Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

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mikemarotta
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Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

On another forum, I was chatting with another old guy about starhopping. He said, "I agree, Mike, but you know what? At my age I want to spend my time looking at things, not looking for them." That was a couple of months ago. Yesterday, I bought a Celestron AVX German Equatorial Mount and a power pack. I already was not a fan of Celestron's engineering, but I was also already a fan of their customer support: they make things right, or did by me.

Availablilty was also an issue. Eighteen months into Covid-19 and the supplies are just not in stock. I shopped online for a couple of weeks across eight or ten retailers looking for comparable and competitive alternatives.

The deciding factor here was the release of Explore Scientific's new EXOS-2 PMC Eight goto mount at the same price: $999. The new version requires an external device for a controller:
Explore Scientific's PMC-Eight GOTO system can be controlled wirelessly or wired with a tablet or PC, with Windows 8.1 or 10, Android, Amazon Fire, or iOS, with a free app called ExploreStars. Tablet must be purchased separately.
I do not own one of those. So, that would be another expense. And the phone or pad introduces another source of light, dim it as you can. And I already do not use my iPhone with my telescope because it is a pain in the neck in the dark: touch the wrong thing, you get the wrong result. I have used the handpaddle type control before when I borrowed an SCT from my local club. It was not the best interface, but it is a mode that I can live with.

The mount is sold as capable of 30 lbs (13.5 kg). The saleslady at Woodland HIlls Camera in Los Angeles said that my 22-lb Bresser 8-inch Newtonian would be at the practical limit without an eyepiece or finder. However, my grab-and-go is an Explore 102mm refractor which weighs 13 lbs and I have still in the carrying case an Astronomics AT 115 ED APO at 17 lbs. So, both of those will work with this.

Also a positive consideration was that I know from my (limited) previous experience with a computerized "go-to" mount that it is not as easy or as much fun as one would like to believe. So, I bought this as much as a learning tool, something new to do under the stars. I will let you know how this works out.
AVX Known Problems.jpg
AVX Known Problems.jpg (100.29 KiB) Viewed 263 times
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
RMSteele
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by RMSteele »

Mike, thanks for taking the trouble to post this, its good to get the extended user view instead of the hype. Keep adding bits as time goes on. Best wishes Bob
mikemarotta
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

The power pack arrived Thursday and I charged it. The mount and tripod arrived yesterday. I had to uncrate the interior cartons outside because it was all I could do to manhandle the 33kg total shipping weight into and out of my car. Everything is indoors now and waiting to be opened. I have a short-term writing project this weekend due on Tuesday. So, the next report will come after that.

Best Regards,
Mike M.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
mikemarotta
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Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:04 pm
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

Four clear nights in the forecast, typically 2200 to dawn. So, I will be setting up and getting familiar with it.
It did not start out well.

This is not for beginners. Nothing in the box told me to find the user manual online at Celestron.com. The only sheet was in five languages telling me to save the boxes for storage of the telescope. It did not take much to download the PDF and print out the salient pages.

The instructions were missing the location of Declination Axis info port.
Only through my wife's encouragement did I plow through, searching the mount housing with a flashlight until I found it.
I was ready to pack it all up and ship it back. (Good thing I saved the boxes.)

After that, the instructions were pretty good and I set the mount up in my living room with my ES-102mm refractor (6 kg). I stopped before the two-star alignment. I will do that tonight. I was impressed with their instructions to balance the telescope slightly off center so that the motors work better against and with gravity as the instrument is East or West of center.

I am a bit put off by the fact that this has warnings about backlash. After each manual drive motion, you are supposed to hit Up-Arrow, Right-Arrow to take up the backlash. I last worked with this kind of drive in 1991-1993 in robotics and backlash adjustments were common procedures in 1991 but falling out as old tech by 1993. I thought that they were typical of belt drives and were elimated by direct gear drive.

Anyway, just about time to start assembling the mount and tripod again.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
RMSteele
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by RMSteele »

Nice practical narrative Mike. Its good to know the steps you have to take and the potential snags in getting things set up. I see that you also have that essential resource of wifely good sense and reasonableness. I have to admit that I stick to neolithic technology these days, like my current project - attaching the handle of my dad’s old wood saw to my ST80 ota to use hand-held. Backlash is ten thousand years in the future here. Regards, Bob
Brian
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by Brian »

Hi Mike.

Yes backlash is very much with us on most amateur astro mounts, most of which are made in China these days. Backlash and Periodic Error (PEC) come from the worm and wheel drives that are used pretty much exclusively. Direct gear drive it isn't :) . In fact many amateurs have upgraded their mounts to belt drive in order to improve things. You say that those backlash procedures were common in 1991, but don't forget that the "modern" Chinese EQ mounts are copies of, and not the best quality engineering copies of, the Japanese mounts being produced in the late 1980s (Vixen primarily and very well engineered).

Regards,
Brian
52.3N 0.6W
Wellingborough UK.

254mm LX90 on Superwedge, WO ZS66SD, Helios 102mm f5 on EQ1, Hunter 11x80, Pentax 10x50
ASI120MC Toucam Pros 740k/840k/900nc mono, Pentax K110D
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mikemarotta
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

Preview: In the morning, I took it all apart and put it all into its shipping cartons intending to find out what the returns policy is at Woodland Camera and Telescope. In the afternoon, I uncrated everything and set it up outdoors again. The second night went better.
The mount and tripod (just “mount” unless otherwise specified) arrived on Thursday, 2 September. However, I had a weekend project, contracting to edit a report for the Mayo Clinic. So, I put off setting it all up until Monday, the 6th. I also bought a battery for it, which arrived the day before and which I charged. I inspected the mount physically, and assembled it in my living room. I had to stop at the two-star alignment.

I bought the mount to work with two lightweight refractors, 12 lbs and 17 lbs. I also have a heavier (22 lb: 10 kg) reflector that I can put on this for collimating the mirrors. However, according to the saleslady at the retailer, Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope of Los Angeles, that telescope is too heavy for this mount, even though it is rated at 30 lbs (14 kg). For one thing, it comes with a 10-lb counterweight. That is something that you have to keep in mind when you read sales specifications: you have to subtract the counterweights from the specifications or add them to the weight of your payload.

I found the instructions to be clearly written, but not easy to read and understand. The small type and run-on paragraphs save space, probably left over from the days of saving paper, but make reading difficult.

The next clear night was the 8th. I set up outside mindful of where I expected the neighbors’ yard lights to shine. As soon as I saw Vega and Antares (after 2007 hrs), I performed the two-star alignment as indicated. The menus will take some getting used to but at 2047 it was aligned. I selected the first Double Star target offered, 17 Cyngi and sure enough, in the viewer was a classic double star.

At 2050, Albireo; at 2051 epsilon Lyrae and I increased the magnification to 165X (8mm with 2X Barlow) and verified the double-double. At 2106 M22 was questionable: I could see a patch, but I was not persuaded. However, it tracked to Jupiter and then Saturn easily enough. So, I turned to a tough problem, Messier 4 just west of Antares. I have never been able to locate it manually. I did not locate it this time, either. I pressed Deep Sky and up-down arrowed to Messier and entered 004 and the telescope slewed and stopped. But I did not see anything in the field of view.

Alternating the 17mm ocular (38.8X) and added 2X Barlow, I took the Sky Tour offered by the keypad.
The first stop was Sigma Cassiopeia, but I did not know what I was looking at. It was just a starfield. The pair did not stand out for me.


At 2245 I ran a two-star alignment with Vega and Deneb and added Albireo and Altair. I suspect that these are all too close and the best alignment is with stars as far apart as possible. Oddly, I never see Polaris as a menu item.

At 2257: The mount positioned the telescope at M54, M69, and M70. All were ghosts, mere hints. From numismatics, I learned optimistic grading of coins, so I could almost accept these details, but I logged all three as No Joy, again, probably because of the poor seeing conditions.

I then tried M25 and M18 both in Sagittarius and both empty fields which I logged as No Joy. Again, I could not get the mount to release control of the paddle to me. So, I moved on and selected Messier 30 in Capricorn. It was faint but discernable. Next were M11 in Scutum and M27 in Sagitta. The open cluster M29 near the center of Cygnus was one I stumbled upon previously and was easy to accept.

M30 in Capricorn was just a starfield, not the globular cluster I expected. The positioning might have been off as it would prove to get worse. I selected M27 the Dumbbell Nebula but I am not sure that it was in the field of view. Similarly, Messier 11 the “Wild Duck” cluster in Scutum merited only a question ? mark in my notebook.


At 2332, I went to the Ring Nebula (Messier 57) and at 77.6x I noted it as “very faint but believeable.”

2339 – Double star Zeta Lyrae, check.
2342 – Andromeda Galaxy (M31), check.
However, I had to jog the telescope into position. M31 was off to the far right. I apparently touched Back or something and I was able to slue the telescope to bring the object into the center of the field. At 77.6x M31 was very faint, which I attribute to the poor skies.

At 2341, I selected eta Cassiopeia from the menu and it was just plain wrong. I lined it up in the finder. Jogged to it with the controller and focused in nicely. When I selected it from the menu the telescope slued to some nearby place of lesser interest.

2348 – Omicron Capricorn, another binary, viewed with 13mm and 2X for 101.5x, but, again, I had to jog the instrument to bring the object into the center of the field of view.

At 2350, I chose Polaris from the menu and it was not in the field of view.
Preview: I fought with the telescope over alignment and finally went in, got the Explore Scientific Twilight Mount, and recentered the finder scope by targeting Jupiter. From that point on, the problems were not with me. Alignment is a two process. You pick the target from the menu and slue to it, then jog the telescope to put the target in the center of the finder. Then you press Enter. Then in a fine-tuning mode, you center the target in the eyepiece field of view and press Align. That’s why I went in for the old mount. I wanted to be dead-nuts-on because it wasn’t going well from the start.


The weather brief put the dew point far below the 5:00 AM low temperature. So, I covered up the telescope, went indoors, and set my alarm for 02:30.

At 0251, I chose Uranus from the menu and was treated to an empty space with a few stars in the periphery, none of them bluish. So, I chose Jupiter. It missed completely, no mistake about that.

Writing this and searching through the PDF of the user manual, I found this gem:
Re-Alignment
The mount has a re-alignment feature which allows you to
replace any of the original alignment stars with a new star or
celestial object. This can be useful in several situations:
• If you are observing over a period of a few hours, you may
notice that your original two alignment stars have drifted
towards the west considerably. (Remember that stars are
moving at a rate of 15° every hour). Aligning on a new star
that is in the eastern part of the sky will improve your pointing
accuracy, especially on objects in that part of the sky.


In other words, this is a feature, not a bug. I also found the Hibernate function. We are making progress. It will be clear again tonight and Saturday.

Full report thus far, three pages on my personal blog, here:
https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/202 ... anced.html

More to come. Thanks.
Mike M.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
SkyBrowser
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by SkyBrowser »

Welcome to the wonderful world of GO-somewhere 'scopes :)

The only GOTO 'scopes that I've known to work well are ones that sit on a permanent pier with an equatorial mount that is very accurately polar-aligned. The target will usually be in the field of view of a low-power eyepiece in these cases. With some software modelling the mount's errors (e.g. TPoint) then you can place the target on the (small) FOV of a CCD chip.

I believe I read somewhere that even the Keck twins have to use TPoint (or similar) in order to be able to slew (hyper-) accurately. It's just a mechanical fact of life.
mikemarotta
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

SkyBrowser wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 11:53 am Welcome to the wonderful world of GO-somewhere 'scopes :) ... I believe I read somewhere that even the Keck twins have to use TPoint (or similar) in order to be able to slew (hyper-) accurately. It's just a mechanical fact of life.
Thanks. I feel better now. Myself, coming from factory automation and computer numerical control, I expected more permanance and also software to correct for the wobbly Earth.

FIRST: The mount and tripod do thread up well.
The mount pre-locks into place with two screws on a ridge. They call it "fine setting for azimuth" but it puts the mount in place for the central shaft screw that (1) secures the mount to the tripod and (2) secures the leg brace and accessory plate. My other experiences included two large Meades, an 8-inch and a 10-inch catadioptrics. Integrated with the telescopes as a unit, the mounts were difficult to set into the tripod. Getting the threaded rod into its threaded recepticle was a process -- and I had to be careful not to lose control of the 35-lb telescope while tilting it and rocking it back and forth to find the engagement.

I have taken this apart and set it up four times now and it always goes together easily. (Just to say, a couple of years ago, I replaced the thermostat in my Civic and the one-hour job only took eight over two days with two installs to get it right. So, I'm a tough test for mechanical things.)

Not much got done last night. I read more of the user manual. Then, as soon as I could pray "Star light, star bright..." I aligned the telescope.

2019 hours - And had problems. With Arcturus still above the treeline to my west, I chose that star for the first alignment and the telescope slued about 90 degrees wrong northward and 90 degrees wrong in altitude. I powered down and waited. While it was unpowered, I checked north again. I use my cellphone aligned on the telescope. This is my backyard. I have been here ten years. I have recorded Polaris as a binary. I know north. But okay, I did it again, then powered up.

2025 - I chose Arcturus again. That went well.

2027 - The next star was Antares. While jogging the instrument to align the star in the field of view, the paddle stopped responding. I pressed the Back button and waited, then (2032) selected Antares again and it went well.

2032- chose Deneb for the 3rd star.

Family matters took precedence. My goal for the night was Uranus early AM the 11th.

11 Sept 2021 0320. Check star charts and set up. Not many stars up that I know by name. (I live inside the city limits of Austin, population 1.8 millions with the State Capitol ten miles to my north.) So, there was alot of chart reading.

0406 Aligned on Hamal and Aldebaran, which was finally above the treeline to the east.

Selected Uranus. Used magnifications 38, 77, 82 and 165 from 17mm and then 8mm both with and without 2X Barlow to repeatedly check the field, jog (slue; slew) the instrument, select Uranus again, and again slue the putative target to center. If there was a planet in there, you could not prove it by me. The target offered was granted steadier and more circular than a star, but not by much. I have seen stars like that, especially when close to the Airy limit. It was not much bluer. Again, as noted previously, with 25+ years in numismatics, I am pretty good at optimistic grading. This time, I was not convinced.

Tonight is another clear night through 10:00 AM Sunday. So, I will be outside.

(I think the guy next door and over one sleeps out. You know, we read often that with big telescopes, you have to let them cool down to minimize air currents inside the tube. Here in central Texas everything has to warm up to ambiant temperature. We keep our home chilled to 80F (27 C). It gets down below 70F (20 C) just before dawn. This has been a mild summer with very few days over 100 F since June. This week with autumn approaching it was hardly over 85F during the day this week.)
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
SkyBrowser
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by SkyBrowser »

mikemarotta wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 2:12 pm Thanks. I feel better now. Myself, coming from factory automation and computer numerical control, I expected more permanance and also software to correct for the wobbly Earth.
It's not so much the wobbly earth, it's the "wobbly" tripod, head and 'scope. If you move the 'scope from one side of the sky to the other all the weight has repositioned itself, and this could easily mean a "sag" of one or two degrees in the equipment. If you're expecting the 'scope to slew any more accurately than that, you're on a loser.

Do you have a digital level? If so, you could (during the day) point the telescope to the west at a inclination of (say) 20°, lock the axes and use the level to measure the inclination of the tube. Then, unlock the azimuth axis and push the 'scope over to the east, lock up again, and see what the inclination is now. Move back to the starting position (probably helps to start the 'scope pointing at an easily recognisable object so you can get back to where you started from). What's the inclination now? Repeat a few times until you're confident in your measurements and then repeat for different starting altitudes. If there are differences then the mount's software is going to have to work hard to overcome these - it'll have to generate a TPoint-like model. I wonder if it does that?

Are the altitude and azimuth axes at 90° to one another? Again, if not then some modelling will be needed to take care of this.

I'd also have a look at the manufacturer's website and see how often they release new firmware. If new versions are turning up regularly, then be suspicious. Why do they need to correct something that should have worked when they released the 'scope?
SkyBrowser
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by SkyBrowser »

How are the lat/long and date/time entered? Manually or automatically? If the former are you absolutely sure you've typed them in correctly? Not swapped lat/long around for instance? What convention do they use for representing longitudes west of the Greenwich Meridian? Have you got the DST switch set correctly? Do you have to tell it what your time zone is?

Apologies if I'm trying to teach you how to suck eggs, but sometimes the simplest things can fool us!
mikemarotta
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

SkyBrowser wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 6:52 pm How are the lat/long and date/time entered? Manually or automatically?
When I initialized, i set the Lat and Long from my cellphone to HH MM SS. It also has a City Database and put my coordinates in to within 43 seconds, the distance from my home to the Texas Star atop the State Capitol Building. (This is stuff I know.
SkyBrowser wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 5:11 pm It's not so much the wobbly earth, it's the "wobbly" tripod, head and 'scope. If you move the 'scope from one side of the sky to the other ...
Yes, precisiion, precision, precision (assuming accuracy). But the telescope only weighs 12 lbs and with attachments is not 14. I have no cameras or right-angle finder scope or others. But I get the point. I will make the time to do all of that later this week.
SkyBrowser wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 5:11 pm Are the altitude and azimuth axes at 90° to one another? Again, if not then some modelling will be needed to take care of this
It is a German equatorial mount: Right Asciension and Declination, though it does have software options to let you work in alt-az if you prefer. The computer does the maths and the servo motors do the work. The Declinaiton scale is crude, typical of Celestron beginner sccopes, but I am pretty close to 30 North (30d 10m 38s), so 30 and one-sixth of a mark, as near as I can with my numismatic pocket magnifier.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
mikemarotta
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Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:04 pm
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

11 September 2021
2013 hours - Set up.
2050 - Aligned on Antares ad Arcturus. No problems. Added Deneb and Nunki (now that I know which one is Nunki).

2051 - Choose Deep Space. Select Messier. Enter 013.
2055 - M 13 observed with 14mm and 2x Barlow for 94x (This was one I have been wanting to see for myself since i saw it at a club star party 3 June 2018.
2105 - Messier 6 - (known)
2107 - Messier 7 - Ptolemy cluster I know very well from previous sighting and manual tracking.

[Neighbor party. Back indoors to sleep.]

Left the telescope unattended for four hours to the minute. When I returned, it was in an odd orientation, parallel to the ground and E-W.

12 September 0107 hours.
Jupiter was on the meridian or close to. So, without any realignment, I choose Solar System and selected Jupiter.
Tracking was close. The planet not in field of view but three moons were.

Used manual controls to jog to various bright stars. Chose Stars. Selected Identify. Pretty sure this was all incorrect. The next morning, I checked my views against the Sky&Tel jumbo Atlas. I am pretty sure that I was on delta Ceti Skat (RA = 22h 50m Dec = -15 deg) when the pad displayed fun facts about Theta Eridani Acamar. (RA = 3hrs Dec = -40 deg). It did that for another bright star off to the east. The problem might have been my menuing (or lack thereof).

12 September 09:19 hours.
Finishing this report. Last night after the 0100 AM session, I brought in the ocular kit, the power pack, and the hand control. I covered the mount with a plastic garbage bag (bin bag in the UK) and covered that with a cloth-like water-resistant shower curtain. Nominally, the ambiant was 10 degrees F above the dew point, but weather is local and I know from previous sessions that my backyard gets wetter sooner. This morning, the porch was damp to the touch, but under covers the mount and tripod were dry. I brought them in.

(Celestron cautions that nothing is waterproof. The battery pack must not be left on the ground, for example.)

After setting up in the living room, I used a Phillips and hex wrenches to re-tighten the RA and loosen and reset the Dec lock latch.

The forecast is for clouds and rain this week.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
mikemarotta
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

So far, after four nights, I am lukewarm, something less than sanguine. The smart drive mount works well enough, given some problems noted above

I have about 20 more pages of user manual to understand. But at the first go, the Celestron AVX go-to mount did the job after some angst and uncertainty.

The "Information" and "Identify" options do make this a teaching tool, like an interactive planetarium with the actual sky above you right now as you see it.

I need to learn the faux-arabica names of the stars - Caph for Beta Cass, etc., etc. Some I know, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Deneb, maybe a dozen easy ones, on top of other common names such as Antares and Polaris. However, the entire database here is Named Stars and you cannot put in delta Scorp. You can, indeed, choose e Lyrae or eta Cass and many others from the list of Double Stars.

Tracking works well. I finally had the opportunity to sit in a chair and look at Jupiter for long minutes without having to turn a cable control knob. Not much happens quickly in the sky, but the rotation of Jupiter is one and the passing by of Mars is another.

With a computerized telescope, I am reminded of Jurassic Park: All the problems of a major zoo and a major theme park. Here, you have two servo controlled motors and a warehouse of information databases, and all of it under the same menuing on a telephone style keypad, going back to the overhead crane come-along paddles of the 1970s. For all of that, the menuing is far better than my last experiences with 1990s era Meade Classic LX 200s, which were informed by Windows 95.

The thing with interfaces is that you cannot design for everyone. So, the UI/UX (user interface/user experience) people make their best guess and you learn the system they deliver.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
mikemarotta
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Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:04 pm
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
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Re: Celestron AVX Mount and Tripod

Post by mikemarotta »

SkyBrowser wrote: Sat Sep 11, 2021 5:11 pm
I'd also have a look at the manufacturer's website and see how often they release new firmware. If new versions are turning up regularly, then be suspicious. Why do they need to correct something that should have worked when they released the 'scope?
I registered the product with Celestron on their site and I follow the options under Support to find the firmware updates. It has not been changed (or report changed, I suppose) since 2019 with some fixes that do not concern me in 2020.
https://www.celestron.com/pages/software-update-history

I believe that Celestron calls this "Advanced VX" because it rests on previous CGX systems.
Michael E. Marotta
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Ploessl oculars 40mm to 6mm 2X Barlow
mike49mercury@gmail.com
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