AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK
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Last updated: 26 June 2008

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, 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:	Autostar documentation
Sent:	Tuesday, June 24, 2008 18:32:06
From:	David Shouldice (davidspixx@yahoo.com)
What you have done with the Autostar is awesome.
You are a god!!
David

I will try use a small percentage of your information.
Thanks again
David
Mike here: I don't take credit for it. Meade, Dick Seymour, Dr. Clay Sherrod, and many many MANY other contributors to the Site get the credit.
Subject:	EXT will not easy align
Sent:	Tuesday, June 24, 2008 08:54:42
From:	Gary Graul (Gary.Graul@bunge.com)
I have followed all the instructions and your tips on the EXT 125 EC
that I recently purchased used. I can not get it to easy align and when
slewing it never goes near to the star. I do have trouble getting it
perfectly level because the hill I live on. Could this be the reason?
Also wondering since this is an older EXT model could it because the
autostar needs to be updated? I have trained it several times and this
seems to work well. I am very new to the whole world of telescopes so I
figure that there must be something obvious I am missing. Any help would
be appreciated.

Gary Graul
St. Louis
Mike here: The AutoStar can handle the telescope base being not level by several degrees however for best results it should be level. Some questions: Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR? If not, do that and then redo the TRAIN DRIVES. If that doesn't help, do a RESET, CALIBRATE MOTOR, and TRAIN DRIVES. Also, be certain that your location and date/time/Daylight Saving settings are correct. If none of this helps, provide more information on the problem.

And:

Thanks so much for the help. It worked perfect last night although I was
unable to find deep sky objects. I also found that when slewing to an
object it did not get it directly in the center as you mentioned in one
of your posts. Not finding deep sky objects may be due to the light
pollution here in St. Louis or the fact that I was a little off. We did
get to look at Saturn and Mars however. Concerning magnification. What
is the highest realistic magnification you have been able to use with
the 125? I currently have a 26mm and a 2X Barlow.

Thanks again for all your help. My 7 yr old daughter was amazed at this
whole new world that was opened up.

Gary
Mike here: See the item "Q. How do I calculate eyepiece magnification? What is the max?" on the FAQ page. You can actually exceed the max (sometimes) on bright objects, like the Moon.
Subject:	LX-90 stops tracking after 43eg update rev 17
Sent:	Monday, June 23, 2008 18:42:41
From:	Dave Leiner (dave@theleiners.com)
I updated the latest Meade firmware in my 497 controller to the 43gg rev
17 patch. Everything went normally as it has many times. However, after
I do the alignment, the LX-90 slowly drifts off the final alignment star
or any other object. It apparently is not tracking at all, although all
other functions, including GoTo operate normally. I've looked at
relevant settings like tracking rate and all look fine. I did not
install the patch that turns tracking on and off with Key1, that's not
the problem. Also, I tried both the version on your site and the StarGPS
version with exactly the same result. When I install the original 43eg,
everything works normally. Any ideas?

BTW, thank you for your great site. I've used it many times over the
years with great success, and this is the first time I've been totally
stumped.

--Dave
Mike here: Did you do a TRAIN DRIVES following the software update? If not, try that.

And:

Yes, I trained them after the first update I tried. Also, if that was
the problem, I would think reverting to the 43eg update wouldn't cure
it.

Unfortunately, I can't train the drives right now anyway since I dropped
my controller so the second line of the display isn't working. Know of
any place to obtain spare parts/broken 497 controllers to scavenge an
LCD? Hate to spend all that money for a new controller when this one is
certainly fixable.
Mike here: You can sometimes find broken or used AutoStars on eBay. Also try Telescope Warehouse (link on the Astronomy Links page).

And:

Thanks again, Mike.

Subject:	Park LX-90 pointing up?
Sent:	Monday, June 23, 2008 18:53:20
From:	Dave Leiner (dave@theleiners.com)
Now that I've started asking questions, I thought of another:

Is there any way to automatically park an LX-90 pointing up? Some of the
items in the latest patch kit may allow this but I didn't understand
them all clearly enough.

I do this in order to cover my scope between sessions. I've been
pointing it up and then releveling it the next time I use it, but it
would be nice to skip this step.

Thanks!

--Dave
Mike here: There is no standard option for this. As to Dick Seymour's patches, I'll let him respond.
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Polar or Alt/AZ?

The patch kit provides for pointing a Polar mounted scope at
either the current Polar park, but with the DEC at zero instead of 90
(so pointing towards the ground, on the pole side of your mount),
*or* at DEC=zero, and with the RA rotated to point due East.

I actually don't know if it's feasible to point "straight up"
in either Polar or Alt/Az... it will take a moderate amount of
digging to see how to do it.

So i'm not even going to -start- looking until i hear what mount style
Dave is using, since the code paths are quite different.

have fun
--dick

And:

Dave Leiner wrote:
Alt/Az

Ouch... that makes the Park Straight Up much tougher.
(the normal Park position is "zero/zero" for Alt/Az,
so the program simply clears the bytes involved.
That takes very few, very brief, instructions in the code.
Actually -setting- values (both before (destination) and
after (where am i? at power-up) requires many more instructions.)

I'll look, but it may take a long while (if ever).
((but sometimes sneaky work-arounds can happen))

have fun
--dick

Subject:	Will 494 & 497 controllers....
Sent:	Thursday, June 19, 2008 19:06:23
From:	stange34@sbcglobal.net
Will both the 494 & 497(5?) controllers retain the settings "train
motors" "arrow speeds" for example in memory, IF the controller is
removed from the telescope, OR IF the batteries are removed?

'Nother words does it have any internal charged component to retain
memory?

Thank You, Larry 
Mike here: The settings are retained when power is removed. Same for location, etc.

And:

Thanks for the VERY FAST previous answer Mike !!

Now I just discovered one of my two AutoStar single arm mounts has a
large memory battery back behind the "AA" battery pack ! This mount had
the 497(5?) 20 button controller on it. Any idea what that battery is
used for?

Thanks again, Mike. -Larry
Mike here: What telescope model? I'm not familiar with any "memory battery pack" that comes as standard equipment.

And:

It is a DS2000 series model that had a 4" refractor. Probably DS2100.

The memory battery area is labeled "Battery is factory installed" and it
is original machining inside the housing, not an add-on by anyone.

Round battery is a CR2032.

Larry
Mike here: I downloaded the DS-2000 manual from Meade's site and I see a reference to a clock battery (CR2023).

And:

That explains it Mike.

I found only slight reference to a 3V lithium battery under a model DS
2080LNT on the net. Apparently the base mount keeps real time
then....for the controller.

Larry
Mike here: Seems to be what the manual says. Grab it for more information.
Subject:	re: Autostar 497 Display
Sent:	Monday, June 16, 2008 21:28:34
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
Sometimes the flat cable feeding the display comes loose
(or is ever so slightly askew).

You could try opening the Autostar and -carefully-
unlatch (see below), pull out (a little bit), reseat
and then latch the cable back into position.

The cable is held on the circuit card by a "zero insertion
force" connector.  It has a delicate plastic latch in the
form of a collar on the cable.  It's normally snug against
the connector body.  To release it, use the tip of a knife
blade to -slightly- and -gently- push the locking ring
away from the connector body.. NOT FAR!  about 1 millimeter
(half of a tenth of an inch) along the cable.  The latching
ring stays attached to the connector body, but will have
released its holding force on the cable.
Now you can gently and flatly pull the cable away from the
connector.  Now slide it back in, being careful to have it
perpendicular to the edge of the connector.  When it
bottoms out inside the connector, hold it there and
re-seat the latch by pushing the latch back against the
connector body.

Reassemble and test.

Photos of an opened Autostar at:
http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_schematic.html
good luck
--dick

Subject:	Autostar 497 Display
Sent:	Saturday, June 14, 2008 15:21:18
From:	Jim Harper (jim.harper.color@gmail.com)
I have a 497 autostar in which it seems everything is working, but the
display does not show any characters.  The backlight for the display is
working.  It drives the motors ok on the telescope.  I tried opening it
up and unplugging the ribbon cable and plugging it back in, but that did
not affect.  Any thoughts?
Mike here: Have you tried changing batteries on the telescope? If the display is working but no characters are showing I suspect you will have to replace it. However, you might try adjusting the display contrast and brightness, which you will have to do "blindly" since you can see no text. Check the manual for the key presses you will have to do.

And:

Mike, Thank you for the suggestion.  I am using an external 12 volt
adapter that is fully charged.  I will try to find my way to the
contrast and brightness controls.  But on startup I see no hint of
letters on the screen.  Is there a reset that might help?
Mike here: You could navigate "blindly" to the RESET menu item. Alternatively, you could try the technique discussed in the article "AutoStar RESET from Software" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page; that requires that you have the #505 serial cable and a working RS-232 serial connection on your computer (or a USB-serial adapter).

And:

Thanks, will give it a shot.

And:

Found the brightness and contrast.  Brightness increases and decreases,
but contrast has no effect.  Looks like the LCD is bad or whatever
controls it is bad.  Thanks for your help.

Jim

Subject:	Re: local sidereal time problem
Sent:	Sunday, June 8, 2008 18:44:08
From:	julie clayton (manyworldscross@yahoo.com)
The error message from the sky is that the 'Local Sidereal time in the
sky does not match the LST in autostar'.  I haven't figured out how to
get into the time zones / longitude-latitude of autostar.  Am sure that
I have the time set correctly and DST is selected.
Many thanks.
Mike here: Perhaps the software wants the AutoStar set for GMT (no Time Zone adjustment)?

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
You wrote:
> Still have an issue to work out with local siereal times not matching
> up.  Autostars is showing up as 06 28 49; Sky is showing up as 14 22 06.

This could be a bug in the Autostar's firmware.
To help diagnose, a few details, please:
(a) polar or alt/az mounted?
(b) method of alignment (auto, easy, two-, one-star, other)?
(c) firmware version? (Setup/Statistics/[enter][scroll up])
(d) date/time/site of error? (so we can duplicate it)
(e) anything else you can think of :-)

Very old versions of  the firmware had a similar issue.  Meade fixed it,
but the newest LX200gps firmware has a similar-symptom, different-cause
bug that we haven't had a chance to explore for in the 497 Autostar (yet).

have fun
---dick
From:	julie clayton (manyworldscross@yahoo.com)
I think I figured out the LST problem.   The Sky requests a time zone;
for Pacific, I had entered '-8'.  After reading through some of the
other time-related issues, found that I should only enter '8'.   I
changed that and gave it another try.  Did not have the opportunity to
verify everything because of the cloudy weather, but at least got past
the LST issue, I think.  Hope to get outside and confirm everything this
weekend.

Here is the info you requested just in case it might help some other
troubleshooting situation:
 
> To help diagnose, a few details, please:
> (a) polar or alt/az mounted?  alz/az
> (b) method of alignment (auto, easy, two-, one-star, other)? two (it
was a dummy alignment using Thuban and Vega
> (c) firmware version? (Setup/Statistics/[enter][scroll up]) 43eg
> (d) date/time/site of error? (so we can duplicate it); 06/09/08, 7:30pm, Bend, Oregon
> (e) anything else you can think of :-)  followed the instructions
precisely from this web site with the exception of two star alignment:
http://www.bisque.com/help/TheSkyV6/telescope/Telescope.htm#Autostar_by_Meade_Instruments_Corporation_1.htm
 
Many thanks as always for the wonderful support.
Julie

Subject:	re: Meade ETX-125PE Autostar usage question 
Sent:	Wednesday, June 4, 2008 21:37:31
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
> The LNT does not have a clock per se unless you have the Atomic Clock module add-on.

Actually, it does... the LNT contains a typical "time of year" (TOY)
chip, similar to what keeps a PC clock alive when it's off.

Yes, there is an Atomic Time module, but its job is to -set- that
clock chip (which can drift quite a bit in a month).

However, as Mike wrote, you do have to set the time and date
to actually set that clock.  And your Site selection will
tell the Autostar your local time zone... the LNT operates
with whatever Time Zone the Autostar has been asked to use.
If you wanted to operate in UTC, you'd set the Zone to zero.
(Time Zone is under the Setup/Site/Edit  menu)

have fun
--dick
Mike here: That is why I said it didn't have a clock. But the analogy to a PC clock is a good one.
From:	patric9956@aol.com (patric9956@aol.com)
Yes, it does have an on-board clock, although I am not sure if I have
the atomic clock module.  I think my problem was with not setting the
time.  The date was on - but the time was not.

It had been a long day pulling stumps at Mom's house, so to tell the
truth I was not all that sharp that night.  Next time with the location,
time and date set up properly and with the drive calibrated - I should
have better results.  Now I just have to wait for the clouds to clear.

Thanks again.

Patrick
Mike here: The Atomic Clock Module is an optional purchase add-on. It connects to the LNT via a cable.

And:

I always recommend playing with the scope during the day,
went it's bright (and cloudy) and you're awake and able
to see (and think) straight.  You can set the time, do
"dummy" alignments (watch it whirr, explore the menus,
poke and prod) and otherwise...

have fun
--dick
Mike here: I second that!

And:

Thanks Mike, from your description I definitely do not have the atomic
clock module.
Mike here: I suspect that very few LNT owners have it.
Subject:	Meade ETX-125PE Autostar usage question 
Sent:	Tuesday, June 3, 2008 16:46:53
From:	patric9956@aol.com (patric9956@aol.com)
You had assisted me in the past troubleshooting a ETX-125PE that turned
out to be defective.  I had gotten a replacement scope at the end of
April and had brought that scope to upstate NY during vacation.  I had
gotten very lucky and had an exceptionally clear night with a new moon,
so I was anxious to try out the new scope.

Problem was, I was not successful in getting the autostar aligned
properly.  The autostar tour program was not even in the neighborhood
for the first two "brightest" objects - that is Mars and Saturn.

Here are my questions.  When the setup program tells you to point the
telescope north - do they mean in a northerly direction or aim the scope
at the north star?

Also, how important is it to have the exact time entered into the setup
program.  Since my scope has the LNT technology - it has a brain preset
to (I presume) universal time.  I noticed that the time displayed was
several hours off of local time.  Should I have punched in local time
into the setup program?  I am thinking that I should have (in
hindsight).

Also, I tried many of the setup routines (automatic and two star)
without achieving any satisfaction.  When the scope points at an area of
the sky and tells me to pinpoint it on a bright star - does it mean any
bright star in the sky or to locate one in the general direction the
scope is pointing?

I sort of feel like I have made this alignment routine more difficult
than it needs to be.  If you have a FAQ that already addresses my
questions, please direct me to it.

As always, thank you for your consideration of my questions.

Patrick
Mike here: For the non-Auto align modes you place the telescope in the non-LNT Home position: tube horizontal, control panel on the west side, and the telescope rotated counterclockwise to the hard stop and back to True North. You do NOT point the telescope at the North Star (Polaris) (assuming Alt/Az mode). For Auto Align you do the same thing EXCEPT leave the telescope at the CCW hard stop and start the LNT Auto Align process. The LNT does not have a clock per se unless you have the Atomic Clock module add-on. You might have to set the local time on the AutoStar. Be certain you have the proper location and Daylight Saving settings as well. For more information on the non-Auto Align modes see the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. For more on the LNT see the Helpful Information: Telescope Tech Tips page. Also, be certain you have done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES.

And:

I printed this out and will use it as a guide during my next attempt. 
Thank you and take care.

Patrick

Subject:	Minimum Alt Limit
Sent:	Tuesday, June 3, 2008 06:34:21
From:	mhogansr@comcast.net (mhogansr@comcast.net)
Is there any way to set a minimum limit for Alt on the ETX 125? Two
nights ago, I was tracking Jupiter when I was called away on something
important and left the scope unattended for several hours. When I
finally got back, the OTA had driven all the way down and was hard
against the base, making a periodic clicking sound. I thought I might
have damaged something but after resetting and running some tests, it
seems to be working OK.

I know there is a programmable 'soft' limit for max Alt to protect focal
plane attachments but can't find anything for minimum. Am I overlooking
something?
 
Regards,
Mike Hogan

From our resident AutoStar expert:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
None of the Autostarred scopes check for travel limits during
plain old sidereal tracking. (including the LX200gps, etc).
In fact, Andrew Johansen recently determined that the 497 Autostars
don't even keep -track- of where they are during sidereal operations
unless you have the Alt/Az or RA/DEC display running.

If you have to leave the scope, the safest thing to do is to
pop the Autostar into the:   Utilities/Sleep Scope [enter]
state before you leave it.  This stops the motors and
turns off the lights.  The Autostar keeps track of alignment
and passing time, so when you tap the mythical "any" key
(-except- [enter]) ((i use "?" or zero)) it wakes up and
sidereal tracking instantly resumes.

Many folks have discussed putting limit switches to kill the
power when the scope moves into dangerous territory, but very
few have actually done it (in fact, i can't think of an example).

The same problem affects Polar mounted folks... an unattended
scope will happily spin in RA for days.. or until it hits
something (like an internal hard stop, or the floor or wall)
or wraps and rips the various cables it's attached to from
whatever expensive gadget they're tied to.

have fun
--dick
(memo: it's more important to stay with the scope than to
leave it and go indoors.  Now convince the rest of the family
of that fact. :-)

And:

Thanks very much for the info guys.
Dick, is it feasible to develop a patch to add this function to the
Autostar firmware? Maybe modifying the existing code for the 'Max' limit
to include an additional comparison for a 'Min' value. Since it probably
would only be necessary to set it one time, entering the value during 
an update would eliminate the need for an I/O routine in the Autostar
menu. Just a thought.

I'm curious about the Autostar not keeping track of it's position in the
sidereal mode. If you stop the track and 'goto' a different object, it
obviously has to know where it is in order to know where to go. The
current position must be saved and updated somehow, even if just the
number of encoder counts away from "Home".

Anyway, thanks again for the info and I'll try to pay more attention to
what the scope is doing instead of the numerous distractions.

Regards,
Mike Hogan

And:

The Max and Min values are for GoTo operations (you don't see the
Min in the 497 Autostar, but it's hiding in there).
Your original request was for sidereal tracking limits, and that's
probably far beyond my style of patching (deft tweaks, not major
modification of how it runs)

> I'm curious about the Autostar not keeping track of it's position
> in the sidereal mode. If you stop the track and 'goto' a different
> object, it obviously has to know where it is in order to know where
> to go. The current position must be saved and updated somehow,
> even if just the number of encoder counts away from "Home".

Right... but it doesn't bother to -do- that accounting unless
asked by a remote command or by having the Alt/Az display active.
Prior to being asked, it merely accumulates encoder results.
Although there might be a simple conversion between encoder and
(let's say) Alt, that wouldn't solve the Polar users' problems.
Even for Alt, we would not necessarily be looking for a "zero"
crossover, since the encoder's precision may force a rollover
in the Autostar's value.
(of course, as i -write- this, possible tweaks -do- come to mind. hmmm....)

> Anyway, thanks again for the info and I'll try to pay more attention
> to what the scope is doing instead of the numerous distractions.

One can buy and/or build flexible switches (think rubber hose with
conductive strips inside) that the descending telescope would hit
just before hitting the base... the squeezed tube would "make" the
circuit closure, and that could trigger a power-cut.
Or a normally closed pushbutton at the right spot.
Far more failsafe than Autostar programming.

have fun
--dick (hmmm... would checking the position every 5 seconds be
sufficient? It would if we just cared about "horizontal")

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