Last updated: 31 March 2007
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: Putting Comets In Autostar 497 Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 06:22:32 From: Cafarella, Edward M. (email@example.com) I know this is probably a question for Dick, but here goes. I've been desperately trying to put comet 2006 VV2 in my Autostar the past few days and I don't think I've been successful. I found the relevant information on the Harvard website http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/Ephemerides/Unusual/Soft16Unusual.txt and copied the line for VV2 to my computer as a text file. I then tried two ways to get it into Autostar: the first was to import it form the file menu in the ASU program. The program asked me the right question (type of object) and I replied "comet" then hit OK. and the box went away. But after that, nothing. The comet didn't appear in the left hand box and I don't know if it loaded or not. I went ahead and saved to the handbox but it wasn't there. The second way I did it was to drag and drop the file to the ASU program. Same thing happened, I answered "comet" as the type and nothing happened after that. I also tried to manually enter the info following the procedures on your site but one of the items the Autostar was asking me to input was not listed in the instructions. I can't remember (I'm at work now) what it was but it was either the second or third item the Autostar asks for. Any idea on what I'm doing wrong? Thanks EdMike here: I haven't done that in recent versions but the article "Adding Comets" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page might help. Also the articles "How to use the 3.x Updater" and "How to use the Updater: Manipulating Libraries" will probably help.
Thanks Mike, I actually figured it out. I mistakenly put VV2 in as a comet and it's an asteroid! Funny thing about it is that the updater won't alert you of that mistake, it just does nothing. Thanks again, Ed
Subject: Rubber banding Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 05:42:10 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com) I am experiencing rubber banding with my ETX 125. I understand the procedure to correct this is to: 1) RESET 2) RE-CALIBRATE 3) RE-TRAIN 4) RE-SET PERCENTAGES (only if necessary). I had my scope Supercharged by Dr. Clay a few years ago and had several touring programs installed in the AutoStar. My question is, if I do a Reset, will it wipe out all those touring programs? Is there another procedure to fix the rubber banding without doing a Reset? Dr. Clay provided a copy of the touring programs on a CD but I do not have any of the cables needed to download them from my computer to the AutoStar, if Resetting does erase them. Jack FoxMike here: A RESET returns the AutoStar to its factory default condition. So the tours will be erased. However, you do NOT need to always to the RESET step; just a TRAIN DRIVES will usually cure the rubberbanding. If TD doesn't cure it, then a CALIBRATE MOTOR followed by the TRAIN DRIVES is in order. Only if necessary should the RESET be done, followed by the CM and TD steps. As to a cable, you can easily make a #505 serial cable (see the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page). If your computer has only USB you will need a serial-USB adapter but not all work with the AutoStar Update application (see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page for more on this).
I will follow the instructions without doing the RESET. If these procedures do not improve the problem, I would rather keep the tours and live with the rubberbanding. Jack
Subject: LX-90 10" tracking erraticness ? Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2007 14:41:45 From: Mika Maanselka (firstname.lastname@example.org) I'm a LX-90 10" owner from Finland, Europe and I've been checking you webpages. So thanks for the great page's! I was wondering if you could help me out with a problem that I have on my LX-90. When using ALT/AZ configuration for viewing, tracking is great. The other day I aligned the scope with "Two Star" alignement (Alkaid and Capella) and me and my friend grilled some chicken while starting our observation night. Before eating, I had slewed the scope to M-101 and we ate + drink wine for over an hour and after that, looking into the ocular, M-101 was still dead center. Now I received my Polar Wedge (ultra wedge) and I have tried to do some photography. Unfortunately I find it impossible to get the scope to track even nearly accurately in polar mode. I am very familiar with "drift alignement" and doing that doesn't help. I keep getting "Pole is less than 5'" info after "two star" alignement succeeding drift alignement but testing the tracking using Alkaid as the reference star, it keeps bouncing erraticly through the R.A axis (first it "rubber bands to the left and then to the right and so forth"). I can recenter it using only the left and right keys on the autostar... I'm getting really desperate with my scope that has costed a lot of money and can't track on polar mode nearly as well as my previous 400 dollar Maksutov. Please help me Obi-Wan Kenobi.... :) Best Regards Mika Maanselka Amateur astronomer, Kerava, Finland, EuropeMike here: You might try a One Star Alignment in Polar Mode to get the Polar Axis lined up on the North Celestial Pole. Then do a Two Star alignment. I do this with my LXD75-8"SC and it really seems to help. Also, while it isn't supposed to be required, doing a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES in Polar Mode might alleviate the rubberbanding and tracking oddities (unless there is a mechanical reason such as the axes locks are too tight or the system is somewhat out of balance when on the wedge).
Thank's for your reply. In the case of my telescope, the tracking problem persisted altought polar alignement was perfect (perfected it with the good old drift alignement). It's as the RA motor is not running constant speed, as if it is going slower / faster on and off. Have you ever heard of tracking motor speed fluctuation problems in Meade LX series ? Best Regards Mika Maanselka PS. Also tried the one star alignement and two star alignement after that. The result was pretty much the same as with drift alignement. One thing I noticed when troubleshooting this issue is that when I set the Autostar "Targets" to "Terrestial" (disable tracking), and press MODE for a few seconds to get the coordination display visible, the RA value keeps running slowly (the decimal digit changes by one about every three seconds. I interpit that to mean that the axis is turning altought it shouldn't be ?Mike here: I haven't tracked the LX90 models that closely. Maybe dirty encoders?
Subject: Autostar download problems-ETX 125EC and a Mac. Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 02:53:26 From: email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) Hope you can help. I have not used my 125 for a couple of years following a house move so thought I'd update and then start again. First, with Meade cabling and a Keyspan Mini Port Replicator (UPR112) , with the latest driver, I tried Virtual PC6 running Windows 2000 Professional. The Mac is an iBook G3 900 Mhz. I downloaded ASU and worked through that. The Mac was set not to go to sleep. Autostar is 497 with Handbox version 2.0a. Every time I tried to update I got a message during the update process telling me to "check cable, try different port then powercycle Autostar and try again". I tried with updates 4.2g and 43ed. I was only able to attempt second and subsequent updates by powering up the Autorstar holding down the Enter and Scroll down keys as without doing this the Autostar handset screen was blank. In desperation I then tried AutorstarX in OSX 10.4.9 with the same hardware but with the latest Mac driver for the Keyspan only to be told each time that the Autostar had not responded to the restart command. I have spoken to my UK Meade dealer (and they don't like Macs) who say that the handset must have been corrupted from a faulty download and that I need a new handset costing 150. So Mike, is it a new handset or do you have a solution for me? Look forward to hearing from you, Chris King.Mike here: I haven't tried AutostarX with 10.4.9 (but will this weekend). I have used my Keyspan Twin Serial adapter and it worked fine from VPC6 and AutoStarX. You might try the StarGPS (www.stargps.ca) application in VPC and see if it communicates any better. I don't think you need a new handset.
Thanks Mike. Tried to download StarGPS a few times but each one contained errors. I have a horrible feeling that VirtualPC has the problems. I'll do a reinstall. Thanks again, Chris King.Mike here: I haven't tried VPC 6 under 10.4; VPC 7 works fine (but haven't tried the AutoStar Update from there since I use AutoStarX for all my uploads). You could download StarGPS from the Mac side and then move it to a shared folder. Don't install from the shared folder however; copy it to the VPC Windows "hard disk".
Many thanks for your help and information. Chris King.
Subject: Sun As An Asteroid Autostar Update Sent: Saturday, March 24, 2007 18:34:35 From: Edward Cafarella (email@example.com) Hi, I downloaded the "sun as an asteroid" file from your website and put it on my ETX 125PE's Autostar. When I went to access it on my scope and went to the asteroid directory, the "sun" was the only asteroid listed. I was wondering if other asteroids should be there and I accidentally deleted them or is that menu normally blank? If I deleted them, how would I get them back and also have the sun on there? Thanks Ed
And from our resident AutoStar expert:
From: Richard Seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) Yes, unless you followed the steps in my guide to using the Updater, http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/guide-libraries.html you can erase all other User Objects. The short "how to avoid" is: start updater click [retrieve data from handbox] make the changes to the right-side window click [send data to handbox]. I suspect you skipped the [retrieve] step, so you totally overwrote the handbox with whatever was on the right side (i.e. one Asteroid known as "Sun".) You -also- wiped out your Comets, Satellites, Tours, User Objects... You -can- recover (or at least "refill" with new data). Do the "retrieve" per above. Then, on the Updater, drop the "File" menu bar. Choose "Get objects from WWW" Click and choose what you'd like. The problem will be "far too much!" than too little. Fetch Tours, too. When you've shuffled what you want to the handbox side, then click [send]. I -also- use the File menu to "Save handbox" data to a file on my disk, in case i need to recover from other, um, excursions. good luck --dick
Thanks for your help Dick and Mike, I managed to get the Tours back on and the Sun as an asteroid. I see what you mean regarding the others: way too much stuff to fit in the tight memory of the Autostar. Is there a "recommended" list somewhere of comets, asteroids, satellites, etc. to put on there? Or do you just kind of put on what you may want to view later? Is there a list of the objects Meade included on the Autostar form the factory? Thanks again for your help. Ed
For asteroids, i go for the "lower numbered" ones, since they're within range of the ETX (Ceres, Vesta, etc). For Comets, it's harder.. you might put a few of the short-period ones in, or simply a few biggies (There's Halley, but it's too dim to see). Then add new ones from the keypad as they're announced. The "how to add a comet manually" is on Mike's site, too: http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_comets.html and http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_converting_elements.html I also toss in a number of satellites, since they're fun to chase. A visit to www.heavens-above.com gives nightly lists of what's easily visible. I don't have the current "factory load" of items, and my own "original set" is over 6 years old... have fun --dick
Subject: autostar 495 Sent: Monday, March 19, 2007 11:41:08 From: Paul Zerfas (email@example.com) I recently purchased a meade autostar 495 at a local camera shop. The owners manual ststes it sill work with my ext 90 ec, however I get a message "use etx autostar with this model." I tried to update using files from Meade and my computer states that it connot find the autostar unit.I have tried the flash mode and still got a similar message. Someone is selling 495 units on ebay that have been updated, so I know it is possible.Any suggestions would be greatly aprreciated. I freely sdmit that I know very little about this or computers so the simpler the instructions the better.I am a casual hobbiest, but have followed your site in the past and have found it to be very helpful. Thanks in advance, Paul ZerfasMike here: Since the updater is failing, lets address that first. Are you using a real RS-232 port on your computer or a USB-serial adapter? If a USB adapter, note that not all work reliably with the updater application on Windows. You might want to see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. If a real RS-232 port, check for port conflicts (such as fax software tying up the port). Alternatively, try using the StarGPS application to do the update (www.stargps.ca). Did you make your own #505 cable or did you purchase one? Do you know it is good? Do you really have a #495 (has number keys on the keypad).
Subject: Autostar error 'motor unit fault' on ETX-90 Sent: Monday, March 19, 2007 08:08:21 From: Roger (firstname.lastname@example.org) Hi i have a Meade ETX-90and ETX Autostar it was moving down to a horizontal level (using the autostar keypad) when the motor stopped moving! The ETX Autostar unit now shows a motor unit fault when trying to align the telescope! there is no motor noise (vertical axis motor) and i assume the motor is not turning! The horizontal axis motor works fine! Has anybody any idea what may have failed! eg can i fix it myself? any help appreciated RogerMike here: Have you tried replacing the batteries? Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? Do you get an error during the CALIBRATE MOTOR step?
I have replaced the batteries! it would not move at all in the vertical axis, and motor did not run! (no sound at all) and gave motor error when telescope tried to move itself on the ETX Autostar error during the CALIBRATE MOTOR step? YES having done some research on-line I took the bottom panel off and moved the wires going through the hole in the centre gear! 3 or 4 attempts and I had success, it now moves, but i assume a wire is damaged or loose somewhere between the bottom PCB plug and the motor! and will probably require replacing RogerMike here: Could be a loose or broken wire. You might be able to check further and see where the problem is. Whether you will be able to fix it or not will depend on exactly what the problem is and your skills. Possibly best to contact Meade for a repair.
Subject: Request for Autostar signals Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 16:46:22 From: Neil Maron (email@example.com) I am wanting to use a Meade 497 controller to drive my own stepper motor controller. I have Steve Bedair's Meade DS wiring but do you (or anyone) know what the Autostar is putting out? I.e. is it pulse and direction for each of the three (ALT, AZ, AUX). Do you know what the max resolution it supports is? I.e. 1/4 arcsecond, 1/10 arcsecond, or something worse? Thank you, Neil Maron KA6UTDMike here: I'll let our resident AutoStar Expert, Dick Seymour, respond.
From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) First, the Autostar system doesn't use stepper motors. The axes are servo-driven by simple dc motors with shaft encoders. The electronics on each motor card are told by the Autostar what -speed- to move at. Then they do closed-loop control using the shaft encoders to determine the motor travel. They also report the encoder counts back up to the Autostar, so it does see positional data. The power actually reaching the motor are full-voltage pulse-width-modulated (PWM) signals, with the frequency and duty cycle being adjusted to maintain the Autostar- requested speed. The entire system is described by Meade's patent 6,304,376 which can be seen at: http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html The signals on the wires coming from the 497/495/494 Autostars are modified I2C bus-like commands. They're addressed data packets ("motor 1, operate at 320 encoder pulses per second"), not stepper control signals. The resolution of the system (as practiced by existing models) ranges from 0.735 telescope motion arcseconds per encoder transition (ETX90) to about 0.2 arcsec (4504). People have used Steve Bedair's techniques to achieve 0.1 arcsec. The Autostar's Gear Ratio setting is in units of "encoder transitions per telescope arcsecond". have fun --dick
Whoops... i forgot to mention the RoboScope Yahoo group, who are all working on putting Autostar drives on a variety of mounts, and who have replaced the Meade motors and final driver stages with beefier components. Your question is the inverse of the more usual query: "how do i replace the Autostar with a PC"? ...and just as difficult. If you monitor the I2C signals to the motor cards, you -can- reverse engineer a good chunk of the protocol. (the patent filled in a lot of details). Then you could program a PIC-chip or similar to handle the Autostar's commands. have fun --dick
Subject: RE: LX90 vertical motor problem Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 11:33:10 From: African Sky (email@example.com) Thanks for the replay, was away on business and only download my email now. Yes I have tried that but no luck. My problem is that I am in South Africa and there is only one Meade dealer out here and that is about 600 km away. I would like to try easy fixes first and if that does not work I will have to take it in. Meade doesn't have an email contact and the dealer just tells me on the phone to bring it in. Any thing else you can think of? ErnstMike here: Have you tried one of the LX90 Yahoo Groups? I think there are some.
Subject: re: ETX-90 Align Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 19:29:12 From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) You are correct that the new firmware runs the sidereal drive during alignment. That behaviour was added -many- years ago. Whether or not it is "better" is difficult to say. I remember -not- liking it when the change happened, but i have also now grown used to it (and it matches the LX200gps). Since it does track, it means you don't have to worry about -missing- "center" when you tap your [enter] key. You can take your time, and slew slowly in from the east towards the west to avoid the backlash effects. When you release the slew key, the star should not move in the field of view. have fun --dick
From: Ruedi Eggimann (email@example.com) Thank you very much for the information- now I am very satisfied and I enjoy of my ETX-90. Ruedi
Subject: Autostar version download Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 13:06:03 From: Harden Schaeffer (firstname.lastname@example.org) The other day I downloaded Autostar version 32Ei from your site ( I have a non-PE scope, so I didn't want all the PE support junk.) It said build32ei.zip, and when I unzipped it I got BUILD32E.ROM. When I installed it in the Autostar I got version 30Eb. What gives? HardenMike here: Did you put the file in the Ephemerides folder?
No, I put it in the same folder as the Updater - the latest updater from Meade's site. When I got your message I looked in the Ephemerides folder and saw what was going on. Talk about a Trojan Horse! I'll delete that one and put the 32Ei in there instead. Thanks, Mike. Harden
And an update:
All fixed up! Autostar is now loaded with 32Ei. Again, many thanks. Harden
Subject: ETX-90 Align Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 01:09:09 From: Ruedi Eggimann (email@example.com) First sorry for my English. I am owner of an old ETX-90 an i have updated my Autostar 497 with Version 4.2 G. If i want to align the Telescope with method Easy or two Star, i have the problem, that the motors always run (wants to follow the stars, without to be yet aligned) while centering the stars. And then it is extremly difficile to center the star.With the first versions, the motors always stopped and were quiet and only worked when pushing the buttons. Is this a mistake of the hardware (i made a service on my ETX) or is that now normal? Thank you for the answer Rudolf Eggimann, Bern SwitzerlandMike here: After doing the update did you CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES? I always recommend doing that following any update of the AutoStar ROM.
Subject: ETX AUTOSTAR Updates Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2007 17:55:37 From: Neal Rothchild (firstname.lastname@example.org) I have an ETX 90 EC, and autostar, purchased at the same day, about 4 years ago. Have not used in last 2 1/2 years, and just wanted to know if I need to do anything maintence wise to the scope, and if I should do any update on the autostar. Specifically, if I don't do anything to the autostar, will it still function correctly? If I do update this, how? I have never done this. And, lastly, if I do need to update, what do I need to purchase, ( and where) for this to work? ThanksMike here: First, if you left the batteries inserted, remove them, check the battery compartment for any leakage from the batteries and clean it up if necessary. Then loosen the axis locks and slowly move the telescope back and forth and up and down, hard stop to hard stop, several times to loosen up the lubrication. Next insert fresh batteries, do a CALBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES on the AutoStar. For now, that's all that you might need to do. The AutoStar will still perform properly. If you do want to update you will need to buy or make a #505 serial cable (info on making one is on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page). If your computer has only USB you will need a USB-serial adapter (see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page; note that not all adapters work with Meade's updater application. Lastly you will need an updater application; Meade's (Windows) or AutoStarX (Mac OS X), links on the AutoStar Info page. You could also use the StarGPS application (Windows; http://www.stargps.ca) to do the update.
Subject: LX90 vertical motor problem Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2007 00:02:28 From: African Sky (email@example.com) Hi, my LX90 just go round and round when looking for something.(Vertical control) I reset it, retrained the drives and anything else I could find in the manual that might make a difference. A new board was installed and shortly after that it started acting up, first on the odd occasion but now most of the time. Could it be the board or do you think it might be something else. Please advice. Ernst MaraisMike here: I don't have a LX90 so don't know if this will cure the problem or not but have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR?
Subject: re: Autostar Updater ASU can not connect with Autostar Sent: Thursday, March 8, 2007 22:04:33 From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) Two suggestions: (a) download the -new- Autostar Updater (v4.6) from Meade's site. http://www.meade.com/support/auto.html (b) try StarPatch, a free updater written by someone else. From: http://www.stargps.ca/starpatch.htm StarPatch cannot update the objects, but it can update the firmware. Like Mike, I suspect some other program in your PC is "stealing" the COM port from ASU. ASU does not hold the COM port very strongly. good luck --dick
From: Fernando Gomez (email@example.com) Thank you Dick and MIkefor your assistance. I could fix the problem reinstalling Autostar Updater. Now everything works OK Regards Fernando
Subject: Autostar 494 update problem ?? Sent: Wednesday, March 7, 2007 02:09:09 From: Mark Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) I have a Tal2M with its original mounts converted to GOTO with motors and hand controller from a Model 4504. It had been working really well 173 tooth worm gear hobbed onto a stack of 5 ally discs from computer hard drives riveted together as my small lathe could handle the spindle but not a large enough disk (tal ota is quite heavy) and original 180 gear with 1.6:1 stepdown and 2 clutches so both original slo mos work if needed. Last night I was updating the satalites catalogue when my pc crashed now I just get the top row on hand controller as row of red squares holding enter and scroll (not move) down doesn't do anything. Is this version of 494 different or have I killed it. Cheers MarkMike here: Unfortunately, the AutoStar memory is apparently now corrupted as a result of the computer crash. Meade has not made any user-installable software available for the #494 so your choices are rather limited. Get a new AutoStar, ideally a #497 which is user recoverable, another #494, or contact Meade for a repair.
Subject: Autostar Updater ASU can not connect with Autostar Sent: Monday, March 5, 2007 18:08:22 From: Fernando Gomez (email@example.com) After several attempts II couldn't connect my Pc with Autostar Folowing the instructions on your website I had checked previously the cable and the Serial port and everything looked to work fine. I checked the Serial port with Windows hyperterminal and also with lookRS232 software. . Applying the basic commands of the Meade protocol I could move "by hand " the motor (Setting the target Alt, RA and Moving the motor to this target) I also could set the scope to a selected object (RA, dec) using the software Cartes du Ciel. But when I tried to work with the AutostarUpdate (ASU) v4.3 I coudn even connect with Autostar. The messages "Could not connect with Autostar" followed with the message "Could not find Comm port" appear again and again. Do you have any tip to fix this problem? Thanking in advance for your help Fernando Gmez Montevideo, UruguayMike here: Are you using a real RS-232 serial port on the computer or a USB-serial adapter? If an adapter, not all work well with the ASU application; see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. If you are using a real serial port then it could be there is some software (typically fax software) tying up the serial port.
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