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AUTOSTAR FEEDBACK

Last updated: 31 October 2011

Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, #497EP, cables, and 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 for posting. Please use an appropriate Subject Line on your message per the Site Email Etiquette. Thanks. Remember, tips described on this site may invalidate the warranty on your telescope or accessories. Neither the submitter nor myself are responsible for any damage caused by using any contributed tips.


Subject:	Meade 497 Handcontroller Showing "Press Press"
Sent:	Monday, October 31, 2011 10:58:13
From:	Robert Amdahl (rramdahl@yahoo.com)
I'm afraid that I once again need your help.

The other day I set up my ETX-125PE and got everything hooked up and
turned it on and the 497 controller shows on the display "Press Press". 
I knew this wasn't right and I tried pressing various keys with the
result being "Invalid Command" or something like that.  I turned
everything off and reconnected it all again and got the same display.  I
tried this several times with the same results.  I took everything down
and brought it all back into the house and went to search "The Mighty
ETX" site for help.  I saw a couple of posts about this problem but I
wasn't clear if there was anything that provided a real solution.  Is
there anything that I can do to fix this problem or do I need another
497 controller? 

I've had the EXT since 2007 and have never done an update so I am
running the original version which I think is 4ef.  Could doing an
update provide a solution?  Also, I did see that Richard Seymour (sp)
posted something that this was a bug in the Autostar software so would
it be something that Meade would be responsible for correcting?

Sorry if I am asking too many questions but as you can probably guess I
am very upset and concerned about getting my scope back to work.

Any help or suggestions that you can provide will be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Bob Amdahl
Mike here: It sounds like the AutoStar memory has become corrupted. Since you can't control the AutoStar from its keypad, you will have to do a SAFE LOAD (assuming that works) to reload the ROM. I suggest reloading with version 4.3Eg. Of course, you will need a #505 serial cable (easily made) and a RS-232 serial port. If your computer has only USB, you will need a USB-serial adapter; I recommend Keyspan adapters.

And:

Thanks, Mike!  I was afraid that it was something like that.  I will
give it a shot.  I think that I have the cable and the adapter and I
will do some reading on SAFE LOAD from you site.

As always, you are much appreciated.

Thanks,
Bob


Subject:	As494
Sent:	Sunday, October 30, 2011 12:46:16
From:	cysmarcus@aol.com (cysmarcus@aol.com)
I was wondering if you could help me out? My friend asked me if the 494
works out of the USA and also in the southern hemisphere?
Sincerely,
Itz Marcus
Mike here: Yes and yes. However, depending on where the AutoStar #494 was purchased, the language used may or may not be correct for the user's location.

And:

Thanx so much!
Clear Skies
Itz


Subject:	Autostar #497 turns itself off - quick question
Sent:	Thursday, October 27, 2011 15:58:14
From:	Josh Norman (joshua_norman@msn.com)
I have recently been gifted a previously sledom-used ETX-105EC from a
relative, complete with an Autostar #497 Computer Controller. My problem
is that that the Autostar loses power if the cable that connects the
handset to the ETX's computer control panel is moved - even slightly. 
This is particularly annoying when trying to align my telescope since I
have to check my star charts and move my hands... Also the high-pitched
beep when it switches on is rather irritating when you hear it every
minute haha!

This happens whichever way I have the cable (ruling out faulty cable
connections on just one end) and it only happens at the handset end;
jiggling the cable at the ETX's control panel doesn't affect it at all.
This makes me believe that there is a faulty connection in the Autostar
handset itself, probably the port that the cable connects to.

Obviously I'm not in a rush to fork out for a brand new Autostar since
the one I have is otherwise in brilliant condition--it's been used a
couple of times and then sat in a box for several years--so I just
wanted to check with you whether this is a well-known and/or fixable
problem since I can't seem to find any information on the internet. I
have no quarrel with opening up the handset and soldering up some
electronics if that's a solution.
 
Thanks in advance for any information or insight you can provide,
Josh
Mike here: Not a typical problem. But as with any connector, things can go wrong. First, I'd check for dirty or bent pins in the jack. Also look for loose pins or pins that are too depressed. If the jack is ok then you'll have to open up the AutoStar and check the internal connections.


Subject:	ETX-90AT Fails Easy Align Every Time
Sent:	Monday, October 24, 2011 19:26:49
From:	Roy Yount (roy.yount@belimed.us)
Hello.  I decided to pull out my ETX-90AT after several years. I
installed new batteries and headed out hoping to enjoy a nice evening.
After setting the home position, I went to align it. After several
failed attempts, I called it an evening. I then decided to reset my
Autostar and start from scratch along with a firmware update.  I
calibrated the motors, set the % to 15% and the trained the scope. I
went out again tonight feeling pretty good about it, but still came up
short on the alignment. I tried 10 times and every time, it failed and
said to check stars. I was trying to line up on Vega and Capella. Every
time, it was low and right on Vega so I trained again using Vega as the
target. After messing with it for an hour, I had enough and packed up
yet again and headed for your site for more info. After reading another
post, it dawned on me that I have daylight savings on NO. I think that
should be yes for another couple of weeks. I will try that tomorrow if
the skys are clear. I wanted to see if you could think of any other
reason I might be having trouble. I set home using Polaris then
returning to level. I have my tripod level in all directions. I have the
latest software in my Autostar. I have my location entered by zip code.

On another note, I am in KY and around 9:30pm last night, I saw what
looked like the Northern Lights in the North but the sky was red. I had
not seen this before. The lights faded by 10:00. 

Any ideas in what that may have been?

Thank You,

Roy Yount
Waddy, KY
Mike here: First, don't set the percentage. Just do a TRAIN DRIVES on both axes. Next, don't use a moving target like Vega for training. Using Polaris is OK but a fixed terrestrial object is better. And yes, most locations should have Daylight Saving setting to Yes right now. The aurora is active tonight. Visible down to latitude 35N.

And:

Thank you for the fast reply. I will set the % back to 10% and train
tomorrow during the day using a terestrial landmark.  Do I need to worry
about the distance of my target, or will something at say 150' do the
trick?  I will also set the daylight savings to yes. 

Thank You,

Roy Yount
Mike here: Best would to use an object a mile or so away.

And:

Will do. I will see what I can find for a landmark at that kind of
distance tomorrow. I hope the skys are clear tomorrow evening so I can
give it another shot. I really would like to get some use out of this
telescope. I have had it for about 6-7 years with little use because of
the Autostar.

Thank You,

Roy Yount


Subject:	re: DS-2090 / 497 Go To off on southerly objects
Sent:	Monday, October 24, 2011 15:51:41
From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
You didn't quantify (although "two fists" is a good hint) the error, so
let's do a test that can both measure it, and perhaps provide a clue
about the specific (and easy to fix) cause:

You may have some grease trapped in your feedback encoder vanes... so
that the encoder misses some transitions.

If you could *measure* the error of that 360 degree turn, that can
sometimes provide definite diagnostics.

How: bring up the Alt/Az readout (press MODE for 3 seconds, release,
scroll to Alt/Az).
Now center a landmark and note the Az readout.
Slew the scope 360 degrees until the landmark is centered again.
Now read the Az display.  How many degrees did it think you rotated?
If it's precisely 10 degrees off (so it thinks you only rotated 350
degrees), then it's definitely one vane-gap of the encoder disk filled
with grease.
If it's precisedly 20 degrees, it's two.
(try rotating in the other direction, too... it should also see only a
350 degree slew).
Open the base and clean it.

Unfortunately "open the base" may be harder for a DS-2090 than it is for
the ETX-90.

Additional clues: if the error is *always* the same, it's probably
something simple (like the grease).
If it's *random* (varies from 5 to 20 degrees as you try rotating in the
same direction), then it could be worse, such as an erratically slipping
gear due to split plastic.

If your scope has a telescopic viewfinder, they usually have a field of
view of 5 degrees, which can help quantify some of the errors.

good luck
--dick

And:

From:	Ryan Maziarz (ryan.maziarz@gmail.com)
Hi Dick,

Thanks for all the info, wow, appreciate it!

I may have another clue here now - I just noticed that when I rotate
the scope in azimuth manually there's a click and a metallic ping type
sound as I pass a certain point in the rotation - I think it's doing
it while being moved by the motors too but I couldn't hear it due to
the whine...  does that help at all?

I'm gonna go try 360 rotation thing now and I'll report back with the
encoder results.

Ryan

And:

From:	Andrew Johansen (johansea@optusnet.com.au)
Another thing this screams is a blocked encoder vane.
Simple Test
Set scope up AltAz/Terrestrial and point to a known landmark.
Press and hold mode for 3seconds to bring up the azimuth display screen.
Note the value.
Slew 360degrees using the handbox until back on target.
Reread azimuth value.
If its way off, then its probably grease in an encoder slot
in the RA motor assembly.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

And:

Back with the report from testing for this - the telescope reported
nearly the exact same Az reading when I did a 360 degree slew back to
the target object - it was off by less than a degree, which I'm
assuming could just be the result of not getting it 100% in the exact
same position in the eyepiece...  It's fairly cloudy here tonight and
I wasn't able to try again on celestial objects - will go out and
check again a bit later and see if it's cleared at all.

Ryan

And more:

From:	Mike Hogan (mhogansr@comcast.net)
Perhaps the encoder ratio is incorrect for the scope. With the wrong
ratio, the farther the scope slews from the Home position, the larger
difference between where the Autostar thinks it's pointing and where
it's actually pointing.
 
It could also be a dirty encoder. One way to check for either condition
would be to do a manual 360 slew from the Home position using the
arrow keys and then check the Az position readout in the Status menu.
 
Hope this helps,
Mike Hogan

And:

I don't understand what changed, but the mount worked MUCH better late
last night - it aligned on Capella and Rigel this time (Vega had
already set) and everything seemed quite close with the go-tos.  The
only objects that didn't show up in the 25mm eyepiece's field of view
were Jupiter and Uranus, but I've been told that's common for the
planets - Jupiter obviously doesn't even need go-to, and I found
Uranus within a couple sweeps of the spiral search function.  Deep sky
stuff worked really well this time - saw several of the Messier
galaxies and nebulae.  It's actually dark enough here that I can see
M31 with the naked eye, pretty amazing.

I'm going to consider the issue fixed now - thanks again for all your
help everyone!

Ryan


Subject:	DS-2090 / 497 Go To off on southerly objects
Sent:	Saturday, October 22, 2011 21:40:33
From:	Ryan Maziarz (ryan.maziarz@gmail.com)
I recently acquired a blue tube DS-2090 that my parents purchased a
while back and never used I've started trying to observe with it.  I
was very into astronomy as a kid - we had a 4.5" Celestron Newtonian
on a non-motorized polar mount but never a go-to scope like this with
the alt/az mount.  (I noticed you live in Oracle by the way - I lived
in Tucson for 10 or so years and I'm a U of A grad)

The issue I'm having is that the Autostar 497 Go To seems to be way
off, particularly in the azimuth axis when trying to slew to objects
that are in the southern part of the sky.  I slewed late last night
from Polaris to M42 and it stopped so far to the left of the actual
M42 object that I had to slew the scope right for about 8 or so
seconds on the "5" speed to actually get the nebula in view.  I'd
estimate it was an outstretched fist and a half's length off.  I saw
the same thing trying to slew to Jupiter last night as well.  Objects
more toward the north were often very close and in the field of view
of the 25mm eyepiece.

I've read all the stuff on your site about alignment, driving training
and properly setting the home position before alignment - I'm nearly
positive I'm doing all that stuff correctly, but I'm consistently
having this issue.  I use a smartphone GPS app to precisely set the
lat/lon and time in the Autostar's site submenu as well.

Just wondering what I should be looking for as the source of the
problem here - is my alignment actually off and the errors just show
much more to the south (larger "circle" of rotation in the sky on
those objects was my thought), or is it likely I have a mechanical
problem inside the mount?  I also wonder if I'm just expecting too
much out of a $200 telescope and mount...

Thanks, I appreciate it!
Ryan Maziarz
Mike here: Lets start with some questions. Have you done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and then TRAIN DRIVES? Which AutoStar alignment method are you using? Have you checked the Daylight Saving setting correctly?

And:

Yep, I did the train drives exactly as mentioned in one of the
articles on your site - calibrate motors, then train - I did it both
on a terrestrial object and on polaris - same error in the go-to with
both.

As far as I'm aware the Daylight Savings time should be on YES (I'm in
Southern Utah right now - GMT-7 with DST until November 6th)  It's set
that way in the Autostar.
Mike here: Which alignment method, Easy, One Star, Two Star? Also, check the mount setting alt/az vs polar. And are all objects off when you GOTO them and are they off by the same amount?

And:

I was doing the Easy alignment last night - it was picking Vega and
Capella as the two stars - I know which ones they are and centered
both in a 6mm eyepiece.  Mount setting is definitely on alt/az - I
don't think the 2090 even has the polar option when it's selected as
the telescope model.

Objects seem to get further off the more toward due south they are -
M42 was really bad like I said.  Objects in the northern sky were much
better - often in the 25mm eyepiece field of view or very close and
found within the first sweep of the spiral search.
Mike here: My initial guess would be a location latitude entry error. Instead of using your GPS, try using a nearby city name.

And:

Ok I'll try that and let you know.  I kinda don't think it is off
though - I checked my location on Google Maps too and the lat/lon was
very similar to what the GPS stated. 37 degrees 11 minutes N, 113
degrees 39 minutes W is what I entered.

Ryan

And some updates:

Unfortunately bad news still - here's what I did just a bit ago tonight:

1. Performed an Autostar RESET
2. Set up location via City this time. (St. George, UT) - entered
date, time down to a second or so, and set the DST.
3. Performed CALIBRATE MOTORS
4. Performed TRAIN DRIVES using Polaris
4. Performed the EASY alignment, Autostar selected Vega and Capella.

The Go To is still way off - I first tried to slew from Capella to M42
- it was about a fist and a half off as before.  I then tried to slew
back to Vega from there - this was even further off, probably two fist
lengths at least.  It's always off to the left of the object when
looking down the barrel.

I don't want to take up any more of your time so I'm just gonna assume
something's wrong internally with the motors or something... I'm
guessing Meade would probably charge more than the scope is worth to
look at this right?

Ryan
Mike here: Hum, a fist is about 15 degrees. Is the first alignment star that far off when doing the alignment? As to a repair, it is possible that the AutoStar software is corrupted. Reloading it would likely cure that. You'll need a #505 serial cable (easily made) and a serial port on your computer. Then you can reload the ROM.

And:

When it slewed to Vega as the first alignment star it was off by quite
a bit but it was low and to the right of the star, not to the left
like it is when doing the Go Tos.

I actually did reload the ROM already on Friday - I bought the 505 kit
and a serial port header/bracket for my PC last week...
Mike here: Are you using True North or Magnetic North for the Home Position? I'll be unavailable for awhile. I'm in my observatory getting ready to start imaging M1.

And:

I'm pointing the scope directly at Polaris with it centered in the
eyepiece and then I level the altitude axis with a bubble level.  So
basically pointed at the celestial pole.
Mike here; Oh wait! The tube needs to be horizontal in Alt/Az mounting and pointed at True North on the horizon for the home position.

And:

Pretty sure that is what I'm doing - Polaris is essentially true north
- I center it in the eyepiece and then lower the tube to horizontal
(checked with a bubble level).  I have a compass and after taking into
account the 12 degree magnetic variation here it pretty much looks
like it's pointing at Polaris for north as well.  Let me know if any
of that isn't accurate.
Mike here: You got it right. I was confused when you said "altitude axis". Try a test. After doing the alignment, go to a star like Altair. SYNC on it (after centering if necessary). Then go to some other object. How does it do? Back to imaging.

And:

How do I SYNC on it? Not familiar with that term...

Ryan

Mike here: Hold down the ENTER key for 2-3 seconds. You will get a prompt to center the object. Then press ENTER when centered. That will align the AutoStar to that portion of the sky. Closing up the observatory for the night and heading off to sleep.


Subject:	Etx80 494 problem
Sent:	Thursday, October 6, 2011 01:59:00
From:	Derek Dorking (dmdorking@o2.co.uk)
Terrific updated site by the way! Great layout.

I have now progressed from the etx80 to the loverly etx125! What a
scope. Waiting for the evenings to pull in over here.

I now wish to pass on the 80 but am keeping the 495 (7) for the 125. I
have obtained a new 494 to sell with the scope but after software
updating was done, the handset only shows etx60 & 70 in the telescope
listing. Have I done something wrong during the update? Where does the
telscope type information live and can it be easily replaced in the
database? Any pointers here would be appreciated.

Thanks, Derek
Mike here: Two points. First, there is no user installable update for the #494 AutoStar. So, I'm confused about what software updating you did. Second, if the #494 is an older model and pre-dates the ETX-80, then the ETX-80 will not be listed. However, for most functions, it should still work. Just be certain to do a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES.

And:

Thanks for the reply. I think I meant the firmware was updated, using
the 2.4 updater and 506 cable connector. It is showing c 00 10E1 at
boot. It works well as an etx70 by just changing the focal length detail
but it would be nice to sell it on with the right telescope details
listed for the next owner.

I am finding the 125 a terrific scope- still portable, not too heavy-
AND my wife let me buy it! Can't all be bad!

Best wishes, Derek
Mike here: Again, there is no way for a user to update the firmware in a #494. Sorry.


Subject:	RE: RE Autostar 594 with corruption
Sent:	Wednesday, October 5, 2011 11:57:28
From:	Richard Small (drumsk8@hotmail.com)
Hi guys, thanks for the response, I've taken it apart already to look
for bad components but didn't see anything looking wrong. I highly doubt
that the key pad is the issue, since again I've already taken it apart
and it looked very clean. So i am left with the filter cap or regulator,
I am certainly hoping it's not the IC. As to your regards for the
497/495 voltage input, the box it came with does actually say under
power sources,  10 cell battery pack, so it must at it's max be ok with
the 15v's unfortunately the telescope fails at anything 14.6v or lower
so i'll keep it at this, I think I'll replace the cap's and see how it
fairs after that.  Thanks again for the advice, I'll let you know how it
goes after replacing the caps. I've recently built a SLA battery pack
with voltage regulator so at least no more dying battery's to mess up
the scope on a good night.

Much appreciated.

Richard.

Physics FTW Always!

And:

From:	richard seymour (rseymour@wolfenet.com)
You could put a couple of silicon diodes (1v forward drop) or a 3v Zener
in series with the +15v power feed to the Autostar... that would knock a
couple of volts off what it sees.  The Autostar's peak draw is about
120ma, so a half-watt Zener should handle it.
(but it'll get warm.. a one watt would be better).

Mind you, i've always appreciated the "hand warmer" effect of the
Autostar's voltage regulator on cool evenings...

good luck
--dick


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