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Celestron C8+ Advanced Astromaster

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#1 CylonBoomer

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Posted 31 December 2020 - 10:04 AM

Hi everyone!

I hope someone can help me. I've got an old Celestron C8+ with advanced astromaster digital setting circles i bought back in the 90's.

Everything seems to work, but the computer (astromaster) is out of date and the database only goes to 1999.

I've been searching the net trying to find a way to either update the firmware/database, OR buy a new computer.

I don't need it to slew, i just need it to read the encoders.

 

Thanks for any help.

 

P.S. I did try to search the forums, but didn't find anything on this.

If there is another thread and I missed it, i welcome a friendly pointing to it.

 

 

Have a happy new year!

 

Clear Skies!

Sharon


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#2 JMP

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Posted 01 January 2021 - 01:41 PM

I own an Ultima 2000 that also has an out of date computer. I understand that the date issue really only applies to finding the planets. I think you can do a two star alignment and use the AAM as is. I have a friend that does this, I'll ask him.

#3 telesonic

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Posted 01 January 2021 - 11:25 PM

Sharon, 

I don't believe that there is any way to update the firmware on the Advanced Astromaster. I believe that info is hard coded on the chip itself.

 

However, JMP is correct.... the date should only be relevant to the planets, all other object should be fine and / findable.

 

I Have an older (1990's) Orion Sky Wizard 3 that is basically the same thing as the AA, and was finding all sorts of things with for the last few years. If you don't have a manual for it, the JMI NGC MAX and the Sky Wizard 3 should be the same (the Celestron/Orion/JMI) were all manufactured by the same company (Tangent Instruments I believe.)

 

 

There is also a way to take the output from the AA computer, and feed it to something like a laptop / phone or tablet running Stellarium or similar planetarium program, for a kind of visual push-to system (in my case, I use Sky Safari) But, you will need a custom cable made - and a bluetooth adapter (or wifi adapter for Apple devices.) It's kinda complicated to explain all the details, but mine worked well on my old mount that has encoders... once I figured it out.

 

Give it a go, with a two star alignment, mine always put me pretty close to the object.... despite being old school technology, it still works. Surprisingly well, actually. 

 

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

T



#4 CylonBoomer

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Posted 02 January 2021 - 11:53 AM

Hey Guys!

Thanks so MUCH for getting back to me.

You are so right!!

I've got an original N5, and was confusing that with needing the date/time.

 

Ok getting back to the C8. I set it up in the house and am testing it.  I realized that all i need is the two start alignment! YES!

It's reading all of the decoders. I just need to replace the batteries in the telescope base unit if i don't want to run off ac power.

The optics look pretty solid and i've aligned the sighter scope,  If the skies cooperate in Texas, I might be able to see something!!

 

@telesonic...im super interested in how you pulled the input out of the scope.  A long time ago, in my misspent youth,

i bought several cables to connect this beast into a pc. So have a cable that has a serial port and a plug to connect it to the astromaster.... I would love the idea of being able to pull the encoder data and transmitting it to an ipad.

If you have time, I'd love to pick your brain about that.

 

Thanks!

Sharon



#5 kksmith

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Posted 02 January 2021 - 03:38 PM

Actually there is a way to update the Advanced Astromaster - it involves replacing a simple chip. I've seen the tutorial on it before. I'll have to find the link and post it. 

 

Ken


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#6 telesonic

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Posted 02 January 2021 - 04:26 PM

 

@telesonic...im super interested in how you pulled the input out of the scope.  A long time ago, in my misspent youth,

i bought several cables to connect this beast into a pc. So have a cable that has a serial port and a plug to connect it to the astromaster.... I would love the idea of being able to pull the encoder data and transmitting it to an ipad.

If you have time, I'd love to pick your brain about that.

 

Thanks!

Sharon

Very cool, glad you got it going!

 

 

Sure, happy to!

So if you have the serial cable for it already, you are mostly there. I had to roll my own cable, so yours should be much easier than mine... for the most part. If you are using an ipad, you will most likely need to go with a wi-fi adapter - as Apple doesn't cooperate well for this via bluetooth (at least, that is my understanding of it - I'm using an Android tablet, hence the bluetooth.)

 

For mine, I purchased a SkyBT adapter from Simulation Curriculum to work with Sky Safari. I believe they sell the WiFi adapter for Apple on their site. It should be a simple DB-9 serial port / WiFi adapter that is setup with the correct pinout. 

 

How it works: The tablet basically becomes a moving chart / map.

Once aligned in the Advanced Astromaster - and on your object, you can turn on your device and Sky Safari should recognize where the scope is pointed. If not, you can tap to center it in the App. (or center with the Astromaster) From there - I simply used the tablet to get me pointed at whatever I wanted to look for next - and kinda ignored the box itself.... just letting the pointer on the tablet to get me close enough. It worked good. I still have the setup - but I mostly use the tablet on my ASGT Go-to mount these days.

 

The cool thing is, of you ever get a go-to mount - you can control it directly from your ipad. Which is pretty neat really. Oh, and I'm sure that there are probably other companies that sell these things, but it's the only one I know of that will work with the Advanced Astromaster. I could never determine if the free program Stellarium would jive with my setup, though.

 

Hope this info helps, if you have any other questions - I'd be glad to answer them.

T


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#7 CylonBoomer

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Posted 02 January 2021 - 05:11 PM

@telesconic

Thank you so much for getting back to me.

YES That sound exactly what i want to do. Just use my ipad as a sort of pointer to see where the scope is pointing.

Thanks for the references. I'll dig into that search and see what i can find. I can't imagine it being that difficult as this is pretty clear data coming out of it.

 

I also have an original N5 that needs to either be fixed (doubltful ), reforked onto a new mount Or just pawn it off onto someone more saavy than me and buy something new.  Goto's have come a long way since the 90's!!!

 

Thanks again!

Sharon



#8 CylonBoomer

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Posted 02 January 2021 - 05:22 PM

@telesconic

OK i googled an came up with this:

https://store.simula...s-scope-control

 

The bluetooth controller you're speaking of seems to be out of stock and of course, only works with android.

Do you know if this wifi would work with astromaster?

It's sort of vague. My scope is NOT the ultima but before so im sort of hesitant.

 

That being said, this cable:

https://store.simula...pe-serial-cable

is exactly the cable i have.

 

Thanks for your insights.

 

Sharon



#9 telesonic

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Posted 02 January 2021 - 07:27 PM

No problem Sharon!

 

Yes, that's the company. (before anyone wonders - I don't work for them) smile.gif

 

Oh, and one thing that I forgot to ask-

Is your C8 mounted on a wedge? Just curious, as that will make a difference on how you set up the astro master / Sky Safari.

 

Since you are using an ipad - you will want the SkyFi that you linked to. Down on the lower right of that page, it lists the AstroMaster and NGC-Max (which are the same) so it should work just fine for your unit. And yep, that is the correct cable too!

 

One thing to note:

If you do end up with SkySafari - you will want to get the non-free version, for it to work properly. (and for later control of go-to scopes) Last I remember, there were 3 versions basic(free) then a second(I have that version) and lastly the pro version - which I think just has a few more features. I emailed them back before I purchased it, and they were very helpful, so you might drop them a line first. I think they also had a forum too.... but it's been awhile since I dug into this.

 

Then you will need to set it up in the menu - but that's easy. I think you just select Advanced Astro Master in a drop down box. For a wedge mounted scope / I believe the proper setup was something like Fork mount, Polar - or something like that. It may ask you your encoder resolution.... usually they have a sticker on them, but if not, it can be figured out - and I think the Astro Master has this info input already - and I think it's in the menu settings somewhere (I can check mine later if you'd like.) But IIRC the older C8 encoders were 4000 something for the RA and 2160 I believe on the DEC axis. I have a set somewhere that I can check for you if needed.

 

My setup was a little more complicated since it was mounted on a EQ mount, and had gears on the encoders.... so I had to do a little math to get the rotation angles correct - and pointed properly. That was only a one-time deal though, your fork mount should be far easier than mine was, yours will most likely be plug and play basically.

 

Cheers,

and if you need anything else, let me know. Happy to help!

Temp



#10 CylonBoomer

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Posted 03 January 2021 - 11:05 AM

Hi Telesonic

Thanks a ton for the info!

I'm so grateful to finally have someone to chat about this stuff and all the details!!

Yes, I have the wedge that came with the original tripod so thanks for letting me know about that.

 

I can't wait to get started, but i have to wait a few weeks before i can purchase the skyFI and give this a go.

(gotta wait for the credit card to roll over).

So if i go silent, its not bec i gave up, just gotta save up for it.

Thanks again!

I can't wait to make it work!!!

 

Happy New Year!

Sharon


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#11 CylonBoomer

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 01:48 PM

hey Telesonic

I setup the scope last night, as we had perfectly still, clear night.

My ability to use the Astromaster has become, well, rusty over the years of lack of use!

 

I had a hard time getting an align star to not have a warp over 40.

 

I was able to get mars in view and checked out the Pleiades.

(My fiance responded "which star am i supposed to look at? Why can't i see much on mars?" sigh)

I messed with it for about 2 hours before getting too cold and going in.

 

Today, i called Simulation Curriculum and spoke to a tech. Smart guy and he told me how to use the software with the Skyfi. I decided to order one and he said i should have it pretty soon.

 

thank you again for your help and i'll update when i get it and how it works.

Hopefully, it will add some functionality to the scope, bec i'm too **** old to

pull a contortionist act to look through the sighter scope!

 

Have a great day and thanks again!


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#12 telesonic

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 02:12 PM

Howdy again Sharon,

 

Good to hear that you got it out, and gave it a go. I do remember there being some sort of trick to keeping the warp low... but for the life of me, I cant remember what it was at the moment. I think there was a post around on here, or another site that discussed it. If I come across it, I will let you know.

 

I look forward to hearing your update once you get it, oh... and if you have a straight through finder scope on your C8, a real nice (and inexpensive) upgrade is a Right angle Correct Image finder scope. They come up for sale on the classifieds here, and Orion / other brands have a inexpensive 6x30. These really save the neck, and reduce the need to be a contortionist. :)

 

Glad to be of help, and again, I look forward to your update. 

When you get some time, you should post some pictures of your scope.

Cheers!

Temp



#13 DAVIDG

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 02:41 PM

hey Telesonic

I setup the scope last night, as we had perfectly still, clear night.

My ability to use the Astromaster has become, well, rusty over the years of lack of use!

 

I had a hard time getting an align star to not have a warp over 40.

 

I was able to get mars in view and checked out the Pleiades.

(My fiance responded "which star am i supposed to look at? Why can't i see much on mars?" sigh)

I messed with it for about 2 hours before getting too cold and going in.

 

Today, i called Simulation Curriculum and spoke to a tech. Smart guy and he told me how to use the software with the Skyfi. I decided to order one and he said i should have it pretty soon.

 

thank you again for your help and i'll update when i get it and how it works.

Hopefully, it will add some functionality to the scope, bec i'm too **** old to

pull a contortionist act to look through the sighter scope!

 

Have a great day and thanks again!

 I have built a number of my own interfaces  to use with Sky Safari.  I hope the people at Simulation Curriculum  explained  that for the Advanced Astromaster you need a special cable that has a  phone connector on one end and DB9 connector of the other The phone connector plugs into the serial port of the AA and the DB9 into the DB9 on the WIFi adapter.   You can easily make one yourself if you know how to solder.  Here is a link to the  manual, in Appendix C is the wiring for the cable . http://www.jimsmobil.../max_manual.pdf

 

                  - Dave 


Edited by DAVIDG, 04 January 2021 - 02:57 PM.

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#14 kksmith

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 09:38 PM

Actually there is a way to update the Advanced Astromaster - it involves replacing a simple chip. I've seen the tutorial on it before. I'll have to find the link and post it. 

 

Ken

Well darn, my link for this update to the Astro Master chip is gone, and my Google attempts to find it turn up nothingf. I had booked marked it since I had plan to get the Astro Master for my C8 and it seemed an easy fix and update. 

 

I did find it, but unfortunately it's for the Celestron Compustar - not the Astro Master. Never mind

 

Sorry


Edited by kksmith, 04 January 2021 - 10:01 PM.


#15 telesonic

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Posted 04 January 2021 - 11:39 PM

Dang Ken.....  well thanks for the follow up. I'd thought I'd seen it too..... 

 

However, somewhat relevant here....

From all that I can tell, what seems to be a common occurrence is that Tangent Instruments Inc. was in charge of design and or production of these DSC units, and sold under various brand names during that time frame. Here are a few that are mostly the same, spec wise.

 

Celestron Advanced Astro Master

Orion Sky Wizard 3

Lumicon Sky Vector (later version)

JMI (Jim's Mobile) NGC MAX

 

The first three are no longer in production, available only used.

What is interesting though, is that the JMI version seems to still be listed on their site - even though JMI is long gone. Call Farpoint Astro? I wonder if that is an error, or perhaps there still is a way to get updated chips for these...... if they were even made? Sure, demand won't be high - but it might be worth asking around to some that still market DSC's. Losmandy? Astro Devices?

 

I'd bet, that they do exist. Since there were several different versions in the same housing, but with different firmwares and chips I'd 100% think that the chip is in a socket, soldered to the PCB.

 

 

 

Hrrmmm.... I may have to open mine up to check sometime. Okay, rant over.....

 

 

And Dave has a good point, regarding cabling.

If you don't get one with your order, or if it doesn't work with Sky Safari - don't worry. I've made a few of these cables as well, like Dave, and have a few spare RJ ends and parts -   easy stuff for a nerd like me. grin.gif or a few of us here. lol.gif

 

Cheers,

Temp



#16 CylonBoomer

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Posted 05 January 2021 - 09:15 AM

i love all this c8 chat!

you guys fill my heart with happiness!

i was so about to give up on this scope and all of you have given my skies back to me. thank you!!

 

Years ago, I had purchased a Starlight Xpress MX7-C with dreams of plugging everything into a laptop, using a guide star and taking pictures.  I had purchased a aforementioned cable above to plug into my AA.  I still have it.  So im hoping when the SkyFi gets here, It will work. However, Michael from SC told me they have a cable in case mine doesn't work, but mine looks just it in the photo.  See above post for the link.

 

In 2017 i revisited my scopes and contacted Starlight Xpress company. Unfortunately, they stopped making a USB cable converter because it uses the parallel port.  He recommended i go find an old laptop with Windows 98 on it. bleh. I just can't believe in my heart that a modern solution doesn't exist. Although im not saavy enough to figure it out.  I was so into it, that I converted an old bw webcam and used some guy's homemade software to take pictures. I accidentally caught the sombrero galaxy once....

 

Then i  moved into the city and life intervened. 

 

Anyway, I predict my SkyFi will arrive Wednesday, because that's when it's supposed to rain....

 

Clear skies!

Sharon

 

P.S. Michael from SC says that the telescope and mount shortage may last until JULY or even longer.

He said we were lucky to still have our C8's as those will last forever if taken care of.

daaannnggg!



#17 DAVIDG

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Posted 05 January 2021 - 09:58 AM

  All these devices Celestron Advanced Astro Master,Orion Sky Wizard 3, Lumicon Sky Vector ,JMI (Jim's Mobile) NGC MAX were all made by Tangent Instruments and the  owner is Rick McWilliams. I believe they are still in business. Rick has been very good in answering questions  for me over the years and maybe able to supply a new ROM with the updated software.

    If  you connect one of these to Sky Safari, you wouldn't need the updated firmware thou since Sky Safari has the latest position data. When connected to Sky Safari, the Advanced Astro Master just becomes an encoder interface and transmit the raw encoder counts to Sky Safari which does all the calculation for the two or more star alignment and the also has the position for all the objects to observe including the present day position of the planets.

   When it comes to the interface cable sold be Sky Safari it may or may not have the same pin out as what is needed even thou it has the correct connectors but a few minutes with soldering can easily fix that if needed.

 

                  - Dave  


Edited by DAVIDG, 06 January 2021 - 08:50 AM.

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#18 CylonBoomer

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Posted 06 January 2021 - 09:21 AM

Hey Dave

Thanks for the information

How did you get in contact with Rick McWilliams?

 

My SkyFi is still floating around MN, so I'm sure i wont see it for a few days.
Plus..it's raining, so that means someone near me prob got a new eyepiece today :D

 

Clear Skies

Sharon



#19 CylonBoomer

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Posted 06 January 2021 - 12:35 PM

Just out of curiosity...what are your favorite eyepieces?

What's a good lens to really see Mars as magnitude as possible?


Edited by CylonBoomer, 06 January 2021 - 04:18 PM.


#20 DAVIDG

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Posted 06 January 2021 - 12:42 PM

Hey Dave

Thanks for the information

How did you get in contact with Rick McWilliams?

 

My SkyFi is still floating around MN, so I'm sure i wont see it for a few days.
Plus..it's raining, so that means someone near me prob got a new eyepiece today laugh.gif

 

Clear Skies

Sharon

Sharon,

   The listing I found for Tangent is

     1691 Spinnaker Dr Ste 202

     Ventura, CA, 93001-4368  United States

     (805) 642-3136 

 

  That seems to  be the correct company since I knew they were in CA. The owner was Rick McWilliams  and he was very helpful over the years when I had spoke to him about the use of the NGC-MAX and interfacing it via the  serial port.

 

              - Dave 


Edited by DAVIDG, 06 January 2021 - 12:44 PM.


#21 CylonBoomer

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Posted 06 January 2021 - 04:54 PM

Thank you for sending me Rick's information. I'll look into it.

 

-sharon



#22 CylonBoomer

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Posted 07 January 2021 - 09:02 AM

Oooo! My SkyFI is going to be delivered today!!! YES!

and it's CLOUDY outside!

 

typical..but YEA! Can't wait to try it out. Fingers crossed.

Thanks guys for turning me onto this!



#23 CylonBoomer

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Posted 07 January 2021 - 12:33 PM

Well no joy.

I got the skyfi and got everything hooked up. My Ipad can see the wireless Skyfi, and skySafari recognizes it as well, but it doesnt see the telescope/astromaster. I tried other settings but it doesn't see it as well.

 

I tried to mess with the cable, but it's basically a phone cable plugged into a serial port plug. I haven't any idea how to test it or fix it.

 

If you guys have ideas, I'm all ears!

 

Thanks!

Sharon



#24 DAVIDG

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Posted 07 January 2021 - 02:43 PM

 The problem is most likely that the cable  doesn't have the correct wiring for the AstroMaster.  You'll need either a  multimeter to test the continuity between the pins on each connector to see if they are wired correctly or you can take the housing off the DB 9 connector and look at the color of each wire that goes to each pin and see if they match up correctly to the pins on  the RJ phone connectors.. On the DB 9 connector you should have wires on pins 2, 3 and 5.  Those wires need to go to the correct position on the 6 pin RJ phone connector. The color of the wire is not critical and can be different then the drawing. What is critical is position of the wires and were they attach to the pins on each plug. 

   So here is a picture showing the back of the AA and the serial port with which pins are used. So match up those pins with the color of the wire used for them on the phone connector  Then using the other drawing to  see if those colored wires go the correct pins on the DP9 connector.  The drawing of the phone connector with YEL GRN RED BLK is the back of the phone connector, ie the end with the flat cable coming out  and not the end with the gold pins  that plugs into the AA.  So in the drawing YEL would match up with the TX pin  GRN with the RX pin and  RED with GND. 

   On the DP9 connector either on the front or the back were the wires are  soldered the pins will be numbered.  The wires need to go to those pins with those numbers. 

 

                - Dave 

NGC-max rs232port.jpg

ngc-max rs232.jpg


Edited by DAVIDG, 07 January 2021 - 02:46 PM.

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#25 DAVIDG

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Posted 07 January 2021 - 03:05 PM

 One other thing to check in your setup in Sky Safari is  that you have selected NGC-MAX as the telescope type and PUSH TO as the mount type.   Also make sure you have the correct IP and Port addresses correct in the setup menu as well.

 

                      - Dave 




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