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#1 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 07:28 PM

Customer Support       02/15/2013

Hello All,

I have a permanently equatorially mounted 16" LX200-ACF that has now become unusable. I have un-commanded and unstoppable full speed slews in both right ascension and declination that occur during auto guiding for imaging. Once they start I have to turn the telescope off and restart completely. Once the slewing starts during imaging when I try a restart the full speed slewing will start during boot up usually before the Smart Drive initialization begins. I called Meade Sky Assurance support at 1 800 291 3392 and talked to someone who does not know that the declination trunnions and worm are a permanent part of the OTA on the 16" and wanted me to send back just the base and fork. He also did not know what a Telescope Drive Master encoder was. When I asked to speak to an engineer about concerns I had about this problem he said that there was no one I could talk with. I have close to $20,000 invested with Meade in this telescope, accessories and Sky Assurance and I find it completely unacceptable that I am not allowed to talk to someone at Meade who KNOWS about this telescope.

I have inspected all ACCESSABLE wires, connections and circuit boards and have found no defects.

Do any of you good people out there know of how I can talk to someone at Meade who knows this telescope?

Sincerely,
ObservatoryCat 

Some more thoughts on my Customer Support.     02/15/2013

I am very disappointed by a design philosophy that requires you to return a 350 pound telescope to get a 3 ounce circuit board replaced. One of the boards is even mounted where you can not get at it with the scope mounted on a pier, you have to take the whole telescope and mount down to access this board. It could easily be put in a place where it could be accessed.

There also appears to be no place to plug in any kind of diagnostic equipment. A person who can set up and use such a telescope, connect CCD cameras, computers, etc. to it is certainly capable of doing diagnostic work with help from Meade and replacing well designed, placed and thought out components.

There is a company, Davis Instruments, right here in California, that makes remote sensing weather stations that you can carry around with one hand. Their Customer Service Department will help you fix almost any problem. This service includes supplying you with diagnostic equipment and instructions on how to use it to determine which component is at fault. You can buy direct from them sensors, circuit boards, motors, batteries, solar panels and anything you might need to get your system back on line. Meade could certainly learn a lot from them.

If anyone asks me about Meade Telescopes these points would be an obligation, a moral responsibality, for me to tell them.

A very disappointed ObservatoryCat

#2 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 09:04 PM

For better or worse, I suspect that know that scope better than Meade Customer Support does.

I also have several sets of spare electronics for it and can test your boards using my scope if you send them to me.

Besides my own, I maintain the 16's for a number of colleges and for the Mauna Kea VIS on the Big Island of Hawaii.

But before you consider sending me anything I would like you to double-check all of the internal cables for damage due to flexure or rubbing. The stiff, gray ribbon cable in the left DEC arm is notorious for breaking or rubbing but the wires going through the RA shaft are are especially-notorious for having bare spots rubbed into them where they pass through the hole. Also, it is common for the DB-15 connector inside the fork base to come loose or get damaged through snagging.

Sudden, high-speed slewing could be caused by a flaky power supply or connection too.

I hope this helps.

#3 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 16 February 2013 - 11:23 PM

Hello Chris,

Thank you for your reply and the information about checking the cables that you supplied. I have checked the cables, circuit boards and connections as best I could but I will do some more checking and pay particular attention to what you suggest. Since I have installed a Telescope Drive Master encoder on the RA shaft (which requires removing the RA shaft end cap, disconnecting the connector and passing the harness through the TDM adapter and encoder, removing the tywraps so you can extend the harness) I have, but will again, inspect this area very carefully.

I appreciate your offer to test the circuit boards and would be very willing to have you do so except for the fact that the telescope is still covered by the Meade Sky Assurance extended warranty. I am afraid to do anything to it that Meade could hold against me.

I have a friend who retired from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). He was an electronics engineer and team leader there and perhaps we can get together and check out the power supply.

One thing I have never liked about this scope, and I informed Meade of my displeasure about it after the scope arrived, is that the mating of the power supply plug with the jack is VERY sloppy. However, I have done several wiggle tests on it and found that there was no change in the telescope operation and there is no movement there when the scope is in use. When the scope is returned that is one of the things I will request to be fixed. The jack and the plug are the same size, just a very sloppy fit. I will try to make them mate more securely.

Would you mind telling me how you acquired the spare electronics? This would be good to know in the days after the warranty runs out. The electronics have always been my biggest concern, since the telescope is located in My Observatory and there are constant temperature changes.

Thank you for all the information you have supplied. I hope my reply to your post will give it the respect it deserves.

Sincerely,
ObservatoryCat

#4 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 02:15 AM

It would have been nice if Meade had built-in a diagnostic connector but this particular application isn't as conducive to that kind of feature as is a PC. It has a central MC68HC11 8-bit microcontroller with a bit of distributed processing at the motors.

A short to ground in one of the cables can cause the behavior you are seeing, as can a glitch in the motherboard or bad power.

Over the years I have purchased a fair number of repair parts directly from Meade. However the people who I dealt with in the past no longer work for Meade, so I am not sure I could get the same parts again. I am working to cultivate some new contacts at Meade but time will tell. And of course given Meade's current financial situation it could all become moot.

And another thing about Meade's current financial situation, at this time I would NOT send them your scope or any part of it. There is a certain amount of risk that you might not ever get it back if they close their doors while your scope or parts of it are in their shop.

I hope this helps.

#5 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 02:19 AM

Do both axes go crazy at the same time or just one?

Does it happen ONLY during autoguiding?

Have you checked your guide speed settings?

Any possibility of ground loops between your autoguiding setup and the scope?

Anything about your setup that was changed near the time that this problem manifested?

#6 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 04:37 AM

Hello Chris,

This problem started gradually many months ago. The only change in setup was my installation of the TDM. I cannot say for sure whether I installed it before or after the problem occurred. I would get half way through the night before a slew. Some nights no problems. Last time got one image before slewing began and never got another good restart.

Most of the time it starts with a south declination slew that sometimes stops by itself but at other times will not. The other night it stopped by itself, I disconnected all external equipment and software (see below) and left the scope just sit powered up with the axis locks released. Several times it started slewing south stopped then started again. I shut down, had a normal restart. During the first image had a east slew in RA that would not stop. No dec slew. This was unusual because the RA slews usually start after the dec slews if they start at all and go west.

Once this slewing begins restarts are usually not normal because slewing will start usually before Smart Drive setup is complete. While all of this slewing is going on at start up I will get either no error messages or a Motor Stall or PEC error message. Any other time I get no messages. Nothing else is powered up during these restarts.

Sometines at the beginning of the night I have the boot up stall with Smart Drive displayed. The RA motor does not run. No error messages.

I reduce the guiding rate from 66 to 26% otherwise I get too much jumping east and west with inputs from the TDM at five times a second. The TDM only inputs RA guide inputs, no dec inputs. However it does pass through dec inputs from the auto guider.

I operate this scope under the following conditions.

Factory installed Autostar II version 4.2g.
Explore Scientific TDM encoder input at five times per second.
SkyTools Version 3.2 Professional Edition for telescope control.
Current ASCOM Platform 6.0 with LX200GPS driver.
Maxim DL Pro Verison 5.23 for camera and auto guider control.
SBIG STL-6303E CCD Camera, guiding with internal guide CCD.
RA and dec PEC are not used.
I have never used any of the Meade alignment procedures (What a Pain). All I do is connect the telescope to SkyTools, manually point the scope at a star and tell SkyTools to sync the scope at the curser position which is on the star on the SkyTools Interactive Atlas. All slewing to an object with SkyTools after this is completely accurate and have never had any problems.

Powering off the TDM, stoping imaging and guiding, and disconnecting from SkyTools does not stop the slewing.
Pushing and releasing or pushing and holding the GO TO button on the Autostar hand box does not stop the slewing

Seems like something is heating up and overheating although I can not smell or feel anything. I have waited as long as 15 minutes to try a restart with no success. Always starts okay the next night I use it but the time to failure has been becoming less and less.

I do not know if there are any ground loops.

Hope this helps you.
Thanks,
ObserveryCat

#7 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 04:58 AM

My mind keeps coming back to those 15 green wires that pass through the RA axis and now through your RA absolute encoder.

Check those wires for a rubbed, crushed or exposed spot. And the DB-15 connectors for soundness too.

As a test it is possible to make a DB-15 bypass cable to go from the fork cable directly to the back of the motherboard. Be warned that cable isn't wired pin-for-pin between the two ends. I have made a schematic of the wiring and uploaded it in the 16-LX200 Yahoo group Files section.

I hope this helps.

#8 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 04:20 AM

Hello Chris,

I went out to My Observatory tonight to try and get more information about my telescope problems.

The OAT was 49 degrees F, which is normal for this time of year.

I backed out the strain relief on the output end of the scope power supply and connected the Meter leads of my Fluke 199C so that I could monitor the output dc voltage and ac ripple with the recorder function of the Scopemeter.

I had a normal start up of the telescope and with no external devices or software of any kind I let the scope operate at the normal sidereal rate. I also did some full speed slewing with the hand box and all operated normally.

At no time during tonight's operations did the power supply output dc voltage vary more than a couple of hundredth volts from 18.23 vdc. The ripple ac voltage during sidereal tracking was usually 0 volts. However, there were occasional one second or shorter spikes that never reached higher then 0.39 vac. These spikes occurred at most twice in a five second period and there were 20 second or longer periods where the voltage was 0. These results did not vary even when I heated the power supply to 130 degrees F. When the power supply was not heated by me it always felt cold. The only time the ripple was more frequent was when the telescope was doing un-commended full speed slewing. During this full speed slewing the ripple occurred almost constantly but the voltage never exceeded the above 0.39 vac.

The full speed un-commanded slewing started after about 40 minutes of sidereal tracking. This was a RA slew to the east. After about 10 seconds this slew stopped and then in about three seconds a full speed RA slew to the west started. While this slew was in progress un-commanded full speed slewing south in declination started. The dec south slewing started and stopped several times, the RH slewing continued. I held the telescope in place with the axis locks loosened for about 15 seconds before I turned the telescope off. There were no error messages on the hand box.

After about five minutes I had a successful restart of the telescope but then the dec slewing started almost immediately.

Shutdown again, had another successful restart and again got immediate slewing in declination. However, this time there was a message on the hand box "initialization or perhaps initializing fingerprinting".

Shutdown, closed up, could not take any more of this.

Well Chris, it is obvious from this that none of my external devices, software or auto guiding is causing these problems. What do you think of the power supply? What do you think of the "initialization or perhaps initializing fingerprinting" message? Next thing on my list is to check wires again.

Thanks,
ObservatoryCat

#9 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 04:37 AM

Testing with a battery-supply instead of an AC supply might reveal something but this sure sounds like a damaged-cable-shorting-to-ground issue.

Here is the LX200GPS-16 fork arm wiring schematic that I made, if it helps any.

Attached Files



#10 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 10:24 PM

Hello Chris,

Thank you for the schematic, very impressive.

Accomplished last nights test again today with a 12 volt and a 6 volt automotive battery wired in series (18.7 volts) with a 3 amp fuse. Basically all of the same craziness that occurred last night happened again but it took less than 3 minutes to start during each of the three attemps this time. Had PEC one time, Motor Stalled another, no fingerprinting message.

Did notice one more thing that I had not noticed before. When the dec full speed slew stopped I could hear the dec motor still turning at a very slow speed for a few seconds before it completely stopped.

Decided to call Meade today and see what I could buy from then in the way of parts. They said I could get a new hand box and cable. I said here is my credit card number. He thought a minute and said - Well, since your scope is under warranty we will send it to you at no charge. The first thing I suggested to this guy in my email to him, over a week ago, explaining my problems, was to try these first. Have talked to him several times since, but was never informed they were available. The only other thing I can get is a new power supply, but customer support doesn't have them, have to buy them off the web site.

Pulled the harness out of the RH shaft, went hand over hand down to the first tywrap, not a scratch. Will go further tomorrow.

Since, I assume, that only dec and GPS wires go through the RA shaft, how could a fault in these wires cause all of the RH craziness without having the dec slew also? RA slewing is happening much more often now then it use to and now also even before dec slewing begins. Seems to me that the only things common to both are the hand box, it's cable and the main board.

Since I can not find any wire damage, could a open or short, such as when something inside a chip heats up, be causing this? Once it starts no matter how many restarts I do, there is no joy. After along break, the next day, first start always okay.

ObservatoryCat

#11 jrcrilly

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 10:31 PM

I'd still be worried about ground loops. Have you disconnected EVERYTHING, including unmounting the camera (most common source) and the serial cable (second-most common source)?

p.s. The handbox won't affect anything; it's just an I/O device.

#12 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:18 AM

Hello Chris,

Thank you for the schematic, very impressive.

Accomplished last nights test again today with a 12 volt and a 6 volt automotive battery wired in series (18.7 volts) with a 3 amp fuse. Basically all of the same craziness that occurred last night happened again but it took less than 3 minutes to start during each of the three attemps this time. Had PEC one time, Motor Stalled another, no fingerprinting message.

Did notice one more thing that I had not noticed before. When the dec full speed slew stopped I could hear the dec motor still turning at a very slow speed for a few seconds before it completely stopped.

Decided to call Meade today and see what I could buy from then in the way of parts. They said I could get a new hand box and cable. I said here is my credit card number. He thought a minute and said - Well, since your scope is under warranty we will send it to you at no charge. The first thing I suggested to this guy in my email to him, over a week ago, explaining my problems, was to try these first. Have talked to him several times since, but was never informed they were available. The only other thing I can get is a new power supply, but customer support doesn't have them, have to buy them off the web site.

Pulled the harness out of the RH shaft, went hand over hand down to the first tywrap, not a scratch. Will go further tomorrow.

Since, I assume, that only dec and GPS wires go through the RA shaft, how could a fault in these wires cause all of the RH craziness without having the dec slew also? RA slewing is happening much more often now then it use to and now also even before dec slewing begins. Seems to me that the only things common to both are the hand box, it's cable and the main board.

Since I can not find any wire damage, could a open or short, such as when something inside a chip heats up, be causing this? Once it starts no matter how many restarts I do, there is no joy. After along break, the next day, first start always okay.

ObservatoryCat


Shorts in the fork cable can disrupt the main board because the connections to the main board are mostly-unbuffered and connect directly to sensitive parts of the main board, like the microcontroller. Shorts on some of those lines can bring the entire system into instant chaos.

The Autostar-II hand controller is only a dumb serial terminal and it is unlikely that it can cause a problem like this.

The problem could also be a cold solder joint someplace on the main board. Especially on one of the various cable connector pins. Cold solder joints are infamous at changing behavior as a board or components change temperature.

I hope this helps and I am still willing to test/troubleshoot/repair your boards if it comes to that.

And FWIW, my Meade contact tells me that they don't have any replacement boards for the 16's in the service department right now and it will probably be four months before they do another manufacturing run. That may mean that sending your scope to Meade could result in being down for four to five months before you could get back on-sky.

I hope this helps.

#13 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:57 AM

If all comes to worse, you also have the option of converting to Sidereal Technologies Servo GOTO control or the Software Bisque TCS system.

http://www.siderealtechnology.com/

http://www.bisque.co...S-Standard.aspx

I hope this helps.

#14 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 02:13 AM

Hello Chris,

Thank you for all of the good information. Might have to reinstall my 1970's era orange tube C8 or C14 back on the pier for awhile.

My retired SLAC friend has a C12 and he is considering installing one of those systems. I will look into it.

To see my observatory, telescope and images please look at www.flickr.com/photos/myobservatory

To watch a video, part of which includes me operating the telescope, please look at https://Vimeo.com/44062171 password "cosmos".  This was a class project of students in the M.F.A. program at Stanford University.

ObservatoryCat

#15 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 03:34 AM

Hello Chris,

Thank you for all of the good information. Might have to reinstall my 1970's era orange tube C8 or C14 back on the pier for awhile.

My retired SLAC friend has a C12 and he is considering installing one of those systems. I will look into it.

To see my observatory, telescope and images please look at www.flickr.com/photos/myobservatory 

To watch a video, part of which includes me operating the telescope, please look at https://Vimeo.com/44062171  password "cosmos".  This was a class project of students in the M.F.A. program at Stanford University.

ObservatoryCat


The video was beautifully-done but the Flickr link did not work!

#16 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:16 AM

A bunch of debris got added to the end of it somehow. It is shown correctly. I edited it, worked for me now.

#17 sgorton99

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 07:35 AM

And of course given Meade's current financial situation it could all become moot.

And another thing about Meade's current financial situation, at this time I would NOT send them your scope or any part of it. There is a certain amount of risk that you might not ever get it back if they close their doors while your scope or parts of it are in their shop.

I hope this helps.


Couldn't agree more. My experience with dealing with business customers who file bankruptcy is that everything is locked up tight and eventually liquidated. I would hate to have my scope in their position if/when they file. If they go chapter 7, it will be a "no asset" liquidation and I'm guessing everything they have in possession will be scooped up cheap by some part warehouse type places. Just my 2 cents...

#18 ahopp

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:51 AM

Not true, a bankruptcy trusty would return all equipment/assets not owned by the 'company' to its rightful owner. It may take time to sort it out, but, it would not be liquidated, at least not on purpose. Keep good records and you should be OK.

Tony

#19 sgorton99

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 11:01 AM

Not true, a bankruptcy trusty would return all equipment/assets not owned by the 'company' to its rightful owner. It may take time to sort it out, but, it would not be liquidated, at least not on purpose. Keep good records and you should be OK.

Tony


Thanks, I would just hate to have my stuff locked up as they sort it all out...

#20 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 12:05 PM

A bunch of debris got added to the end of it somehow. It is shown correctly. I edited it, worked for me now.


Still shows "Page Not Found" here.

I suspect that there is a cookie on your machine that is allowing you to find the right page that doesn't exist on my machine.


#21 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:06 PM

Not true, a bankruptcy trusty would return all equipment/assets not owned by the 'company' to its rightful owner. It may take time to sort it out, but, it would not be liquidated, at least not on purpose. Keep good records and you should be OK.

Tony


But if there aren't perfect records and the people who were working on it are out of a job, it could be tricky for it to find its way back to you.

Had a friend who had a car in for a transmission job and the shop went bust while the car was on the rack. The car vanished and he never got it back. My speculation is that it somehow vanished into a chop-shop. I have no idea if the former owner did it or an employee or the liquidator but at any rate the car was gone.

#22 ahopp

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 01:53 PM

As I said, keep good records, your insurance company will want to see them.

Remember, if the 'company' is the only option you have for repair, then, get your scope in ASAP, and push them hard to get it back ASAP. Otherwise, do the repairs yourself, warranty be damned.

Tony

#23 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 09:04 PM

Hello Chris,

Just type in the address and you will be fine. However, my stuff may not be worth the effort.

I sure would appreciate your opinion and advice about replacing the Meade electronics. I really hate the idea of sending the telescope away for something I could easily replace myself. I looked on the Software Bisque site and was amazed by the lack of information, or do I just not know how to find it? What do they supply, what does it look like, what do I need to supply, what will I need to build (have a friend who can machine almost anything), can I use SkyTools with it, can I use the Telescope Drive Master encoder. The only way I can figure this out is to hear from you and talk to them on the phone.

The floor plan of My Observatory and the pier I built were all configured in 1979 for an orange tube C14. Got the 16" LX200 as an upgrade because all I need to do was to make an adapter plate so I could bolt it onto the pier. The mount bolts just clear and I mean JUST clear the 12 OD of the pier.

If you ever fly into SFOIA I live and My Observatory is two miles from the terminals. Walked to work there since 1975, retired from UAL after 43 years.

Thanks,
ObservatoryCat

#24 ObservatoryCat

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:05 PM

Told Meade to stop building the shipping containers and to not send them to me at this time.

I am exploring other options.

ObservatoryCat

#25 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 01:06 AM

Hello Chris,

Just type in the address and you will be fine. However, my stuff may not be worth the effort.

I sure would appreciate your opinion and advice about replacing the Meade electronics. I really hate the idea of sending the telescope away for something I could easily replace myself. I looked on the Software Bisque site and was amazed by the lack of information, or do I just not know how to find it? What do they supply, what does it look like, what do I need to supply, what will I need to build (have a friend who can machine almost anything), can I use SkyTools with it, can I use the Telescope Drive Master encoder. The only way I can figure this out is to hear from you and talk to them on the phone.

The floor plan of My Observatory and the pier I built were all configured in 1979 for an orange tube C14. Got the 16" LX200 as an upgrade because all I need to do was to make an adapter plate so I could bolt it onto the pier. The mount bolts just clear and I mean JUST clear the 12 OD of the pier.

If you ever fly into SFOIA I live and My Observatory is two miles from the terminals. Walked to work there since 1975, retired from UAL after 43 years.

Thanks,
ObservatoryCat


Just figured out the link problem. For some reason an extra space was appearing at the end of the URL and as soon as I removed it the link worked.

The Software Bisque system consists of two motors, two timing belt speed reduction systems, central control electronics, cables, joystick, home sensors, power supply, The Sky 6, CCDSoft, Tpoint and Orchestrate. The only thing you need to add is custom motor adapter plates for your particular mount. Many other people have done this conversion on 16" LX200 mounts and I believe that Software Bisque has mechanical drawings of the adapter plates needed to put their motors on the 16" LX200. This conversion almost makes your fork mount into Paramount. Meade's factory worm drives will very likely have more periodic error than the Paramount. I doubt if any changes would have to be made to your absolute encoder setup.

The Sidereal Technologies Servo Controller II would probably be about half the price of the Software Bisque TCS system.

I hope this helps.

If I am ever in your area, I'll look you up!






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