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Cambridge - How to Use a Computer is Ed Telescope

Cambridge - How to Use a Computer is Ed Telescope

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Published by: Nu Guru on Sep 22, 2010
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Motors whir but telescope does not move

If you hear the motors running when you press the slewing buttons, but the
control the telescope only when the brakes are locked.
The telescope may also be at a limit of its motion. For example, the Meade
ETX-90 will not revolve around and around in azimuth; it reaches a limit.

Starting the alignment process, telescope points far away from intended star

or at a part of the sky far away from that star, it probably did not start in the
correct starting position (“home position”).
The telescope may be set for equatorial (polar) mode while on an altazimuth
mount or vice versa.
In equatorial mode, Meade ETX telescopes can be put on their wedge or
tripod backward, leading to confusion. (The connector panel should face west.)
Newtonians can be placed in the cradle backward.
See also the next item.

Large errors in pointing

The telescope may have been aligned on the wrong star; repeat alignment pro-

The date and time may be wrong; check clock/calendar and backup bat-
tery inside connector panel. Make sure the date is entered in the correct format
(month/day/year unless otherwise specified).
Time zone and other site data may be wrong. Note that U.S. time zones and

On Autostars and NexStars, make sure the right model of telescope is sel-
ected on the keypad. The correct setting should be retained permanently in the
computer’s memory, but it is worth checking when problems are observed.
the brakes (clutches). Once the telescope is aligned, it can only be moved elec-
trically; do not unlock the brakes. (The Celestron Ultima 2000 is an exception.)
The telescope may have slipped because of trying to slew to an impossible
position. This happens, for example, when the larger NexStars try to aim below
the horizon; they are designed to slip on the altitude axis rather than break the
mechanism. Turn the telescope off and realign.
of some telescopes. For example, when told to slew to M10, some NexStars go
to a point in Ara about 40◦ south of the correct position. Try going to the object
by right ascension and declination rather than by name.



For unknown reasons, the NexStar 5 occasionally goes to a wildly incorrect
halfway. Selecting the same object again sends it to the correct position.

Small errors in pointing

Factors that affect pointing accuracy are discussed on p. 32. Bear in mind that
extreme accuracy is not achieved with portable equipment. There are too many
things that can flex.

Pointing will always be most accurate near the stars on which the telescope
was aligned. To improve pointing accuracy in a particular area of the sky, sync
on a star there.

Do not judge a telescope by how well it finds the alignment stars before you
have performed the alignment. At that point, it is working blind and is com-
pletely at the mercy of the leveling of the tripod and the initial position of the
telescope. After you sight on two stars, the telescope knows the position of the
whole sky.

Autostar telescopes require a “Train Drive” procedure when first used and
every few months thereafter. An inaccurate Autostar may also require the
“Calibrate Motors” procedure.
In equatorial (polar) mode, the LX200 requires extremely precise polar align-
in the part of the sky that is of interest before going to a difficult object.
See also the previous item (large errors in pointing); you may have a mild
case of one of the problems described there.

Telescope goes to wrong object

On the Autostar, you must select an object by pressing ENTER before pressing
GO TO to slew to it. If you bring up an object on the screen and press GO TO, the
telescope will go to the previous object, which is still selected.

Excessive noise

When slewing at high speed, the LX200 sounds somewhat like a coffee grinder.
Noise can be reduced by selecting a slower slew rate (see p. 165). Excessive
noise in an older LX200 may indicate that a worm gear needs greasing and/or

The ETX-90 normally makes groaning or creaking noises while tracking
(i.e., while “standing still”, remaining pointed at an object as the Earth rotates).
Most other telescopes are almost silent while tracking.

Mechanical looseness

On lower-priced telescopes, some looseness in the mount is normal, especially
when power is turned off. The pointing system compensates for the looseness
through its backlash compensation settings and in other ways.


8.3 Motor and slewing problems

Poor tracking

If the telescope does not track an object after finding it, the problem is probably
(altazimuth or equatorial, and if equatorial, northern or southern hemisphere).
when problems are observed.
On low-end telescopes, tracking is unfortunately sometimes poor. Most tele-
scopes track much more smoothly in equatorial mode than in altazimuth

Some NexStar 4’s have a known firmware bug causing very poor tracking.
A fix is available from Celestron.
Very irregular tracking on the LX200 can be caused by random or incorrect
data in the Smart Drive (periodic-error correction) memory. Clear the Smart
chip mentioned on p. 123.

Telescope does not move when tracking sky objects

It is normal for a telescope to look as if it isn’t moving when it is tracking the
sky (compensating for the Earth’s rotation). The only way to tell whether the
telescope is tracking the sky is to look in the eyepiece.

Telescope refuses to slew to certain parts of the sky

with the telescope in the wrong position. It is not enough to point the telescope
north; it must also be within 180◦ of its anticlockwise limit. That is, you should
it on.

Other telescopes may have similar problems. Check clock, calendar, and site
information and realign.
On the LX200, another possibility is a loose connection in the declination


Telescope goesthe long way round, rotating nearly 360
to make a short movement

This is a protective measure to keep the telescope from tangling its cords (in-
protection can be turned off.
If, with this in mind, the actions of the telescope still do not make sense,
ing south vs. pointing north) or is set for the wrong hemisphere (northern vs.



After finding the object, telescope moves off it

On the Autostar, pressing GO TO after arriving at the object initiates a square-
spiral search of the sky around it. Press MODE to stop.

Incorrect motion when you press an arrow button

If motion begins with a sudden jerk, the backlash compensation is set too high.
See the instructions for your specific telescope and set a lower value.
direction, then the backlash compensation is set too low. Unless the problem is
severe, this is not a bad thing; it is always better to have too little compensation
than too much.

Note that on the NexStar 5 and some others, the up and down arrows are
reversed at slew rates 1 to 6, but not at rates 7 to 9. The idea is that you will use
the high rates when looking through the finder and the low rates when looking
through the eyepiece (with diagonal). In each case the arrows should match
what you see.

Slewing arrow buttons have no effect after connecting autoguider

The LX200 resets itself to the slowest slewing speed (“Guide”) when you con-
nect a CCD autoguider or when there is any activity on the CCD autoguider
port. However, the lights on the keypad still indicate that a higher speed is sel-
ected. You can select a different speed manually by pressing the appropriate

Runaway (motion that does not stop)

In general, this indicates a failure of the encoders (p. 21) so that the motors can
still move but cannot report their position.
check the declination cable. Check also for electrical problems, such as inade-
touching connections inside.
Some cases of runaway on the LX200 have been traced to overheating of
voltage regulator ICs when operating from an 18-volt supply in warm weather.
The ICs shut down for safety, leaving the encoders inoperative. Try a 12- or
15-volt supply.

See also “Computer hangs or resets at random moments” (p. 122), since the
same problems can also cause runaway.

Unduly difficult polar alignment

If you cannot get consistent, accurate polar alignment of an equatorial mount
evenbyusingiterationorthedriftmethod(p. 48),themountisprobablyshifting
while you are unaware of it. Look for loose bolts anywhere in the mount or


8.4 Optical problems

With many wedges, a large shift can occur while you are tightening the
lock-down bolts; to guard against this, tighten them carefully while looking
through the eyepiece. Also, make sure the lock-down bolts are quite loose be-
fore adjusting the wedge, so that there will be no pent-up tension when you
tighten them again.

Cannot lock R.A. brake

On the LX200, the ETX, and others, the right ascension brake handle may not
be able to move far enough to lock the brake. You can loosen the setscrew and
reposition the handle on the shaft.

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