University Lowbrow Astronomers

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 494.  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.

Starting out 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” that can 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 be much easier to follow.  In a matter of minutes, I was ready to observe the skies.

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 Objects (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 deeper 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 the hierarchy, each successive press of the “Mode” key returns us to the next highest 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 procedure shown in the appendix and was observing within minutes of turning the system on.  Pluses are:

There are, however, some “gotcha’s” that require a bit of patience.  I will list them here:

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.  Clear Skies!!


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