Last updated: 30 September 2009
Welcome to the AutoStar feedback page. This page is intended to provide user comments on using the Meade Autostar #494, #495, #497, AutoStar III (for ETX-LS) 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 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: ETX Question Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 17:15:58 From: Mike Horkey (email@example.com) I've had an EXT for about three or four years and admit that I'm pretty frustrated with it. Do you have any step by step procedures for aligning it for dummies like me? Ugghhh! Thanks Mike Reisterstown, MDMike here: Sorry it took you so long to come to us. There are several alignment articles on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. If those don't help, let me know exactly what you are doing and what the telescope is doing during the alignment process.
Subject: Re: Autostar alignment problem - ETX 125PE Sent: Monday, September 21, 2009 02:43:07 From: Arran Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org) I finally got a resolution with my Autostar inaccuracy problem - I downloaded the latest software (via ASU ver 5.9) and performed an update via the RS232 port on my laptop to the handbox - now running version 5BE2 and it seems to be finding everything perfectly. I have also now performed a Train Drive operation just to make sure it's in tip top accuracy and all is in order All the best Arran
Subject: Autostar alignment problem - ETX 125PE Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 01:28:00 From: Arran Marshall (email@example.com) Firstly, great site, many thanks for your work. I have just received my ETX-125PE and as luck would have it my first two nights were clear enough to use it. I couldn't wait to see Jupiter so set it up bypassing the Autostar alignment and got straight into using it manually, as it were. However when I finally negotiated my way through the menu to set up automatic alignment (setting my hometown as Manchester in UK) I found that after aligning with Arcturus and Vega the Autostar was way off with Polaris and Mizar, a couple I thought I'd test it with. Then I found the Add Site menu and added my coordinates (actually about 100 miles east of Manchester) After performing a repeat auto alignment it then found Polaris and Mizar and pretty much everything on 'Tonights best' tour, but bizarrely it was about what I would call a good hour ahead of Jupiter (i.e. quite a way to the right of it but about the right Declination) I can't help thinking that maybe the DST setting was wrong or my time zone should be set at +1 hour instead of GMT, but could there be any other explanation? The time shows correctly, the date shows correctly, DST is set to on, and my time zone is GMT (+0.00) and I'm at a loss as to why it found the deep sky objects and stars but not Jupiter - would I be better to align with a 9mm eyepiece rather than the 26mm as I can't swear it was dead centre on each alignment (but pretty close) Any help would be greatly appreciated All the best ArranMike here: Many things affect GOTO accuracy, including the sensors (level and north), location data accuracy, stars used for the alignment, date/time, and more. Objects that move in the sky (like the planets) are time-sensitive. So if fixed objects are OK but moving objects are not, it usually means there is a date or time problem. Check the year, as well as the timezone offset and of course, DST. Some other things you can do to improve the accuracy is to CALIBRATE MOTORS and TRAIN DRIVES. If you think there is a Magnetic Variation error, do a CALIBRATE SENSOR.
Thanks for the quick reply and kind assistance, much appreciated! I'm glad you also think it may be due to the time, if anything it shows that whilst I'm a complete novice I'm thinking in the right direction. I'll definitely try your suggestion of re-training the drive anyway as it seems it's best to perform this fairly regularly anyhow. I'll have to check the manual for the Motor and Sensor calibration but could also try these. I will also try adjusting the Time Zone since GMT and DST (or BST here in UK) are 1 hour different, just trying to get my head around which way (if any) I should alter it... it shouldn't take long to get it either 2 hours ahead of Jupiter or spot on ... in theory I'll let you know if I get it working properly, it might be a while as this is the UK and as you'll probably know it's nothing like California over here :-( Many thanks again Arran
Subject: re: Controling zero image shift microfocuser using 497 autostar handset Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 19:18:00 From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) The two ways to reach focus control are: (a) tap the Zero (0) key... that brings up the focus menu. (tap it again to exit) (b) as Mike wrote, press [mode] for 3 seconds, release. Scroll to appropriate menu (tap it again to exit) If the Autostar can't "see" the 909 APM, it won't offer the focus menus. have fun --dick
From: Gemmell , Hugh (HughGemmell@barnsley.gov.uk) Thanks for the info, I discovered the 'tap the zero key' option last night whilst re- familiarising my self with the autostar functions. I also followed the clean the Autostar key contacts tutorial on Mike's website and my autostar is like new. If only I could clean up the polluted sky around Sheffield UK as easily ! Many thanks for your help, I'm sure you get hundreds of emails, taking time to respond is very much appreciated. Cheers Hugh
Subject: Controling zero image shift microfocuser using 497 autostar handset Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 05:35:16 From: Gemmell , Hugh (HughGemmell@barnsley.gov.uk) After a long absence from Astronomy I dusted down my old LX90 last weekend ! Very slowly things came flooding back. However, I can't remember what key presses/menus on the Autostar handset control the micro focuser. I have trawled through the Meade manuals but remembered that neither tell you what the 497 Autostar handset focuser key controls are to control the 1209 via the 909 APM. I have LX90, #909 APM, and the #1209 Zero image shift micro focuser. Any help much appreciated Hugh GemmellMike here: I don't have the APM and #1209 so I'm guessing here, but have you tried holding down the MODE key for 2-3 seconds until the MODE display comes up? With the ETX electric focusers will appear on the MODE display (use the UP/DOWN scroll keys until you see the FOCUS menu) and then use the slew arrow keys to change the focus.
Subject: DS 2114LNT. Unable to reset AutoStar Sent: Saturday, September 12, 2009 20:03:20 From: Stan Siebenthal (email@example.com) You've helped this beginner in the past. I hope you can help this time. When we turn on the telescope, we get the motor failure message. From there we go nowhere, nothing, we can't access any menus. Meade is NO help, the "tech" says AutoStar needs to be reset but says we have to access the menu on the handbox. No can do. Is there a way to reset the handbox with my PC running Windows XP? The only instructions we've found are using Windows 98, and XP appears to be different. Any help woould be greatly appreciated! Stan SiebenthalMike here: I assume you have a #494 AutoStar (no number keys on the keypad) and not the #497 AutoStar (has number keys). If so, you'll need a #506 serial cable and a RS-232 port on your computer. Then you can following the info in the article "AutoStar RESET from Software" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page. It may (or may not) work.
Thanks for the very prompt reply! Actually, I have a 497 handbox as well as a 494. Neith of them will work as I described (both deliver the same message). I would prefer using the 497 since I paid good money for the additional flexibility. StanMike here: Both have the same message? Odd. Have you tried using fresh batteries? If so, and you want to try the RESET from software, see that article. But you'll need a #505 serial cable (easily made using information on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page). Also, remember, you need a RS-232 serial port. If your computer has only USB, you'll need a reliable USB-Serial Adapter (see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page). With the #497, if RESET doesn't work (and changing batteries didn't help), then you can reload the software (but you'll need that #505 cable) by using the SAFE LOAD procedure. NOTE: there is no SAFE LOAD procedure for the #494 AutoStar. One other thing to check since both AutoStars have the same problem is the HBX jack; look for dirty or bent pins or too-depressed pins.
Subject: RE: Updating Autostar 497 version 1.0 for ETX-90EC Sent: Saturday, September 5, 2009 09:05:21 From: Craig A. Green (firstname.lastname@example.org) Update was successful to 43eg and the loading time was 22 minutes and 30 seconds. As luck would have it we're probably mostly overcast this weekend but next week is hopeful for a full test and checkout. A lot of credit to Meade for a solid boot loader/update design in the system! And more importantly, the expertise of the enthusiasts and mentors associated with this site!! Clear skies, Craig
Subject: re: LX90 Sent: Friday, September 4, 2009 20:24:09 From: richard seymour (email@example.com) From the sounds of your symptoms, the Autostar is not -receiving- signals from the telescope. During the power-up initialization, the Autostar asks the scope motors cards "what are you?" and waits for an answer. ..and waits .....and waits. Meanwhile, the keypad is still active, and asking it to -slew- only involves commands going -to- the motor cards. No feedback is required. The fact that both motors move (can you change speeds?) indicates that all of the cabling is working (although a crossed-wire short could confuse things). If anyone else in the Astro club has an Autostar, see if you can borrow it, or give them yours, to see if it's the scope (motor card transmitters) or Autostar (data line receivers) at fault. good luck --dick
From: Peter Mellers (firstname.lastname@example.org) Hi Mike, thanks for your email re my LX90 problem. Also got an email from yr friend Richard whom I will reply to. Have'nt had much of an opportunity to try all of your suggestions yet due to lack of time, but I do thankyou sir for your input and support in helping me get to the cause of the problem. All aside I would just like to tell you that the scope still works fine apart from the computer so nothing will stop me setting up tonight and enjoying the amazing clear sky overhead.. It makes me feel quite humble and, yes, privaliged, to have the technology to enable me to do so. It also seems to be very well made and reasonably transportable. I'm not quite so worried now as I have been lately, because I'm sure it is something quite simple and I will be looking forward to the Star party on monday night, when hopefully, and armed with some solutions, we might be able to get Autostar up and running again. Thanks again Regards Peter Mellers
Subject: Bug TLE description Sent: Friday, September 4, 2009 07:36:58 From: Rainer Willkomm (email@example.com) a came over an old information given by dick for satellite tracking. On your page http://www.weasner.com/etx/autostar/as_iss.html the explanation for the TLE data contains a bug. It is written: "Here are today's values: 1 25544U 98067A 01050.20978583 .00032487 00000-0 36862-3 0 6650 2 25544 51.5750 323.9431 0009808 113.8873 50.0677 15.61998931128644 ... The 0009808 is the inclination, missing the leading "0." so you'd key that in as 0.0009808" But according to Thomas (http://www.celestrak.com/NORAD/documentation/tle-fmt.asp) the 5th parameter in the 2nd line ("0009808") is the Eccentricity of the object. regards Rainer
From: richard seymour (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rainer is correct... I probably called both the 51.575 -and- the (0.)0009808 the inclination. Fingers typing words that the brain had already dispensed with... Mike: could you please make the edit? (i'm overbooked) For clarity: the 51.5750 is the inclination the (0.)0009808 is the eccentricity. (zero would be a perfect circle) thanks for catching this (after eight years???) --dickMike here: Correction made.
Subject: LX90 Sent: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 15:25:36 From: Peter Mellers (email@example.com) Greetings from New Zealand and the Southern skies. Am rather hoping you can throw some light, so to speak, regarding a problem I have encountered with my recently purchased 8" LX90 ACF telescope. Am entirely new to astronomy but when I saw this scope for sale by auction at a reasonably affordable price tag, and after talking with owner, I decided to put in my bid, which turned out to be successful. The LX90 was entirely brand new and only been unpacked and set-up once indoors and never actually had any use. Once in my hot little hands my first move was to take it along to my local Astronomy club where they helped me set it up and give me some tips on care and safe handling etc. After two months of some quite nice winter viewing, suddenly the Autostar Handset has decided to play up. When I plug everything in ( have a 12V power tank supply) the LCD screen lights up, then it does a little beep. The screen then displays the " Welcome to Autostar" message, and goes completely blank. Working the up, down and sideways arrows still activates the drive so thats ok, but it will not allow me to progress any further into the main menu. Unfortunately, I don't have any warranty with dealership who originally sold the scope, as it is now 16 months old/ new, and on phoning their tech. support I found them rather unhelpful. He basically said that he had never heard of this problem before but it sounded like a softwear problem. Handset has not been dropped or handled roughly. Question: If this is the case, is it fixable or will I need to buy a new one ? Not sure how to resolve this issue and a new handset over costs a hefty $499 over here. Any help here would be greatly appreciated. Kind Regards Peter Miller Auckland, New ZealandMike here: Some simple suggestions that might solve the problem (depending on why it is occurring): try adjusting the brightness and contrast (see you'll be doing this "in the blind", see the AutoStar menu tree in the manual and use the appropriate key presses), switch to a different power source, swap the HBX cable end-for-end, check the condition of the cable connectors and jacks (pins not bent, not dirty, not too depressed), try pressing and holding the MODE key for a few seconds after the screen goes blank, force a RESET from software (see the article "AutoStar RESET from Software" on the Helpful Information: AutoStar Info page, and lastly, reload the AutoStar. For those last two you will need a #505 serial cable (easily made using cable info on the AutoStar Info page) and a RS-232 serial port on your computer. NOTE: if your computer has only USB you will need a USB-serial adapter, but not all work reliably; see the article "AutoStar and USB" on the AutoStar Info page.
Thanks for your prompt reply. I have already tried a couple of your suggestions to try and fix the problem, however, still the same. Will continue to keep trying with the rest of your tips and hopefully resolve it. Will keep you posted. Kind Regards Peter P.S. You have a great website
Subject: AUTOALIGN Sent: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 05:59:54 From: WILLIAM LEININGER (firstname.lastname@example.org) Just won a Meade ETX125PE at a local astronomy club. New to star gazing but interested in learning. Store that donated unit said to stop in & they will give a demonstration on the unit. Contacted them to ask a few questions as we are going on vacation & did not have time for the demonstration before leaving (wanted to familiarize myself with the unit somewhat before the demonstration). Tried autoalign & it looked like scope was not pointing to North (off to left by approx. 15 deg. of where I thought North should be). When doing 2 star check the scope seemed to be off by the same angle for each star as what it was when it was point to North. CS person at store told me that for our area (17517 zip code) that there is a correction factor of approx. 11 deg. Checked this out on web and found it was due to the magnetic strength change from one area to another (found our lat/long value to be 11 deg. 42 min.). This made sense to me since this was about the angle it was off when it did its North & star alignments. My question is how is this value entered when aligning scope? Thank you.Mike here: The AutoStar software automatically (on the PE model) corrects for the Magnetic Variation based on your location (zipcode). Another source of a pointing error when it points to the first alignment star is your local Daylight Saving setting. If that is set wrong, the error can be about 15 degrees off. So check that. Some other points: Be certain you have done a CALIBRATE MOTOR and TRAIN DRIVES. If you think the LNT module is off, you can also a CALIBRATE SENSORS. However, be aware that at the end of the leveling and northing steps when doing an Auto Align, the telescope tube may not end up level and pointing north.
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