Vixen Star Book FAQ

This website is the main online repository for unofficial information on Vixen’s Sphinx mount with Star Book. Although by no means exhaustive, I have attempted to draw together many of the frequently asked questions and the generally agreed solutions.

1. ASCOM Sphinx Driver (computer control)

Vixen only provide computer control of the Sphinx via the Japanese language Planetarium software Stella Gear. I have developed an English language driver that allows the Sphinx to be controlled from a wide range of software that supports the ASCOM standard.

My ASCOM Sphinx driver has its own web page here.

2. Cables and Sockets

The nine pin lead connecting the Star Book to the Sphinx is straight through with all pins connected.


The auto-guider port can be configured as a normal ST4 compatible port or changed to support the Vixen AGA-1 auto-guider. Changing the configuration requires unscrewing the service panel on the back of the Star Book and flicking a dip switch.


This port is used to upgrade the firmware on the Star Book and provides computer control of your Sphinx via my ASCOM Sphinx driver. How you connect the Star Book to your computer dep ends on whether you have an existing network.

No network

Diagram of direct connection.

More modern network adapters have a feature called MDIX which allows the network port to automatically detect whether it is connected to another computer or a

If your network adapter does not support MDIX, you will need a network port on your computer and a special kind of network cable called a ?”cross over” cable.

Plug one end into your computer and the other end into the LAN port on the Star Book. After you switch on your Star Book, go to the About menu and note the IP address listed. Fire up the firmware upgrade software or ASCOM client software such as POTH (which comes with ASCOM) and enter the same IP address. You should now be able to talk to the Star Book from your computer.

Diagram of network connection.


In this case you will need an available network port on your Hub or Switch and a normal network cable. Plug one end into your hub or switch and the other end into the LAN port on the Star Book. After you switch on your Star Book, go to the About menu and note the IP address listed.?

If your network has a DHCP server (often built into switches and routers) the IP address should look similar to the IP address on your computer. Fire up the firmware upgrade software or ASCOM client software such as POTH (which comes with ASCOM) and enter the same IP address. You should now be able to talk to the Star Book from your computer.

3. Comets

The Star Book is only capable of displaying/slewing to comets in its inbuilt database.

The Star Book is actually capable of displaying up to 20 comets. For some reason Vixen have chosen not to provide an interface to allow additions and changes.

2005-06-29 I have written software that allows 10 user specified comets to be loaded into the Star Book. Unfortunately the current firmware incorrectly ignores all the position information making this useless.

4. Display Issues


Most users have complained about the Star Book display being too bright even on the lowest brightness settings. From firmware 1.0 build 18 the brightness settings are stored between sessions.

Vixen ended up providing an after market set of transmission reduction films which can be stuck to the screen to further reduce the brightness. Although Vixen and resellers try to charge for this (not Vixen America) you should strongly argue that the Star Book is pretty useless without it.

If you decide to solve this yourself, you should use neutral density film rather than red tinted film as coloured film will greatly reduce the readability of the colour display.

One user has also added a 3m privacy filter. As described by the maker, this filter uses patented microlouver technology which works like tiny vertical blinds. This restricts the viewing angle such that most of the light is directed directly outwards from the Star Book screen with much less lateral light escaping.

You may wish to experiment on whether the louvers should be vertically or horizontally oriented. The filter also needs to be cut to size and one filter should be enough to cover more than one Star Book display which may help defer the cost.


Despite touting a database of 22,725 objects, only a small subset of these can actually be selected for GOTO and manually slewing the telescope using the nudge buttons displays the names of Messier objects in the centre of the view but does not display the name of other objects such as stars and NGC/IC objects.

Crux is the only southern constellation that shows the “stick figure” connecting the stars.

Horizon Line


5. Firmware Updates

Firmware can be downloaded from the Vixen Global web site, or the Vixen Japan web site.

Note that Vixen tend to release updates on the Japanese web site well before making it available on the Global web site. However, the firmware update that can be downloaded from the Vixen Japanese web site includes all supported languages so can be used on any Star Book. Where the date the Vixen web sites are updated differ, each date will be shown separately in the table below.

At present, any version of the firmware can be installed over any other version without having to apply intermediate versions. Each new firmware update incorporates all the fixes from the previous versions.

Payware features

Although the Sphinx supports backlash compensation and autoguider support in the latest firmware, the ability to use these features requires the use of a software key which is acquired by additional payment to Vixen Japan that used to cost around $22 USD.

Although not entirely clear, these features are enabled by default (i.e. free) in firmware release 29. Based on a rough translation of the Japanese web site it appears that this feature was only enabled until the end of September 2006 however subsequent releases made these features available completely free.

Firmware releases

Firmware Date Released Fixes Comments
1.2 build 29
2006-??-?? Eng
  1. Fixs bug introduced in 1.2B28 with display on high level of zoom.
  2. Allow abort of position change in Chart mode.
  3. Display current time down to seconds.
  4. Add comets 73P Schwassman-Wachmann C, B & G.
  5. Remembers Chart Mode and Const. Line settings.
  1. Never saw this bug.
  2. This was on my list of feature requests.
  3. This was on my list of feature requests.
  4. Still no way to update comets yourself.
  5. This was on my list of bugs.
1.2 build 28
2006-04-21 Jap
2006-04-28 Eng
  1. Fixes bug introduced in 1.2B27 with inability to slew to some areas of the sky.
  2. Adds HOME command.
  3. Display current time down to seconds.
  1. That took way too long to be fixed.
  2. This was on my list of feature requests.
  3. This was on my list of feature requests.
1.2 build 27
2005-06-23 Jap
2005-06-23 Eng
  1. Displays stars down to magnitude 7 rather than magnitude 6.
  2. 9P/Tempel 1 comet can be selected from the objects menu.
  3. Added Spanish language support.
  4. Correct position information for M52.
  5. Correct a problem where if you made an alignment on the STAR BOOK side while you aligned the telescope by a remote PC, it was possible that you might not be able to make an alignment on the PC side after that.
  • This firmware update introduces a bug that causes problems trying to slew to some areas of the sky. At this point it is recommended you use build 26.
  • Makes the display pretty but doesn’t provide any more useful information as not even star colour is shown.
  • This firmware release breaks the START command which means it is not possible to control the mount via my ASCOM interface until you have manually progressed through the menus.
1.2 build 26
2004-12-17 Jap
2005-01-06 Eng
  1. Back light OFF function?Allow backlight to optionally turn itself off between 5 and 300 seconds, in 5 second intervals, after the last button press.
  2. Machholz comet position display function?Machholz comet can be selected from the objects menu.
  3. Drive jitter fixes (not documented)?Although Vixen never publically acknowledged this problem, the issue with jitters in the drive when tracking are greatly improved in this update.
  4. GuideRate match zoom level on Star Book (not documented)?In 1.2 build 24 a change to the guide rate via the computer interface did not update the zoom level on the Star Book. This was mostly a cosmetic bug.
  5. Longtitude spelling corrected (not documented)? In 1.2 build 24 I had to mispell longitude in order to update the longitude in the Star Book. As this feature was not made available prior to version 4.2.35 of my ASCOM driver which was released after this firmware update there was no impact to the end user.
  6. Star Book no longer displays “Telescope will Reverse!” dialog when slewing using computer interface.
  7. Various reports of improvements to slewing and reduction of jitters in the drive at the cost of less predictable periodic error. This update appears to be of benefit to visual viewers and a detriment for astrophotography.
  1. This is a great feature but it cannot be changed programatically at present. This is a bit tricky for astrophotography as unless you specify to have the backlight off all the time, a number of actions can cause it to turn on including popup dialog boxes such as the one displayed when the Star Book requests to flip the mount.
  2. The Star Book is actually capable of displaying up to 20 comets. For some reason Vixen have chosen not to provide an interface to allow additions and changes. I am currently writing a piece of software that allow this.
  3. to 6. Despite the launch of a new motto to convey emotion to their customers, Vixen are still loath to convey any information on problems with the Star Book or Sphinx.
1.2 build 24 2004-09-30
  1. Autoguider function (Pay software)?Allows use of Vixen AGA-1 AutoGuide Adapter, SBIG ST series autoguiders, and etc. with the STAR BOOK.
  2. Backlash compensation (Pay software)?Allows backlash compensation for R.A. and Decl. on the Sphinx mount. This results in smooth movement of the telescope when the Starbook direction keys are pressed.
  3. Faster on-screen response This software results in smoother on-screen scrolling and jump-screen response.
  4. Interface for control via a PC Japanese telescope software ‘Stella Gear’ produced by AstroArts is available for the STAR BOOK. Unfortunately, no English language telescope control software is available at present.
  1. This received criticism amongst users as this was seen as a standard and expected feature, particularly since early advertising by Vixen America mentioned the update would be available in the future without mention of additional cost. The disquiet has settled and many users have purchased the update and report good results.
  2. This received criticism amongst users as this was seen as a standard and expected feature, particularly since early advertising by Vixen America mentioned the update would be available in the future without mention of additional cost. The disquiet has settled and many users have purchased the update and report good results.
  3. There was indeed a marked improvement in start time and updates to the display in general.
  4. Not true since the release of my ASCOM driver.
1.1 build 21 2004-04-21
  1. Adds language support for French, German and Italian to existing Japanese and English.
1.0 build 18 2004-03-10
  1. Correct date wrongly displayed on the Star Book in a leap year
  2. Store settings of the LCD screen adjusted?The brightness and contrast that you adjusted desirably on the screen can be stored for the use of next time. Following the adjustments of the brightness and contrast, select Save Setting on the screen and press OK. You can use the screen in the same brightness and contrast adjusted when you turn on the STAR BOOK again.
  • This reflects an apparent lack of testing prior to market release with the leap year bug being acknowledged by Vixen in December 2003.
1.0 build 15 Original firmware version.

6. Polar Alignment Scope

The three legged obstacle obscuring the line of sight of the PAS has been criticised for blocking an unnecessary amount of light. Vixen claim this is to stop inquisitive fingers getting caught in the hole through the declination shaft but this could have been achieved in a more effective manner.

Illuminator in Southern Hemisphere

The Vixen polar alignment scope uses a printed graticule rather than an etched one. This coupled with an overly bright illumination led makes the PAS basically useless in the Southern hemisphere as the relatively dim stars in the reference constellation Octans are overwhelmed by the brightness of the graticule even on the lowest illumination setting. From yser reports, this is not a problem in the Northern hemisphere as Polaris is bright enough to overcome this problem.

At least one user has solved this problem by machining an adapter to allow the use of a Losmandy PAS with an etched graticule to be used.

2005-05-16 Vixen now have a fix for this that lowers the minimum illumination however this requires the mount to be returned to the dealer at your expense and is not considered a warranty repair.

This is a similar design flaw to the Display Brightness.

7. RA/Dec Stiffness

Stiff axes of rotation of RA and/or Dec seem commonplace with the Sphinx mount. If your mount is under warranty you should return it to your supplier with a request that the RA and/or Dec axes be loosened so the mount can be more easily balanced. You can also do this yourself but be aware this may void your warranty.

Declination axis

Remember you should only need to do this procedure once so a fair degree of caution should not be too onerous.

*pictures pending*

If you have the optional Dec clamping plate you first need to remove the two allen screws holding the clamping plate in position then lift it off.

The black ring, with two holes axially parallel to the Dec axis allow a tool such as a pair of dividers to be inserted to unscrew the black ring. Use a screwdriver as a lever between the limbs of the dividers if necessary.

You should mark the original position of the black ring using a pen or piece of sticky tape. Suggested movements are 1/16″ at a time, checking for desired looseness each time. Overdoing it will introduce errors of worm/pinion meshing. You can of course turn it back a little if you loosen it too much.

RA axis

Remember you should only need to do this procedure once so a fair degree of caution should not be too onerous.

Photo of blue cap on RA axis.

Remove blue plastic cover at base end of RA axis.

Close up of set screw.

Look inside and you will see a black ring. It is locked in position by a set screw on the outside edge of the black ring as shown in the picture. You should mark the original position of the black ring using a pen or piece of sticky tape. This photo shows how far I loosened my RA axis where 1 and 2 were originally together.

To loosen the set screw a 1.5mm allen key is required. You will need to further shorten the key so that the short end can fit into the small space available. Use this to unscrew the set screw several turns (or it will irreversibly damage the thread on the end of the RA axis).

Rotating retaining ring.

Rotate the black ring a few millimeters using a pair of dividers or similar. You may need to use a screw driver between the legs of driver for added leverage but that wasn’t necessary on my mount.

Retighten the set screw (snug but not too tight or it will burr the thread) and check the movement in the axis. You may need to do this a couple times to get the right amount of play. Don’t make it too loose or you will introduce play in the worm which will make the behaviour of your mount very unpredictable.

8. RA/Dec Worm Adjustment

I was prompted to write this entry after my mount stopped slewing in RA, rendering it useless. In my case the RA motor was actively trying to spin but was motionless; a situation that would have lead to burn out if I didn’t intervene.

Apart from axis stiffness, another less common issue is tightness in the worm itself that results in the mount having difficulty slewing even when the OTA is well balanced, or strange periodic error curves. This is not an adjustment to perform simply because you think your mount could track more accurately!

Read all the instructions below before proceeding! This procedure will probably void your warrantly so proceed at your own peril.

You need to be completely certain that you have an issue with your worm tightness before making any of the changes proposed below, as maladjustment may seriously impair the periodic error of your mount and may even damage the worm.

The first step is to remove the blue plastic covers. If you look closely at the Sphinx logo plate you will notice that at one end the plastic has an open end through to the edge of the cover. Apply gentle pressure to the logo plate in the direction of the open end and the logo plate should slide off.

This will uncover two hex screws that need to be removed with an allen key. Do the same for both sides of the mount and remove the two blue plastic covers.

Declination cog.RA cog.

The next step is to remove the electronics assembly. This involves removing the two hex screws at the top left and middle bottom in the photo to the left…

… and the hex screws at the top right and middle bottom in the photo to the right.


Counterweight shaft lock.

You then need to remove the lock lever on the counter weight shaft (not shown) in order to get enough clearance to unscrew the cap on the end of the counter weight shaft. Pay attention to the orientation of the lock lever when you remove it and take care not to rotate the counterweight shaft lock as you may have trouble engaging the lock after you reassemble the mount. The electronics assembly should now easily slip out. Be careful as the wires are relatively short.

Declination worm tension

Declination axis worm

?Note that this picture shows the mount inverted to make the screws and counterweight shaft cap more obvious. You should make any adjustments with the mount in the normal position.

The Declination worm tension screw will now be accessible. Turn the screw clockwise to reduce the pressure on the worm. The two screws either side of this are used to balance the worm and may also need to be adjusted depending on how tight or loose the worm is.

If adjusting these three screws does not change the tightness of the worm, you may need to loosen the two hex screw facing up in this picture. This could be very problematic as these screws appear to be torque tightened.

It is recommended that you make this adjustment while there is power to the mount so you can test the adjustment by slewing in the declination axis using the Star Book controls.

RA worm tension

RA axis worm

?I was not able to access the RA worm tension screw with a normal allen key due to the lack of space between the motor and the channel with the recessed RA worm tension screw in it. It may be possible, and would be highly desirable, to adjust this without removing the motor with a slightly shortened allen key which would allow the tension to be adjusted while there is power to the mount so you can test the adjustment by slewing in the right ascension axis using the Star Book controls. Alternatively the worm can be turned by hand to check for tightness.

The RA worm adjustment screw is harder to access may require the RA motor to be removed. The first step is to remove the RA motor cog shown in the picture above. There is a small grub screw in the side which must be loosened to allow the cog to slide off. Once the cog is removed you will need to remove the four screws holding the motor in place then carefully move the motor out of the way of the RA worm.

The RA worm adjustment screw should now be accessible. Turn the screw clockwise to reduce the pressure on the worm. The two screws either side of this are used to balance the worm and shouldn’t need to be adjusted in normal circumstances.

This adjustment will most likely have significant impact on the periodic error of your mount. You should conduct long term periodic error curves to confirm the mount is performing correctly.

When replacing the RA motor, you will need to ensure that RA motor cog is firmly fixed to the shaft. This means ensuring the grub screw in it is tightened sufficiently but not too tightly as otherwise it will strip the thread.

Restore all the removed pieces in the reverse order that they were removed and you should now have a more usable instrument. I recommend not replacing the blue plastic covers until after you have confirmed the mount is slewing and tracking correctly.

Thanks to Jim Stratigos and Pierre Franquet for their input into this article.

9. Slewing and Tracking

In principle the Sphinx has the potential to be a more reliable mount than the Vixen GP-DX and other mounts of its ilk. In practice many users have been extremely frustrated with a number of problems which seem to be more software related than hardware.
Up until firmware 1.2 build 26 there were many reports of jitters in the tracking. These ranged from barely perceptable to outright frustrating. Many users have reported improvements to slewing and reduction of jitters in the drive at the cost of less predictable periodic error. This firmware update appears to be of benefit to visual viewers and a detriment for astrophotography.
Adjusting the RA/Dec stiffness or RA/Dec worm tightness can also provide a good improvement in the motion of the mount.

10. Star Book future

It seemed fairly apparent that Vixen had it in mind to replace the SkySensor 2000 (SS2K-PC) with a new piece of hardware that could be used on a range of new mounts.
2005-01-06 At this stage the only other mount known to use the Star Book is the GAIAX mount from Vixen. This is a massive mount capable of taking a 44kg load. I can’t help but think the Star Book with its current firmware is a rather poor match.
2005-01-06 Another rumour is of a slightly cheaper Sphinx with a monochrome Star Book. I don’t really see the point of that and wouldn’t expect it will shave much off the price.
2005-12-05 Vixen Europe have shown clearer pictures of a new mount called a Skypod, originally shown in the background of a photo from the Tokyo Photo Expo in February 2005. It appears to have the Starbook integrated into the body of the mount and has a monochrome display.

11. Wish list

Known Bugs and missing Features with latest firmware and hardware. Many of these have


been addressed by Vixen.

  1. Bug: Display too bright. Darkening film now available as included (US) or optional extra.
  2. Feature: Allow display to be disabled.
  3. Feature: Allow computer interface to dim and disable display on Star Book.
  4. Bug: Stars below magnitude 6 not shown on Star Book.
  5. Bug: NGC/IC object labels not shown unless specific object is selected from menu.
  6. Feature: Show the current phase of planets and our Moon.
  7. Feature: Show moons for other planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.
  8. Feature: Add a flag to computer interface to show when the mount will flip.
  9. Bug: HOME command implemented in the computer interface may take a shortest route that inverts the mount resulting in the OTA slewing into the tripod! This problem may only affect users in the southern hemisphere.
  10. Feature: HOME function is only available via my ASCOM Sphinx driver. This should be available via the Star Book.
  11. Feature: It is not possible to enter RA/Dec into the Star Book. Although it is possible to do this using my ASCOM Sphinx driver, the resolution is limited to arcminutes.
  12. Bug: RA may not match to the decimal point in the value returned by computer interface to the Star Book when compared to the display.
  13. Bug: START function broken in 1.2B27. Vixen have acknowledged this bug and indicated it will be addressed in the next firmware update.
  14. Bug: Unable to slew in some areas of the sky with 1.2B27. This appears to be due to buggy horizon detection code (Mix up of RA/Dec and Alt/Az).
  15. Feature: Allow mount to hibernate when used in fixed position to avoid need to realign every session.
  16. Feature: Add lunar, solar and custom tracking rates.
  17. Feature: Include strap and proper mounting points on tripod for Star Book.
  18. Feature: Add a bubble level to mount for levelling.
  19. Feature: Fretwork covering polar scope shaft should be a clear recessed bezel rather than obstructing metal, which is currently an entry point for dust and moisture.
  20. Feature: Replace printed polar scope reticle with etched reticle.
  21. Feature: Add GPS feature to Star Book to allow third party addons.
  22. Feature: Replace D cell battery pack with cables for proper portable or permanent power.
  23. Feature: Change feel of Select buttons so they are easier to differentiate from other buttons.
  24. Feature: Add low level backlight to buttons to make them easier to discern.
  25. Feature: Tour of current night sky. This seems particularly appropriate given the audience Vixen seem to be pitching the Sphinx at.
  26. Bug: Can’t save Volume, Chart Mode, Const. Line, Const. Name.
  27. Bug: Sky chart should be rotated 180° for southern sky so that view is due south rather than north.
  28. Feature: Add abort option to Chart mode to allow user to cancel change in position.
  29. Feature: Display RA/Dec down to arcseconds. See also feature 11 above.
  30. Feature: Display current time down to seconds rather than minutes.
  31. Feature: PEC (Periodic Error Correction).
  32. Feature: Allow all stars displayed to be selected and show information on them such as magnitude and catalogue number.

12. Websites of Interest

For listed resellers this is not necessarily intended to be an endorsement of these suppliers, rather it is simply to provide an easy way to find a resellers in your area based on positive feedback from users.


In French. Details on some nice guiding mods for the Sphinx.


Main discussion forum for users of the Vixen Sphinx and Star Book.
This is the main website for English information and firmware updates.
This is the main website for Japanese information and firmware updates.
This appears to be a localised Japanese website which has some very interesting products shown. I can’t quite figure out their relation to the main Vixen company website.
Web site is in German but they do tend to share the most information on new developments (and pics!) of any of the Vixen websites.
This is the USA distributor for Vixen products. This company is actually owned by TeleVue.
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  1. Steven Falivene says:


    Congratulations on your work. I am a beginner and I am working my way reading and learning through your material. None of you pictures (except the header) appear in your web documents. I have tried looking at it at home and at work. I will buy MaximDL and perhaps Pempro. When the computer connects the the star book succesfully, does the tracking via the computer/MaximDL “take over” the star book, in other words does the star book still track the stars as normal and MaximDL just sends commands for slewing only to stars, or does MaximDL “switch off” all starbook operations and take total control? If it takes total control, then the alignment procedure in the starbook becomes useless and the alignment should be done via MaximDL????

  2. Hi Steven. You’ve caught me near the end of migrating my web site to WordPress. I’ve fixed up the links and the images should now appear correctly.

    Software such as my ASCOM driver uses the remote interface on the Star Book. In simple terms both the Star Book and the controlling software do the same thing. In general you would do an alignment using the Star Book then continue using the Star Book via the software interface.

  3. Rob Burrowes says:

    Hi. Just tried your sphinx driver with StellariumScope. It sees the mount, and returns lat, long and time zone settings, so definitely connected to the mount. The lat and long settings are 1 minute different to the sphinx settings though. S 36 59′ becomes S 36 58′. E 174 29 on the sphinx shows up in the dialog as 174 28.

    I also failed to get the mount to move, which could well be the StellariumScope software, rather than the driver. When I tried to quit StellariumScope, it put up a dialog box saying that it was was waiting for the last command to complete.

    I have the Ascom 5.5 platform installed, so it could be that too. I’m going to try a different package (to Stellarium) and see if that works.

  4. Rob Burrowes says:

    Is there a document that describes the commands to that the starbook will accept? I was trying to control the mount from a remote site, so an unwell friend (his scope actually) could do a little viewing. Writing a controller for him to use would be easy, if I knew what the protocol was. He has a Mac, which is why I was trying Stellarium and StellariumScope. They can run on different machines, which means the StellariumScope half, which is windows based, could be talked to from the Mac half. Not that I got it working Windows to Windows yet.

  5. Rob Burrowes says:

    MaxIm DL works with your plugin, but not consistently. I had to connect twice, and slewing fails every now and then. I wonder if it is a timing issue with the starbook. I recall having to connect twice to with StellariumScope too.

  6. Hmm I haven’t seen that problem before but I’m not familiar with StellariumScope.

    You are best off enquiring on the Yahoo Group regarding usage and compatibility as there are many combinations of setup and I’ve only tested a fraction.

  7. Rob Burrowes says:

    My fault. Sort of. I manually had put the starbook into scope mode. I think this was causing a conflict between your commands and the starbook firmware. Both are trying to control the scope.

    I have done a tcpdump of the traffic to see what is happening. The /start command returns an error if the starbook is not in the INIT state. The starbook was already in the SCOPE state. Hence the initial error trying to connect.

    The /stop command also returns an error if the scope state had been manually put into SCOPE mode. It doesn’t give the error if the /start command put the starbook into SCOPE mode, though it doesn’t seem to stop the scope either. It does work when the starbook is doing a goto command. It does stop the slew if it is sent then.

    I looked at the latitude and longitude in the tcp dump, and they are 1 minute out too, so your driver is returning what it is being given by the starbook, which means the starbook is at fault. The screen shows what I entered.

    I found a /gohome?home=0 command too, which returned the scope to the powered on position. Just randomly typing to see what it would do:)

    I couldn’t see what the move? command did. Your driver sends it, but the scope didn’t move if I changed the values from 0. The command was not rejected. Is this a set up for another command?

  8. It is best to align the scope then not use the StarBook further as the ASCOM driver will become confused if state is changed outside of the software.

  9. Rob Burrowes says:

    /move does work, but only has an effect if the values are from 10 .. 19.

  10. GIORGIO says:


  11. Ross Elkins says:

    Peter, great site, thanks for sharing your expertise and taking the time to assemble your knowledge. I am awaiting my used SXD mount and one of the first things I will takle is getting a small wireless wifi interface going on the sphinx. I am a network admin and so that struck me as something useful to accomplish. Of course your site has been around awhile and I’m sure its quite possible that this has been done already!
    Clear skies, Ross

  12. G’day Ross. The Star Book contains the drive logic so it needs to stay with the telescope. It is a simple matter to connect the Star Book to a wireless bridge such as an Airport Express and control it via its registered IP address using my ASCOM driver or other means. You could optionally make an address reservation in DHCP to avoid the need to update it in the config occasionally when the reservation expires.

  13. Hi Georgio. I’m afraid I don’t where you would source spare parts as big as the screen. I suspect that means the main board is damaged so the repair cost would likely be the same as replacement cost. 🙁

  14. teresa says:

    can i have a photo of the internal of starbook where there are the jumper plugs because i have find the photo in internet but my starbook is not so. my problem is the autoguiding with st4 with ccd magzer 5m thank so much

  15. Steve Lawrence says:

    hello Peter,
    I have been a happy Sphinx SXW user since 2005, but have only just found your excellent web site. I have added each update from Vixen so am now on version 2.1. I have had few glitches and no real problems until recently when the Dec drive got much slower and jumped twice.
    Reading your web I investigated the bearings and am very glad I did before permanent damage. A WARNING TO ALL THAT IF YOU GET JUMPS AND BUMPS OR UNEVEN SPEEDS INVESTIGATE THE MECHANICS AND DONT BLAME THE SOFTWARE. I now have a mount that spins willingly and smoothly again in both axes ! Thank you.

    Some observations and points you may like to add to your FAQ notes:

    If the problem is only stiffness when balancing in Declination then the circular plate with 2 small holes on top of the dec head can be loosened to achieve this. Nothing to remove and it will have no effect on the scope drive when the head is clamped for slewing and tracking.

    The RA axis bearing control ring (under the polar scope as you describe) can be loosened for easier balancing.This shaft does not rotate when the RA axis is clamped as the body goes around the fixed shaft. I could not see whether the ring controlled the end float of the RA head on the clamped shaft. It probably does. A little friction is necessary for damping the drive when tracking so dont make it completely free for balancing.

    The circular plate underneath the DEC head is indeed the main thrust control for that axis when tracking/slewing and in my case the bearing was slightly stiff. You do not mention that there is also a lock grub scew on this plate at 90deg to the two pin holes . It has to be aligned with a small cut out in the housing so that you can back it off and retighten with a 1.5mm allen key. Perhaps this is a later change?

    I found the best way to investigate the mechanical state of the drive and bearings was to remove each of the drive cogs from the motors, by loosening the grub screws. I then ran each motor with the hand controller buttons and observed that they ran quickly and smoothly both ways to confirm that it was not a control or electrical fault. With the motor cogs removed the worm drive and main bearing can then be seperately checked by finger and thumb on the driven cog. Motion should be smooth, easy and you may feel just a little back lash. It is worth going round 360 deg of the toothed wheel as the worm drive can be tighter/looser in some places. Any adjustment of the worm should be done at the tight spot.

    In my case fortunately the RA drive felt good but the DEC drive was tight. I removed the control board and cover as you describe.

    On the RA worm at this point it is possible to wipe excess dirty grease away from the worm and apply a small amount of clean grease just on the worm. Turn the worm to spread the grease and remove excess. I also put a spot of thin oil on the end of the RA worm shaft where it is located by a chrome hex nut which controls end float on this shaft – any excess is removed after rotating. Below I explain why!

    On the DEC drive I had to do considerably more.The worm assembly removes completely by taking out the 4 cap head screws. The worm adjustment grub screw can be left unmoved. With the worm removed it was ideal to adjust main DEC shaft bearing since the free movement can now be felt exactly. I backed it off a fraction to get a nice buttery feel, but could tell this was not the cause of the problem.

    The problem was that the DEC worm itself was tight in its block. Remove the cog and undo the chrome locknut. The exposed threaded sleeve under the nut will screw out from the block and the whole worm shaft can now be removed. There is a thin thrust washer not to lose ! The dirty worm grease had spead every where along the shaft into the bearings. All this was cleaned off and the shaft bearings given a smear of oil.
    Reassemble the worm block and set the end play with the thread and locknut to a nice feel with no play.Refit drive cog.The worm only can be greased a little and the block refixed. Fit and bed down the larger cap screws first but not tight. Fit the smaller cap screws tight and check the worm adjustment. If it feels Ok tighten the larger caps and check again. It may get tighter in which case you should loosen all the scews, move the grub scew in 1/8th turn and try again.

    What if the problem was on the RA axis ? First try backing off the bearing ring on the shaft. If this does not help I would go the whole hog and remove the motor to get out the worm assembly and clean it completely not just adjust the depth.

    In my case I now felt confident that the motors were OK.The main bearings on both shafts were not binding but not loose. The worms did not bind anywhere in 360deg and that the worm axles were not binding. The back lash was similiar on both axes and is 1/16″ at the edge of the worm cog. Any less and I felt binding.

    I refittd the motor cogs to align with the worm cogs and refitted the control board and cover.
    Connected power and tested the drive and was happy to achieve fast and quiet operation on both axes. Back on with the plastic covers and job done.

    All these things can be done inside in a warm clean environment and with simple hand tools.
    Even those who are wary of things mechanical could probably take off the plasic covers, remove the motor cogs and have a feel of the mechanical drive, remove excess grease and be happy that the mount is in good shape. It does seem that these mounts are prone to locking up on either axis, perhaps due to dirty grease and rather tight factory settings, and prevention may save a more expensive failure or poor slewing.

    best wishes to all users,

  16. Leo says:

    thanks for sharing your work with us , I would like if the ASCOM Driver Sphinx works with StarBook-type S



  17. Hi Leo, unfortunately I am no longer maintaining this driver so I’m not sure what the issues are if any with using it with a Starbook S.

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