Today, we are going to talk about something different than our usual descriptions, more specifically about the Meade Autostar 497, a tool designed to help you get the most out of your backyard stargazing adventure. Although we admit that this may seem a bit quaint, during our telescope testing sessions, we have come across this device that not only can transform the way you interact with your telescope but will also give you a good lesson in astronomy.
The Meade Autostar 497 is a remote control compatible with any telescope outfitted with a computerized mount. Thanks to its top-notch motor drive, the Meade Autostar 497 will not only help you calibrate your telescope but will also be able to pinpoint over 30,000 celestial objects with uncanny precision.
The Meade Autostar 497 controller was designed for beginner astronomers who either have trouble calibrating their eyepieces or who are unable to decide what they want to view. Now, the computerized remote control may seem like any other telescope controllers, but you would be surprised by just how many functions it can serve, given its compact size.
This type of controller is compatible with any motor drive mounts, but, as the manufacturer has advertised, it works better with all the telescope from the ETX series, more specifically with the ETX-90EC, ETX-105EC, and the ETX-125EC.
As far as design is concerned, the Meade Autostar 497 has been created as to fit like a glove in your hand, or to be attached to any RC telescope holder. The buttons are big and very responsive to touch. Also, the remote controller features a bright LCD, which can display two lines at a time, and a total of 16 alphanumerical characters.
There’s actually two versions of this remote control: a simplistic one which contains the LCD, navigation keys, confirmation key and swerving buttons, and a more advanced one, which has a numerical keyboard in the middle.
If you are a beginner, we strongly recommend you to buy the version with the numerical keyboard, as it is easier to work with the menus that way.
Meade Autostar 497 Features – Calibration
As we’ve mentioned in our introductory paragraph, the Meade Autostar 497 controller is far more than your usual computerized remote control. The first function we are going to talk about is the calibration feature.
Like any other computerized telescope controllers, the Meade Autostar 497 will allow its user to calibrate the eyepiece according to multiple criteria. You may choose between one-star calibration, two-star calibration, three-star calibration, easy or manual calibration.
For the purpose of our Meade Autostar 497 review, we have discovered that the quickest way to get the scope up and running is to use the easy function. Just press the “Mode” button to navigate around the calibration menu, select “Easy” and press enter.
In just a couple of seconds, you will see the motorized mount in action. The telescope will then begin to swerve in the direction of the celestial object displayed on the screen. Depending on your location, time of day or other types of events, the controller will select various bright stars.
After the mount points the telescope in the right direction, you will be asked to center the object through the Finderscope and to press the “Enter” key in order to finish calibration. During our first attempt to calibrate our scope, the Meade Autostar 497 choose Capella and Vega.
A word of advice: before you begin to calibrate your telescope using the easy feature, you will need to put the optical tube in the Altazimuth home position. In order to perform this operation, you will need to make sure that the tube is parallel with the mount. After that, you’ll need to tighten the two knobs found on each side of the optical tube (don’t tighten them too much, because the tube still needs to move).
After that, you are ready for your first calibration. The operation took us about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, and thanks to the remote’s bright LCD, we were able to perform this operation in utter darkness, without any sources of light nearby.
Meade Autostar 497 – Celestial Objects Database
Another thing we are going to talk about is the Go-To function. When it comes to this astoundingly new feature, there are two schools of thought out there: one that says that such a function takes away the fun and professionalism out of stargazing and one that says this features can help beginners and professionals alike to discover new points of interest in the night’s sky.
Frankly, we like to be equidistant in this matter, meaning that we acknowledge and understand both sides of this feud. The Go-to function is easy to explain: just peruse through the computer’s database, choose something of interest, press Enter, and the telescope will start slewing in that direction, based on the object’s position and the time of day.
Furthermore, with a database containing some 30,000 celestial objects, your backyard stargazing session will never be the same. Using the bountiful database, you will have the chance to observe some amazing points of interest such as the M104 Sombrero Galaxy, Jupiter’s satellites, the rings of Saturn, M57 in the Lyra, M33 Spiral Galaxy, NGC 6559 in Virgo, NGC 1778 in Sagittarius, objects from the Caldwell catalog, Earth’s satellites, comets, the planets from our Solar System and more.
Now, if you’re unable to locate a celestial object in the computer’s vast database, you can add it at any given time if you know its coordinates. And, as an added feature, apart from the 30,000+ objects, the Meade Autostar 497 will allow you to record the positions of over 200 new objects.
Meade Autostar 497 – Additional features
Another feature that we’ve liked is the guided tour function found in the remote’s main menu. It can be very useful, especially if you’re a beginner and don’t know where to point your telescope. Once activated, your telescope will turn into a real-life planetarium, in order to show you the highlights of the evening. Evidently, the telescope will not show you the same celestial objects each time.
Some other features that make the Meade Autostar 497 such a useful little trinket are the moon phase calculator, eyepiece power calculator, timer, alarm, and the extra RS-232 ports, which you can use in order to hook up the controller to your computer.
The alarm function is especially helpful when it is used in combination with the controller’s database. Each time you look up an item, the controller will supply you with useful information such as coordinates, magnitude and when it can be observed in the sky. Using the alarm function, you can plan ahead your observations, without the need to stay and wait for the objects to appear.
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Meade Autostar 497 – Pros & Cons
- Go-To function enhances your experience;
- Very easy to Install;
- Rich database;
- Works good with any Meade ETX telescope;
- Can be connected to the computer for additional features.
- Hard to master;
- You must purchase an RS-232-to-USB converter for newer PCs;
- It is not weather proofed.
Where to Getting It From
The best place from where you can get this amazing motorized telescope controller is Amazon. Currently, the Meade Autostar 497 price is around $200, and for an extra $20, the company will ship the product to your front door.
As a parting note, we have to admit that we were taken by the Autostar’s impeccable performance. With tons of features, the Meade Autostar 497 is exactly the thing you’ll need in order to get more out of your backyard stargazing session.
Works with ETX-90EC, ETX-105EC, ETX-125EC Astro telescopes.