Meade Autostar Review.
by Bob Gruszczynski
Printed in Reflections: October, 2001.
Meade makes several versions
of the Autostar System, depending upon the telescope system used in conjunction
with it. The setup that I will be reviewing is the Autostar model
Having used, and helped others use, the Meade Autostar 494 System with
the ETX 60/70 series telescope, I thought that it would be useful to review
the system for those who might be considering this system.
with the ETX 70 turned out to be a fairly simple process. I actually used
the owner’s manual (and found it to be useful)! Autostar operation itself
is mostly straightforward and easy. There are a few “gotcha’s”
make life interesting. I will touch on those later. I used
the normal initialization
procedure to start with. When the telescope is assembled and ready for
observation, flip the power switch to “on.” Follow the
procedure in the
manual to set up the Autostar. The Initialization procedure is also set
up in graphical form in an appendix in the manual. I found this to
easier to follow. In a matter of minutes, I was ready to observe
The Autostar consists of several hierarchical layers of information. At
the highest level is the “Select Item:” This allows the
user to select
between all of the different modes of operation. These items include
(all standard astronomical objects), Setup (all setup functions), Event
(astronomical events such as sunrise, moonset, etc...), Utilities, Glossary,
and a cool feature called Guided Tour. Each successive layer delves
into the function selected at the “Select Item” level.
At this point, the
“Mode” key is our friend. No matter how deep we get into
each successive press of the “Mode” key returns us to the next
level in the structure. The best way to become familiar with the Autostar
functionality is to play with it. I found it very easy to experiment, so
don’t be afraid. The best part is that if you or the Autostar become too
confused, it is very simple to power off and start over.
I give the Autostar
high marks for user-friendliness. I figure that if I can use it, anyone
can! Out of the box, I found that the Autostar 494 system was pretty much
ready to use. In all cases, I followed the graphical initialization
shown in the appendix and was observing within minutes of turning the system
on. Pluses are:
- Very easy-to-follow instructions.
- Simple setup.
accurate goto and tracking. An example, I took a quick trip to Grand
one weekend and took the ’scope with me. I made a quick setup one night
as the clouds were rolling in fast. I noticed that the Autostar had
each alignment star by several degrees. Then, as I did my “goto’s”
were still off. I finally realized that I did not change my location in
the Setup. Being the lazy goat that I am, I went ahead and moved
manually to the object I was looking for, and it tracked beautifully for
the whole amount of time I spent on the object.
There are, however, some “gotcha’s” that require a bit
of patience. I will
list them here:
- The scrolling two-line display can be unreadable in certain
circumstances such as cold temps.
- After the telescope is aligned, the
four arrow keys are used to move the telescope in alt. or az.
arrow keys at the bottom of the controller are used to scroll through menu
items at this point. If you try to use the up/down arrow keys in
of the controller for this, it will move the ’scope. However, the
arrow keys are still used to move through fields in the menu items. This
- While “going to” an object, it is always necessary to hit
the “enter” key after selecting the object before hitting the
This is frustrating for us impatient goto-er’s.
- The drive is particularly
Overall, I have found the ETX 60/70 to be a versatile and inexpensive
’scope, and have logged many miles and objects with the ’70. I give the
Autostar 494 4 out of 5 stars. As usual, Your Mileage May Vary.
Copyright © 2013, the University Lowbrow Astronomers. (The University Lowbrow Astronomers are an amateur astronomy club based in Ann Arbor, Michigan).
This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
This page revised Wednesday, February 27, 2013 2:22 PM.
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