Last updated: 30 November 2003
Subject: CALIBRATE and TRAIN works Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 12:22:39 From: ERenger@harlandfs.com (Eric Renger) This site is a great resource. Ever since I first got the ETX-125, I have had some problems with the Autostar, but the night before last I did the CALIBRATE and TRAIN procedures as recommended so many times on this site, and now the Autostar works great. This is a really, really long email about the problems I had had, how easy it was to fix them using advice I found on your site, and how having my Autostar working is going to CHANGE MY LIFE. My first experience with the ETX line was when I bought the ETX-70 last summer. The Autostar on that scope seemed to work just fine right out of the box. The scope always found objects I picked off the menu just fine, always right in the field of view. Also, the scope moved smoothly when tracking an object and did not have any problem manually slewing while tracking. But with the light pollution in this area and the 70's small aperture, I decided I should exchange it for the 125 if I was really going to get into this hobby. When the 125 arrived, the Autostar did not work as well as it had on the 70. The most annoying problem was that when I used the Autostar to locate and track an object, it usually was not centered in the field of view, but when I tried to use the handbox to move the scope, it would usually "snap" back to the original position as soon as I let go of the handbox button. When tracking an object, the movement seemed very "coarse" an jumpy. When reversing direction with the handbox, there always seemed to be a long delay before the scope would move, and then it would jet off at high speed. Altogether, these problems were really annoying, and for a long time I didn't even use the Autostar. I just skipped through the setup and used the scope to look at Mars or the Moon, which I could find without Autostar, and I would just track them manually using the handbox. Finally the other night, we had really nice, clear weather for the first time in a long time, and I decided I wanted to check out Saturn. I had no idea where to find it, so I decided to finally try to fix the Autostar. I followed the instructions exactly as I found them on this site. It was so easy. The CALIBRATE takes two seconds, and the Autostar does it all. For TRAINing, I used the Alt/Az mounting, used the high-magnification eyepiece, aligned to Polaris (which is a great tip for nighttime TRAINing), was very careful in recentering the star in the field of view, and trained BOTH axes (which is another great tip that I would probably have missed, because the Autostar menu is a little counterintuitive for this procedure). The procedure took maybe 3 minutes, and now the Autostar works great. I am a bit irritated at myself for not doing it earlier. After the CALIBRATE and TRAIN, I used the Autostar to point at Saturn. It was not in the field of view with the 25mm eyepiece, but it was in the finder. I used the handbox to center the planet in the telescope's field of view. It moved smoothly, with no jerking, no delay, and no snapping back after the movement. The scope tracked the planet perfectly. I was changing eyepieces and fiddling with the focus, taking my time doing all sorts of stuff, and each time I went back to look through the eyepiece, there was Saturn, dead center. It was great to not have to go chasing after it every minute or so. And, by the way, Saturn is AMAZING! The last time I saw Saturn through a telescope, I was about 7 years old and someone had set up a telescope in my elementary school parking lot. I was amazed then, and I am even more amazed now. Once I was done with looking at Saturn, I did the Tonight's Best tour. The selected object was never in the telescope's field of view after the slewing, and I am not sure what most of these objects are supposed to be, but I could generally figure out what it must be in the finder and then go find it. I think I will be more careful with the alignment next time and see if I can improve that. Still, I was able to see more things in one night with the Autostar, than I would be able to learn to find in a year without it. The standout objects for me were the Andromeda Galaxy, the Double Cluster (very pretty) and the nebula in Orion (that was the best --- it's amazing how much structure you can see!). I was out there freezing my butt off in the backyard for hours and loving it. I'm still getting used to this telescope and what you can do with it. I really bought it because I was suckered by Mars Mania, but now that I have the Autostar working the way it is supposed to, I can tell I am going to see things I didn't even know were up there. Thanks again for providing such good information and helping people get the most out of their ETXs. I think most people are used to buying things that work perfectly out of the box. I know that's what I usually expect when I spend as much as I did on this telescope. But Autostar is one of those things that is still in the middle ground of complex technology. It is not so specialized and so complex that the only people who use it are specialists who are willing and able to really figure out how it works and who know they will probably have to tweak it now and then. But it is not such a mature consumer technology that just any consumer can buy it and press a button and have it work all the time. In a way it's like a personal computer --- average people who don't know very much about them can buy them and want to have them and can usually work them. Most of the time a PC will work as expected, but when it doesn't, the average owner has to stretch a bit to solve the problem. The ETX is that way. I am not much of a do-it-yourselfer, but I can tell that now and then I am going to have to figure out what the heck is wrong with this thing and fix it. Thanks for helping us out with that. Eric
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