AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 23 November 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 etx@me.com. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranties on your ETX and accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.

Subject:	Polar alignment
Sent:	Tuesday, November 23, 2004 13:52:19
From:	jimp2@cox.net
Your article on polar alignment is very insightful.  I am a novice to
astrophotography and just recently purchased a wedge.  I am very much
interested in understanding the concepts involved, and not just
"hacking" or blindly accepting the methods of others.  Your point of the
NCP being almost a degree from Polaris, which is inarguable, makes me
want to ask a couple of questions for clarification.  I have a Meade
LX200gps 12" SCT.

Many sources are suggesting using the drift method for  goto scopes is
the "only way to go.  The drift calibration is done after an OTA
alignment on Polaris.

My question is, where is the scope axis aligned after a perfect drift
alignment?  Is it on the true CP or Polaris?

Could a true CP alignment be obtain by first following?

1) Align scope using manufacturer's computerized routine. (this
calibrates pointing accuracy).
2) Move the wedge to align scope on true CP. (tracking accuracy)
3) Slew scope to Polaris, then sync.
Mike here: Drift method aligns the mount to the NCP, not Polaris. If you really want to do the drift method, I would suggest doing it first, then do the Autostar alignment. That way you have started off with an excellent HOME position. If you do it your way, moving the wedge will destroy the Autostar alignment. And SYNCing to Polaris is almost worthless.

And:

OK,

I understand.  I'm trying to avoid the drift method.  Your method seems
more direct and time efficient.  I'm rather surprised that the drift
method gets so much hype.  I'm excited about this.  So theoretically, if
the OTA gets properly aligned on the real NCP in the HOME position
(i.e., minimum error in the ninety degree declination position), and
assuming a level tripod, an Autostar alignment completes an accurate
polar alignment suitable for long-exposure photography?

JimP
Mike here: Theoretically, yes.
Subject:	Terrestrial- astronomical
Sent:	Tuesday, November 23, 2004 08:40:49
From:	Jan H Kolst (jan.kolsto@online.no)
My problem is that autostar moves on its own when I start up until I
found out that "terrestrial" had been chosen on autostar.I  then chose 
"astronomical " and enter on Autostar, but after a short time it went
back to "terrestrial" by its own and the scope "lived" its own life
moving around.The batteries are new , I've done RESET- CALIBRATE-TRAIN
DRIVES(both). The temperature is about minus 4.The  latitude and
longitude is right so are time, date and daylight time(no).Should I
reload update 32ei  ,which I have, or what?
Jan
Norway
Mike here: Odd. Obviously NO movement should occur automatically in terrestrial mode. Do try reloading the software.

And:

The scope that I wrote about some hours ago,that lived its own life,
acts and slews normally when I tried it  indoors.Batteries? Any
suggestions?
Mike here: Well, other than the temperature, there isn't anything special to the Autostar about being indoors. So it could be that the batteries were too cold. You could try AC with a proper AC adapter.
Subject:	My Autostar #497 locks up - any help will be appreciatet.
Sent:	Monday, November 22, 2004 14:38:08
From:	Lars Kolpen (lars.kolpen@get2net.dk)
My name is Lars Kolpen,
I live in Denmark.

I have a big problem with my Autostar #497 (telescope EXT90ec)

It is as follows:

I have been downloading the ASU program to update my 497. Everything was
set up correct and it began to transfer data from the PC to my Autostar
#497. On the display it says ' Downloading - do not turn off '

After the update was finished it showed ' (c)04 MEADE [32E] ' I could
then wait to press the ENTER key after the ' initialisation '.

After I press the ENTER key the screen on the #497 would show nothing
and my PC locks up. Keyboard and mouse will not response.

I can not reset my #497 because the screen will not show anything. Also
I can not make contact to the #497 via my PC because it would then
lock/freeze the PC and I would need to restart.

Have you seen anything like this before?

Any help would be appreciatet.

Thank you very much.

Lars Kolpen
Denmark
Mike here: First step would be to do the SAFE LOAD procedure. HOLD the ENTER and SCROLLDOWN keys down and then power on the ETX. Do you get the FLASH LOAD READY displayed? If so, reattempt the update. ASU should recognize the mode. Also, you might want to download the update first rather than getting real-time from the web.
Subject:	Which ECs accept the 497 Autostar?
Sent:	Saturday, November 20, 2004 20:24:06
From:	Tom & Barbara Andrews (tombps@bigpond.com)
Or, more precisely, when was the change? A search of your site revealed
a Meade announcement from 1999 that the 497 could be used with the ECs.
An email in reply to that from Astronomics said: "Alas, if your ETX is
not the new ETX-90/EC then it can't be retro-fitted to accept the
computer." I'm not certain whether they mean there was a new
Autostar-capable EC as opposed to an old EC, or just that the EC was new
as opposed to the old RA. I suspect the latter, but I don't want to bet
(or spend) money on it yet.
 
So the questions are: 
	 	Can the 497 be used for any  90EC?
	 	If not, when was the date that the  Autostar-capable ECs began?
	 	On such a telescope, is it a  simple matter of plugging in a
	 	497 handset bought elsewhere, or is there  more to it? 

Thanks for this site. It's a real blessing!

Cheers,

Tom Andrews
Mike here: Yep, any ETX EC model will accept the #497. Disconnect the standard handcontroller and connect the Autostar.
Subject:	Autostar don't work
Sent:	Saturday, November 20, 2004 15:05:54
From:	Steven F. Warnke (sfwyms@mchsi.com)
Hi again, this is my second e-mail to you. I've tried alot of times to
get the autostar to work, I need help please.
                                  Steven
Mike here: Well, you need to tell me what you are doing and what is happening. If you need tips on aligning, see the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page. Also the tutorials on the Helpful Information: Tutorials page might help.
Subject:	autostar
Sent:	Saturday, November 20, 2004 11:49:09
From:	George Giesen (ggiesen@sbcglobal.net)
concerning etx90, why does both motors run when in polar and when
tracking.
Mike here: Granted that the DEC drive should not but there have been reports that sometimes it does.
Subject:	Re: Boot troubles - 10" LX200GPS (Autostar II)
Sent:	Saturday, November 20, 2004 08:07:02
From:	jens bisgaard (jsbd@stofanet.dk)
Thank you, for the return answer.
Now the telescope works again.

Jens Bisgaard
Denmark

Subject:	re: Faulty Autostar?
Sent:	Saturday, November 20, 2004 05:38:17
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Matt Daniels said:
>Further development, tried the self test method described on your site i.e
>505 cable plugged into autostar, db9 adapter removed from pc, insert bent
>paperclip in holes 2 & 3 on pc end of cable turn autostar on. This made the
>screen go blank on the autostar, if I removed the clip from pin 2 the screen
>came back, the autostar did not enter the meade selft test as described.

That could -also- happen if Meade supplied a mis-wired 505 cable.
(such that your paperclip tied one of the signal leads to ground).

If you have a voltmeter handy, pin 2 on the DB-9 connector
should be about 12 volts -negative- with respect to pin 5.
(or "pin 5 should be between 5 and 12 volts positive with 
respect to pin 2").  This is with the cable connected to
the Autostar, and not to the PC.

IF that voltage -does- appear, connect the cable to your
PC, and power up the Autostar -with hyperterminal already running-
(as described in the same article which had the paperclip).
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_testing.html

You should see an "X" appear during the power-up sequence.

If you do, that means the telescope -to- PC portion is working.
After you've tapped [enter] on the keypad to get past the 
time/date/daylight, try typing  :GC#   on the PC's keyboard
to see if the Autostar responds with the date.

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Goto Problem in LXD75
Sent:	Friday, November 19, 2004 20:26:05
From:	Joel and Kathy Hatfield (hatfield89@adelphia.net)
I am having a peculiar problem with my LXD75.  I have trained the drives
and used it at least twice in September after I received it and it
worked flawlessly then.  The last couple of times I've tried to take it
out I have had problems.  Basically, I can describe what it is doing
now.  After I align the scope I send it to an object using goto.  It
will slew several degrees (usually) and go right back to the last
alignment star.  It seems to do this even though I pick different
objects, it just goes back to that alignment star.  It seems to slew to
the alignment stars in setup with no problem, but when I try using it I
just get the problem I described.  Any ideas on this one?  Any help is
appreciated.
 
Joel
Mike here: That's a new one! I would suggest a RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES. Let me know if that cures it.

And:

Well, I've tried those but I will try it again before I call Meade.

And:

I just shipped the mount and handset to Meade yesterday.  They said it
will be a 3 week turnaround plus I sent it ground so I don't expect to
see it for a month.

Joel

Subject:	ext
Sent:	Thursday, November 18, 2004 16:25:14
From:	william forbes (wjforbes@comcast.net)
I thought I would give you an update, Everything is working fine on the
telescope now. I fixed the cable connector for the GPS. I am still
having a little trouble aligning the autostar, I never used one so
patients is called for.  Thanks again for the quick reply and help.
 
Bill Forbes

Subject:	ETX 70 Go To stopped working without apparent reason
Sent:	Tuesday, November 16, 2004 22:28:14
From:	MUKKAVILLI Narayan N (Narayan_MUKKAVILLI@rta.nsw.gov.au)
I really need help..my ETX 70 has simply stopped finding objects ..just
like that.

It was working one day,  doesn't even find the moon the next.The only
difference was we switched to daylight savings -but I now answer  "yes"
when the daylight saving prompt appears in initial set up, and that has
always worked before-for example last year.Usually the Go To is spot on,
especially with a low power eyepiece

I tried manual alignment with three different pairs of stars last night
after failing to find a single object the previous night and I couldn't
even find the moon yesterday. Each time it says align successful and
then completely fails to find objects-misses by several fields of view.

Any help or suggestions most appreciated-I' ve checked time, date,
location etc etc. I'm running off power supply so low battery is not the
issue..getting desperate here :(

Thanks in advance 
 Narayan
Mike here: When doing the initial alignment, how far off from center is the first star?

And:

thanks for the prompt reply.

The first alignment star is actually quite close-not slap bang in the
field of view but within a reasonable distance away-pretty much normal
behaviour. The second star is much closer-again. still need to move the
scope a bit to find the second star-but that also has been the norm.

Last night I trained the drives but no joy. align successful but cant
find anything with the goto

RESET and tried again but still no joy

Thanks for any suggestions
Mike here: Three more questions. Does the GOTO correctly locate bright stars but not the Moon or planets, or are all objects missed? If all objects, is the amount of the error the same? What version of the Autostar software do you have?

And:

thanks for your prompt reply.

The GOTO doesn't locate anything at all now-(earlier it usually found
most if not all objects)

I think the error is exactly the same each time- this is just a best
guess but I am reasonably sure this is the case

I am not sure what version of Autostar software I have-will have to go
home and check if I can tell tonight;however the hand controller is the
#494 which came standard with the ETX 70AT.The scope is less than 2
years old, I don't know if that will help narrow down the version

Thanks a million for your response

Regards
Narayan
Mike here: Since it is the #494 the version doesn't matter much since you can't upgrade it. But lets have you do the following: RESET, CALIBRATE, and then TRAIN DRIVES. Check the date when entering it (year and Daylight Savings).

And:

Thanks for your response, I will it try tonight or tomorrow if I am
clouded out

regards

Subject:	balloon tracking with etx ?
Sent:	Tuesday, November 16, 2004 20:55:41
From:	dan mckenna (dmckenna@as.arizona.edu)
This was a post to sci.astro.amateur

I was encouraged to post this here so here it is.
-----

Hi all,

And now for something completely different.

As part of my project on the prediction of seeing I have started
tracking radiosonde balloons both with radio and when conditions permit
optical. I use a standard balloon theodolite and write down the
elevation and azimuth as a function of time just as weather observers
do. Meanwhile the radio tracking obtains the Pressure,temperature and
dew point data.

I would like to automate the tracking and use a tv camera and something
like an etx70 on the roof and sending alt az commands from my cave.

I have a tv camera on the antenna mount now and it works well. The
antenna mount has a 1 degree slop and the camera FOV is about 10
degrees.

The ETX70 has plastic gears....ouch... never in my day would I consider,
well till now, such a thing.

I will need position readout to better than 0.1 degrees and so I think
it will do. I would like .01 degrees even better.

I gather I can connect RS232 to this mount and read the position as well
as command a position.

My questions are:

1) Will the etx work for my app ??
2) Is there a better mount that wont cost 1 arm and two legs ?
3) Has any one written an interface for sat tracking or the like that I
            might rip off ?

Thanks for reading

Dan
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
I'll need more data (such as budget, and which comes first,
the chicken or the egg?)

>1) Will the etx work for my app ??
>2) Is there a better mount that wont cost 1 arm and two legs ?
>3) Has any one written an interface for sat tracking
>    or the like that I  might rip off ?

(1) Will it work?  Maybe... what angular -speeds- do you need?
 (resolution is covered in (2) below)

(3) Chicken/Egg: are you predictively tracking ?
(which is what satellite-trackers do, since they kind'a know the orbits)
Or are you trying to capture the image of the ballon, and then direct
the telescope to follow it? (which i suspect is the case).

If the latter, it's called "autoguiding" in telescope-speak.
And autoguiding usually happens at fairly low speeds (about
10 arcseconds per clock second).
But you can  override the "normal" speed settings with some
autoguiding programs.
Example Autoguiding (extracting their data from a webcam, or
 USB camera) programs are Meade's AutostarSuite ($150 with camera)
and the (i think it's) freewares K3CCD and Guidedog.
Some of the Autoguiding programs also let you extract the guiding/error
data into a file.. so you can combine the position of the telescope
with the off-center offset of the image to gain a to-the-pixel idea
of there the ballon really is.

If you're predictively tracking, Brent Boshart's SatelliteTracker
is an excellent choice.  I forget his URL, but the yahoo group:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/satellitetracker
has him as an active member.


(2) "Better" and "arm/leg".. could you provide a dollar figure?
 (i don't know how much you value your body's components).
An ETX70, if always moving in the same -direction-, can probably
yield 10 arcmin absolute accuracy.  (it will -report- to the arcmin
or arcsec (i'm 2,500 miles from mine, so i can't check)). 
Any two readbacks, with the motor spinning in the same direction
(hence avoiding backlash) will be fairly accurate, with the problem
of individual gear-tooth errors and worm-waver.  
With a suitable testing method, you could pre- or post- measure
the errors of the entire alt/az motion space, and reduce the 
true error to and arcminute "easily" (it would only take time, right?).

Even a $1500 LX200gps mount might have parasitic errors on the order
of an arc minute or two at any one -point- in its motion space.
Since an arcmin is 0.016 degrees, that exceeds your "desired" 
accuracy.  But on -average-, you can point ("GoTo") an LX200gps with an
accuracy of +/-2 arcmin.  Again, the follow-an-object readback can
be much better (+/-2 arcseconds, easily) in a series of no-backlash readings.
IF a piece of grit doesn't land on a gear face.

A far more accurate mount than the ETX70 could be one of Meade's
refurbished LXD55's... which Meade was selling on eBay with a
497 Autostar included for $259.  They're currently selling the
motor/readback units for $100 (RA) and $75 (DEC) at the moment.
Visit Meade's site, and follw the Factory Outlet links.

For the ETX70, you'll either need to BUY a 506 cable/converter unit
to talk to its 494 Autostar, or (better) buy a 497 Autostar
and rig up a 505 cable 
( http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_cable505.html )

The 497 can handle more messages per second than the 494.
(if that's needed).

The ETX70 has only a 60-tooth final drive, and a 36-tooth encoder.
Those combine to a fairly rough readback (but it still has a near
one-arcsec per encoder vane quality). 
Many people adapt DS- motors to home-made final drives, achieving
much higher accuracy than Meade's orginals.. but at the loss of
high-end slew speeds.  Visit RoboScope:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/roboscope
for that crowd, and Steve Bedair's site:
http://bedair.org/ScopeStuff.html 
for the epitome of the art.

LXD55's have 108-tooth encoders, and 144-tooth final drives,
they have less of a gear reduction between motors and motion,
so the per-vane accuracy is only double an ETX's.

As you can see, there are LOTS of variables to play with...

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Boot troubles - 10" LX200GPS (Autostar II)
Sent:	Tuesday, November 16, 2004 11:24:26
From:	jens bisgaard (jsbd@stofanet.dk)
I hope you can help me.

Telescope Meade 10" LX200GPS (Autostar II)

Under update to version 3.0d I have turned off the telescope (turned
circuit off).

I have used ASU 3.61

After this I have no contact to the telescope.

What shall I do to establish (open) the telescope again?
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
For the Autostar II, the magic keystrokes are "999" on the 
keypad, immediately after power-up.

In the Meade Updater, read the Help page on "Damaged Handbox".

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Faulty Autostar?
Sent:	Tuesday, November 16, 2004 01:14:46
From:	Matt Daniels (mdaniels@bernardward.co.uk)
I wonder if you can solve a nagging problem for me. I have a EXT105
which I bought second hand, everything works as it should, however I
wish to connect the scope to my laptop so I can guide the scope with
35mm slr from a piggy backed modified webcam. I have bought a 505 cable
set. All connections were made and I fired up some astro software which
has meade/acom scope control, got the error messages "can't open com
port, check connection and scope power" etc. After many different
combinations, still no communication between scope and laptop. I also
tried a desktop PC to see if the port was the issue, same problem
occurred. Then using the wealth of info on your site I tried the
checking method using Hyper terminal. I got an "X" on initialisation,
but nothing else, I tried the appropriate cable tests, the cable is fine
so this only leaves the Autostar handbox. Any ideas?

Regards Matt Daniels
Mike here: Could be a bad cable; have you checked that? Could also be a port in use problem on the computer side. Check for fax software or other software that keeps the serial port open.
Oops, you said you checked the cable so, another variable would be the Autostar itself. But I still would suspect a port conflict first.

And:

Thanks for the quick reply, device manager says no conflicts, even when
checked by connection. This is the same on both laptop and pc.
Mike here: Well, two different computers and a checked cable. While I still might suspect a Windows problem, it is sounding more like an Autostar problem. If that's the case, you will have to try a different Autostar.

And more:

Further development, tried the self test method described on your site i.e
505 cable plugged into autostar, db9 adapter removed from pc, insert bent
paperclip in holes 2 & 3 on pc end of cable turn autostar on. This made the
screen go blank on the autostar, if I removed the clip from pin 2 the screen
came back, the autostar did not enter the meade selft test as described.
Mike here: Sounding more and more like a bad Autostar.
Subject:	Re: Question:  Autostar 494
Sent:	Monday, November 15, 2004 11:05:44
From:	Violette, Daniel R (daniel.r.violette@boeing.com)
An addition to the note below.  Many years ago I saw a trick I have used
on battery cases and other plastic cases that are glued.  Swab acetone
around the joint.  In a few seconds it will usually pop apart as the
acetone soaks into the joint and releases the adhesive.  Adding a little
more acetone sometimes is needed as some areas come loose faster than
others.  Acetone will remove any paint, ink, other markings and will
soften plastics.  It also dries quickly, so you keep moving and don't
touch the parts after being separated until dry since the plastic is
soft at this stage and will harden back up.

Dan

Richard Seymour said:
> When i took my 494 apart to photograph the insides
> ( http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_schematic.html )
> it was a moderately destructive process...

Subject:	Negative Custom Tracking
Sent:	Friday, November 12, 2004 18:23:47
From:	Stan Shadick (STANLEY.SHADICK@usask.ca)
How are you supposed to enter a negative custom tracking rate using
Autostar II on a Meade LX200GPS scope in equatorial mode?

I can't get the + sign to change to a - sign.

Stan Shadick 
And:
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
The answer is the same for both ETX Autostars and LX200gps Autostars:
use the Left Slew key to position the cursor to the leftmost character
position (under the "+" sign) and then use the SCROLL up/down to change it.

An alternate method is to first choose Lunar Tracking Rate.
That will set "-35" into the Custom Field (setting the "-" for you).
Now you can simply change the number.

have fun
--dick
And:
Thanks for the tip. I will try it tonight.

Stan Shadick

Subject:	etx70-at, #494 Autostar
Sent:	Friday, November 12, 2004 09:02:29
From:	Nicolas Luna (clonedspy@gmail.com)
I am working on a project, I am controlling the telescope (etx70-at)
with an external module. I would like to get a little bit of information
about the GOTO system. I need to know if the system can return me the
position of the telescope on each axes, because I can't let it rotate on
360. I got to have a starting position so it would be nice if the system
could tell me its actual position, this way i wouldn't need some
sensors.

It is possible to get a pdf about technical information for this
telescope? Thank you very much in advance.
-- 
Nicolas Luna
Mike here: Check out the article "LX200 Commands and Autostar" on the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page on the ETX Site. And:
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
If you are using a 494, you need a 506 cable/converter to
convert from rs232 to the AUX bus of the 494.
(it you used an Autostar 495 or 497 (the models with numeric
keypads), then you could use a 505 cable, or build one yourself.

The full serial command set is provided by Meade's PDF document:
http://www.meade.com/support/LX200CommandSet.pdf

To receive the Azimuth and Elevation readings, the commands
are :GZ#  and :GA#  (Azimuth and Altitude)

The 494 and 506 are fairly slow talkers... you are limited to about 65
characters per second. They go at 9600 baud, but the actual total
data rate is slow.
The 495/497 and 505 can communicate at an honest 900 characters
per second, but trying for more than 2 position updates per second
can lead to problems.

have fun
--dick
And:
Thank you. I'll try this.

-- 
Nicolas Luna

Subject:	RE: Backlash  AZ/RA Slewing
Sent:	Friday, November 12, 2004 07:56:47
From:	Marcos Dager (mdager@j2latam.com)
I did what you told me and I did not make a difference I change the
percentage and is the same, when I am Seeing Saturn and move the Az/RA
with the Autostar arrows it first move to the opposite direction and
then moves. The happened in low Speeds, what can I do to improve the
performance of the Scope in Az/Ra?

Thanks again for you help,

Marcos Dager
Mike here: There are some articles on the Helpful Information: Telescope Tech Tips page on Performance Enhancement as well as articles on percentages on the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page. Check those out.
Subject:	What factors affect alignment accuracy other than mechanical
Sent:	Thursday, November 11, 2004 11:28:48
From:	Stephen A Gabelich (sagabelich@raytheon.com)
Up until now, I have been using a manual 10 inch scope for 5 years.  I
recently purchased an ETX-125 primarily for the computer control but
also portability.   So far, I have not had much luck aligning the
telescope; GOTO objects are often outside the field of view.  I
re-trained the scope several times.   And yes, I read your article about
double training etc. Mechanically, the scope seems fine (no OTA slop;
dec seems tight; clutches OK) except for an annoying amount of RA
backlash.   I read your EXT tuneing articles regarding backlash.  The RA
percent was already factory set to %50; increasing it did not seem to
help.   I leveled the tripod using a bubble level.  However, I am
getting conflicting information from Meade and others regarding how
important this is.    I abandoned Easy Align because autostar often
selects stars that are behind trees.   Moreover, I noticed alignment
improves if perform a manual two star alignment.   This leads me to
believe that "time lag" between alinment stars may affect alignment
accuracy.    I have not tried setting the local time to within 2 minutes
as you suggest (no clear nights since reading that tip).   Basically, my
question is this.  what are the parameters that matter most regarding
alignment, how much, and why?.   I suspect the following:

1) location (the city I selected is 14 miles North of my observing site;
the city I selected is Latitude 33.92 degrees; I'm at 33.7 degrees North
Latitude;  0.22 degrees off  . . . Hmmm)
2) time lag during alignment (I'm not sure autostar takes this into
consideration; It take me at least  2 minutes to align; in that time,
the earth rotates approximately 0.5 degrees in that time; Hmmmm)
3) local time (admittedly, I did not set this accurately)
4) centering accuracy (I centered the stars in the eye piece)
5) whether on not the scope reverses direction to find the 2nd alignment
star (not sure if this mattes but I seen to get better results if I
continue in the same direction)
6) level tripod (?)
7) home postion accuracy (?)

Help!

-Steve
Mike here: In my experience, the most important part of the alignment process is the HOME position, which includes leveling of the ETX base. Of course, that assumes you did a CALIBRATE for the current power source, a careful TRAIN DRIVES, and an accurate location and date/time entry. With that said, you can correct HOME position inaccuracy by the centering of the alignment stars. I've used the Autostar successfully with a leveling error of about 10 degrees. I've used the Autostar successfully with only approximate HOME positioning. So, it can correct for these errors. Time lag is not much an issue. if you are having problems I suggest physically picking up the telescope/tripod combination when asked to center the first star (of a two star alignment). Get the star as close to centered as possible, then refine with the Autostar and press ENTER when centered. Do the second star normally. If you are manually picking alignment stars be certain they are about 90 degrees (6 hours) apart and near or on the celestial equator for the best results.
Subject:	Re: Question:  Autostar 494
Sent:	Wednesday, November 10, 2004 22:51:22
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
When i took my 494 apart to photograph the insides
( http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_schematic.html )
it was a moderately destructive process... i used an Xacto razor saw
to cut a short slot (3/8th's inch along each side) at a corner near
the cable, then used that as a wedging point for a screwdriver blade.

With the twisting blade providing force, i then walked along the
entire seam with a 1" putty knife blade to force the glue to let go
(there's a trick to applying force at a -small- point in the glue
joint to break the adhesive bond incrementally, rather than trying
to pop the entire seam at once).

It's -possible- i could have done it without the inital saw-slot,
but i was working with a dead Autostar, so i could be a little more
casual.

You might take this as a golden opportunity to buy a 497 Autostar,
or another 494 (which can frequently be had for $25) on eBay or
from http://www.telescope-warehouse.com/
or  http://www.citlink.net/~optics/  

good luck
--dick

Subject:	Re: gps
Sent:	Wednesday, November 10, 2004 18:08:34
From:	william forbes (wjforbes@comcast.net)
Sorry for the lack of information, I was getting a little ahead of
myself. I got it to work, there was dust in the connector. It is the GPS
6010 receiver. I just got this telescope and never used a GPS or star
finder before. After I first emailed you I sat down and started to read.
I should know better than to try to quick start everything. I just got a
Meade EXT-105EC, with the autostar and GPS with 5 lenes and a tripod for
$400.00. I got  a little ahead of myself. thanks for the quick reply. I
will let you know how I make out.
Thank you very much,
Bill Forbes
And:
From:	Chris Carson (ccarson@pixsoft.ca)
I'd refer Bill to http://www.stargps.ca/manual.htm#trouble and ask him
to contact me with more details.

Thanks,
Chris
And:
Does the light on the GPS receiver illuminate?

There are a lot of trouble-shooting procedures listed at:
http://www.stargps.ca/manual.htm#trouble

... and if they don't solve the problem, you're certainly 
invited to contact Chris, the inventor: ccarson@pixsoft.ca

have fun
--dick

Subject:	gps
Sent:	Wednesday, November 10, 2004 15:56:26
From:	william forbes (wjforbes@comcast.net)
I am not getting any indication that my gps is functioning. when I start
up the autostar it says no gps found, any trouble shooting help.
thanks,
Bill
Mike here: You didn't specify which model Autostar and GPS.
Subject:	Question:  Autostar 494
Sent:	Wednesday, November 10, 2004 15:18:21
From:	Jack O'Connor (jackono2@comcast.net)
The buttons on my Autostar #494 have been getting harder and harder to
push and make something happen.  It's reached the point where I almost
cannot operate the telescope.    A friend of mine who has an LX90 told
me that one of the vendors out there sells a product which can be
applied to the button contacts inside the handbox and makes the handbox
work smooth as silk.  I would like to try this but, for the life of me,
I cannot figure how to take the handbox apart to get at the contacts. 
(I looked at my buddy's, which is an Autostar #497, and there are a set
of screws which can be removed and gain access to the inside of the
handbox but there are no such screws on the 494).  Do you have any
thoughts as to how I can get at the contacts so that I can clean them? 
Or should I just call Meade and order a new handbox?  Thanks
................. Jack
Mike here: You might want to check out the article "Keypad Cleaning" on the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page.
As to opening the case, it appears to be a "pry it open" style; I'm not certain which end to begin with. Perhaps Dick Seymour knows how to open the #494.
Subject:	[none]
Sent:	Tuesday, November 9, 2004 09:01:06
From:	nikos paschalis (paschalis@skt.forthnet.gr)
Hi my name is Nikos i own an LXD55 5'' achromatic refractor, i tried to
connect it with an astrnomical programme(the sky6 , or starry night pro
plus) but i couldn't.What is going wrong the ports and all the other is
ok.

Thanks
Nikos
Mike here: Please read the Email Etiquette item on the ETX (and LXD55) Site Home Page; your message was originally DELETED UNREAD as SPAM due to the empty Subject entry. Thanks for understanding.
I need more info on HOW you are connecting your computer to the telescope, what OS you are using, and what error you are seeing
Subject:	Backlash  AZ/RA Slewing
Sent:	Sunday, November 7, 2004 09:51:01
From:	Marcos Dager (mdager@j2latam.com)
I purchased an ETX 125AT and am getting used to it, but I have noticed 
backslash when changing the AZ direction. This does not occur when
slewing in the ALT direction,  It seams the gears turn for about of a
second before the telescope moves when I am changing directions. I
updated the Autostar with the latest Version 32Ee( I made my own $505
cable with the instructions from your page) I reset it, Calibrate and
retrain the Autostar. Before I updated the Autostar Version the AZ% and
ALt% where 50% now they are in 10% do you think if I change this values
will help?

Thanks you and best regards,

Marcos Dger
Mike here: I would suggest doing the CALIBRATE and TRAIN DRIVES again (don't forget to do both axes when training). Do the training as accurately as possible. If that doesn't make a difference then you could adjust the percentage.
Subject:	Another Question (Aligning)
Sent:	Thursday, November 4, 2004 05:58:53
From:	Nolan, Gregory J. (gjnolan@tva.gov)
I got this off of a yahoo group message (maybe you wrote it, it is
posted by "mike"). COuld you review this and tell if this is a viable
solution with an ETX-105?? Thanks for your time.

Insanely Accurate Alignment in less than 5-Min

For Meade users of auto star or lx-200, most computerized scopes: For
those dragging their scope in and out (not on permanent pier)

Set up your scope to point roughly north. Don't even look through the
telescope for Polaris, just point the scope in the general direction of
north (Your optical tube should be roughly parallel to the fork arms
pointing in the very rough direction of Polaris). Use your GPS or
manually enter the time and date. This can be rough too  in fact on
subsequent nights I skip all these menus. Skip all menus, do no further
alignment, go to "select object", "Star", "named" Select any star that
is visible and somewhere near the ecliptic (not near Polaris), enter it
in, press "enter", "goto". The scope will now slew to some random spot
in the sky (possibly near the star). Loosen the axis locks and
physically move the OTA (your main scope) (do not touch the key pad) get
the target somewhere in the finder FOV and lock the axis locks again.
Press and hold down the enter key for 2 seconds and release. The display
should say, "press enter to synch". Now use the keypad to perfectly
center the star in the main OTA. Press "enter" and the motors will
engage. You've now invested about 2 minutes of time Now set the menus to
"star", "named", "Polaris", "enter", "goto". The scope will slew to
somewhere close to Polaris (you might even get it in the FOV) Now use
the wedge adjustments to center Polaris. Do not touch the keypad. Do not
touch the axis locks. (It is now, that you are polar aligning) use the
wedge adjustments to get Polaris centered as accurately as possible.
While you are now aligned accurately enough at the 3-minute mark, you
are not accurate to the level of insanity. Now, re-enter the original
star (or a different target) and repeat the process. If you slew to the
target and it is not in the finder FOV, loosen the axis locks, center
the star rough, and tighten, otherwise if it is already in the FOV, go
right to holding down enter for 2 seconds, release, "press enter to
synch" will read in the display. Use the keypad to center the target
perfectly and re-synch (press enter). Slew back to Polaris and make your
final adjustments to your wedge (center Polaris perfectly with your
wedge adjustments). That should take you to the 5-minute mark. To check
your work, pick any target or the same target and hit enter. If the star
does not land as accurately in the exact center of the field as all your
other adjustments, feel free to take an additional minute to re-center,
resynch, and back at Polaris (which by now will definitely be near the
center of the field) massively tweak your alignment.

Don't believe this is accurate? Leave the scope alone for as long as you
like (I have performed a 2 hour test and on my return to the scope,
could detect NO up or down motion (only side to side  indicative of the
motor drive).

Hope this helps 
Mike

I didn't research your site before sending this, so you may have already
seen this before. 

Thank you,

 Greg Nolan
Mike here: It wasn't me. For polar mounted scopes this will work. But I find that my normal Autostar alignments (polar or Alt/Az) take well less than 5 minutes and work very accurately. For more on alignment tips, see the Helpful Information: Autostar Info page.
Subject:	Problems with Autostar Ascii command
Sent:	Tuesday, November 2, 2004 08:38:08
From:	rmi dallmayr (Remi.Dallmayr@cea.fr)
My name is Rmi Dallmayr and I work for a research institute in France.
We use a LX200gps to develop a new lidar system and I need to command
the both motors in altitude and azimuth.

To do this, I have to define a target by its coordinates, using an
altitude and an azimuth. The ascii commands I saw in the Meade Telescope
Serial Command  Protocol are the following:

1) Definition of the target altitude and azimuth
  :SasDD*MM#
  :SzDDD*MM#
2) Slew to target
  :MA#

The movement is correct in azimuth, but the altitude target is not
understand by the scope. Is the altitude target command wrong?

When I use the autostar control soft, I define an altitude and an
azimuth with the "GoTo" function and both movements run correctly.

I've tried to see wich commands are sent to the scope by the soft, but
all is in binary format and I can't understand.

That's why I sent this message to you, I need to see wich altitude
target command is send by the soft, or the right ascii command.

Thank you very much to give me an answer as soon as possible.
Rmi Dallmayr.
And:
From:	Richard Seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Yes.  Meade's v2.0i firmware does not perform properly.
My patch kit makes the :MA# command work,
but (as you discovered) the :Sa  command is also broken.

If you upgrade to v3.0d (the current version on Meade's site),
you will find that the :MA# command now works, and the :Sa
command works for +positive+ values of angles.
(i can send  :Sa2*00#:Sz335*00#:MA#   and it goes there.
It will not go to :Sa-15*00#:Sz335*00#:MA#  )

:Sa still does not work for negative altitudes.

If your Lidar system does not require the full range of Elevation
motion, you could "power up" the telescope with the OTA lower than
"true level", and simply apply that offset to your commands.

I will send a note to Meade, and i will see if i can patch v3.0d
to operate correctly.

have fun
--dick
And more:
An alternate method (to avoid the "no negative altitude")
is to move with the :Ms# command, and use feedback to
stop at the correct angle.

:Ms# :GA#  :GA#  :GA#  :GA#  :Q#

You can change the speeds (v3.0d adds the :Rn# command,
with "n" being the keypad key number for the speeds)
between each motion command.

:Ms# :GA# :R3#:Ms#  :GA#  :GA#  :R1#:Ms#   :GA#  :Q#

I have analyzed some of the LX200gps program,
and they do correctly parse the "-" in a :Sa command,
i have not yet found the travel limitation section.

good luck
--dick
And this:
Rmi has found a work-around by using the
undocumented  :EK serial
commands to "key in" his Alt/Az coordinates.
He monitored the characters being sent by Autostar Suite,
and decrypted the various codes used by Remote Handbox.
The :Sa  serial command may not work,
but you -can- enter negative Altitudes via the 
keypad's direct-coordinates method
(hold [mode] 3 sec, release, scroll to Alt/Az,
tap [GoTo], enter an Altitude, tap [enter],
enter an Azimuth, tap [enter] and it'll go there.
To read the Altitude's sign from the keypad, use the 
left slew key to move the cursor to it, then scroll up/down
to change it.  With the :EK serial commands, i think you
can just key it in (but i haven't tried it myself).
You can certainly mimic the above slew/scroll dance.

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Curious Go-To Failure on ETX 125
Sent:	Tuesday, November 2, 2004 20:48:46
From:	Steven Hendley (shendley@bsc.edu)
I've got an ETX 125 that's been functioning almost flawlessly, but when
I sent it to find Andromeda last night when it was almost straight up in
the sky it failed to find it on three attempts (and I suspect it was
pretty far off as I used spiral search to search around the area and
found nothing). I had my autostar on high precision search and it worked
flawlessly with a few other deep sky objects (and found every star I
sent it to flawlessly) and it even found Andromeda earlier in the
evening when it was not straight overhead. Does the ETX have a hard time
finding things straight overhead? This is just a guess on my part as I
can't figure out why it would work so well on everything else and fail
in just this one instance.

On a completely different note I thought I'd give you a follow up on a
problem I wrote to you earlier about 3 different 125s I bought from the
Discovery Store in my town. Each had serious problems with the "motor
unit fault" and I was at wits end when I called Meade and got a very
supportive person on the phone who offered to pay shipping on sending it
back to them to look at. When I got it back it worked like a charm
(except for this curious Andromeda incident). I've heard some ambiguous
things about Meade's support service but I was really pleased with the
way they handled this problem. And I LOVE my ETX!

And thanks for maintaining this web site. It's really essential reading
for all of us ETX owners.

Steve

Steven Hendley
Professor of Philosophy
Executive Editor, Sartre Studies International
Birmingham-Southern College
Birmingham, AL
Mike here: I don't recall any oddities being reported at the Zenith. Couple of questions: what version do you have and what mounting mode?

And:

I'm not sure what version of autostar I have - I bought the telescope
and autostar just this summer, though, so I imagine its a pretty recent
version. I was using an Alt-AZ mount.
Mike here: Go to the Setup: Statistics menu item and scroll until you see the full version number. Version 3.2Ei is the latest on Meade's site (http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html). The problem could be a bug that was fixed in the latest release. You might update to the current version; you will need Windows, a #505 cable (which you can make or buy), and a RS-232 serial port on your computer. Once you update, be certain to RESET, CALIBRATE, and TRAIN DRIVES again.

And:

Thanks, I'll give it a try!

Subject:	autostar time
Sent:	Tuesday, November 2, 2004 01:13:42
From:	Ron Nagel (pedendo18@comcast.net)
oops. how do i change the autostar from military time to 12 hour time? i
have no clue why it is now asking for military time thanks ron
Mike here: When the display is asking you to set the time, move the cursor to the PM setting and use the UP/DOWN arrows to scroll to AM or BLANK. When showing neither PM nor AM, it is set for 24 hour time. This setting is remembered.
Subject:	adjusting percetages
Sent:	Sunday, October 31, 2004 20:55:57
From:	Peter Spiessberger (pspiessberger@udtrucks.com.au)
Just wanted to say wow what a web site I have learnt so much from it
well done .

In reference to changing azimuth percent and altitude percent can this
exercise be done in doors Or do I have to have the scope (etx90) set up
for aligning ?? I manly use polar alignment , I live in Australia and it
is cloudy at the moment in Sydney and was reading your tune up guide I
have a Nice tight scope but I have a little slack in both axis and at
the moment I checked the default Setting on my autostar and it is at 50%
in az and alt and would like to try adjusting these . I thought while it
is cloudy I could do this inside if possible .

Many thanks Mike

Cheers   

Peter Spiessberger
Mike here: Yes, you can adjust percentages indoors; you just need to check the movement against a distant object.

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