fuzzball.
No stars. 
No spirals, no dust lanes, merely a brighter bit of sky.
(recognizable once you've learned to "see" it)

Really: use STARS as indicators of pointing.
(well, M42 is pretty obvious...)
Double stars (Mizar, Alberio, for example) are good targets,
since they are distinctly different from individual stars.
Colorful stars (Aldebaran, Betelguese, Sirius) are also good.

I realize that it's very difficult for us to gauge how well
you know the sky, and how much experience with looking at
the sky under magnification.  So we may be providing overly
simplified and obvious suggestions.. but we can only suggest
based upon what you tell us, and giving only M31 as an example
triggers my "use STARS" response.
If it's inappropriate, my apologies, but it has helped other
folks in the past.

It's also possible your telescope has encoder or slipping-drive
problems... you can test -that- by setting Target > Terrestrial
to turn the sidereal drive OFF, and then point at a landmark.
Press the [mode] key for 3 seconds, release.
There's the RA/DEC readout.  Now scroll down once to Alt/Az.
Now slew the scope a full circle in Az, until the landmark
is re-centered.  Check that the Az readout increments (or
decrements) exactly 360 degrees.  If it's more than a degree
off, then there are problems inside the scope (350 degrees
exactly means that one encoder vane is dirty).
Using a bubble level, you can perform a measured 90 degree
motion of the barrel, and check the Alt readout.

good luck

Subject: RA and Dec setting using Autostar
Date: 2/1/04, 11:26
From: Jack Fox (
Can you outline the procedure for entering the RA and Dec of an object
using Autostar?  I know you hold the Mode button for 2 seconds and
scroll to the RA/Dec reading, but then how do you enter the new readings
for each and especially how do you enter a negative number for the DEC?
I don't see a negative (-) key on the pad.  Example M42 Orion Nebula, RA
05 35.4, Dec -05 16.  I can not find how you do this in the Meade
Autostar instruction book.  Thank you.

Jack Fox
Mike here: See the FAQ page.


Thanks Mike.  But it does not tell you how to enter negative numbers.  
I entered the RA and Dec for M42 without a negative sign in front of the
Dec and pressed GO TO. It did not go near the area.
Mike here: Sorry, I thought that was in there. I'll add it.
But after you press ENTER to enter your RA coordinates, the cursor moves the degrees portion of the Dec. Just press the slew left arrow key to select the sign portion and then down arrow (not slew down) to change to minus or up arrow to change to plus.

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