Tips for Happy Gotoing

• What is the number one cause of poor go-to scope performance? Poor power. As has mentioned throughout this book, if the telescope does not receive adequate, "clean" electricity, expect it to act weird. This is especially common when using a small AC adapter as a power source. Once, when using one of these "wall-wart" supplies with a NexStar 11 (one supplied by Celestron, incidentally), my scope's computer decided Alpha Centauri would be a good alignment star for me at my latitude of 31° north. Run the telescope off a strong battery such as a (fully charged) jump start power pack for best results.

• Tired of the nagging "do not look at the Sun" warning Meade Autostar HC shows at startup? It can be turned off by going to "Display Options" in the Autostar's (or Autostar II's) utility menu.

• Do the messages on the Autostar's display scroll by so fast they are difficult to read? Slow them down (or speed them up) with the up/down (not direction) keys.

• Does it look like the scope is going to crash into a tripod leg during a go-to? Most often, the scope knows exactly what it is doing and that will not happen, but if a go-to needs to be stopped for any reason, remember to press one of the direction keys to stop a Celestron or any key except a direction key or the go-to button on a Meade.

• Would you maybe like a little information about an object before wasting time going to something that is dim or unimpressive? Both the Autostar and NexStar controllers can give an object's vital statistics, including magnitude (brightness). With the object ID displayed on the HC, press "Info" on the NexStar controller or the down key on the Autostar.

• Do a go-to scope's motors sound like weasels with tuberculosis? Loud weasels with tuberculosis? Afraid the scope will actually wake the neighbors? Meade allows the user to select a "quiet mode" on the Autostar. Doing so slows the scope's max slew speed, but will keep the neighbors in their beds.

• Controlling a go-to scope with a laptop computer can be fun and useful, but wait until you are comfortable with basic scope operation before adding another computer to the mix (see Chapter 10 for more on personal computers [PCs] and telescopes).

• Are go-tos good but not great despite careful alignments? Accuracy problems can be caused by poor scope balance. Undo the telescope's locks and see if the tube has a tendency to move by itself. If so, adding small counterweights (available from most telescope dealers) to the tube and fork may improve accuracy. GEM scopes can be balanced without extra weights by following the procedures in Chapter 5. Usually, GEM go-to accuracy will be best if the scope is not actually precisely balanced but is just slightly east heavy in RA.

• If the scope is acting funky and nothing seems to help, a computer reset may fix it. Doing so will return the HC to factory defaults, so remember to reenter time zone and other site-specific data. Reset (called "Factory Settings" on the Celestron NexStar) is an option in the utility menus of both Meade and Celestron HC.

• Resist the urge to tinker with the CAT's innards. If it is working okay, leave it alone. If it is not, consult the manufacturer. Here is Uncle Rod's number one go-to scope rule: The only enemy of good enough is more better. If it is doing what it is supposed to do, relax and enjoy despite contrary advice found on Internet sites and groups.

• Do keep an eye on the Internet for scope software updates. Most go-to scope manufacturers add features and exterminate bugs regularly, and if the HC is "user updatable," a few minutes downloading and installing new software may make a CAT act like a whole new—and better—scope.

Polar Alignment of GEMs and Equatorial-Mode Forks

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