SkySafari 5 Pro | Setting Up the Push-To Argo Navis with SkyBT



    Gary Kopff here from Wildcard Innovations, the manufacturers
    of the Argo Navis DTC.

    In extensive testing we have performed, Argo Navis operates completely reliably with Sky Safari.

    I will provide a summary here for future readers plus some tips which may prove useful not only for Sky Safari users who connect to Argo Navis but also to users who connect to other devices such as real Meade and Celestron telescopes.

    On the Argo Navis side, determine which serial connector you will be using, either SERIAL 1 or SERIAL 2.  Using the MODE SETUP, SETUP SERIAL dialog for that port, select a BAUD rate of 9600 and a STARTUP command of meade.  EXIT out of the SETUP SERIAL menu so that any changes are saved in non-volatile memory. Now power the Argo Navis unit OFF and then ON. This will then ensure that the protocol selected in the STARTUP menu then starts on that serial port.

    On the SkySafari side, use the Telescope Setup... menu.  On the Connection pulldown select your serial device.  We recommend the Keyspan USA-19HS USB Serial Adapter.  On Readout Rate, choose as desired (we use 10 per second).  *Do not check* Set Time & Location. Argo Navis is designed to invalidate any alignment should the date, time or location change and setting this box will cause SkySafari to transit these parameters to the Argo Navis which is not desired. 

    Argo Navis has its own time-of-day clock backed up with a lithium coin cell.

    For Scope Type: select Meade LX-200 Classic.
    For Mount Type: on your Dob, choose Alt-Azimuth Fork.
    Then select the Connect button at the bottom right of the menu.
    After a second or so, the Scope Control dialog should pop up and SkySafari will play a connect chime.

    The bulls-eye target should also appear on screen.

    We have tested the above continually operating for over a 100 hours at a time and it provides for a completely reliable connectivity solution. If powered by a reliable power source, no resets or loss of alignment should ever occur. If the unit had been aligned and if after selecting Connect and then choosing an object in MODE CATALOG a NOT ALIGNED message appears, this will because the Set Time and Location check box in SkySafari has been inadvertently set. If the unit is powered by internal batteries and the unit performs a power on reset or multiple power on resets, this is simply an indication that the internal AA cells are depleted and require replacing.

    When using the Meade protocol, SkySafari assumes you are connected to a real Meade telescope which has a fixed Baud rate of 9600.  Though Argo Navis can operate with higher Baud rates, the Sky Safari dialog has no selection for changing it and implicitly assumes it is 9600. So you should therefore choose 9600 on the Argo Navis side.

    One could also use the Sky Commander protocol on the Sky Safari side and the skycomm STARTUP command on the Argo Navis side. The BAUD rate again should be set to 9600 as this is what SkySafari sets it to when running this protocol by default and it cannot be changed. However, we recommend the Meade protocol which also allows you to select an object on Sky Safari, perform a GOTO and then if you dial up MODE CATALOG, FROM PLANETARIUM on the Argo Navis side, this will allow you to GUIDE to the target.

    Do not use the "ServoCAT Argo Navis" Scope Type on the Sky Safari side for anything but direct connection to the ServoCAT.  This protocol is a different protocol to the "servocat" STARTUP command on the Argo Navis which is designed for interfacing between it and the ServoCAT.

    Also don't use the Sky Safari "BBox/Tangent Protocol" Scope Type selections such as "JMI NGC Max" to connect to Argo Navis running the "tangent" STARTUP command. Argo Navis is also sold by JMI as the NGC-SuperMAX and fully supports and is compatible with the BBox/Tangent protocol, but the current SkySafari implementation has a bug/nuance/foible that we will be dutifully reporting to Tim and Bill in the very near future.

    The following may be useful not only to those lucky enough to own an Argo Navis but to other scope users.

    On the Mac, a useful utility is the Mac OS X Console which can be invoked by Launchpad-\>Utilities-\>Console. The operating system dumps various diagnostic information there. Despite the paradigm that Mac OS X is somehow magically user-friendly, it really is just some stuff built on top of a UNIX-like operating system and at times there is nothing else to do but to roll up the sleeves and delve into the Console log to see if there are any lines that may provide a clue as to why something may not be working.

    With regards interfacing SkySafari to a telescope controller, the Console can only betray a limited number of problems with
    related to operating system concerns, such as device driver operation. However, if something such as a USB Serial adapter is not being recognized by the OS, the Console log messages, though at times obscure, can provide vital clues that something is amiss.

    Another good example of the type of problem the Console can betray was discovered by Wildcard Innovations when it tested SkySafari version 1.1 (the previous version) for Mac OS X back in February this year.


    On this occasion, Sky Safari recognized the Keyspan device but a connect attempt to any telescope controller would result in a "Connection failure". On this occasion, the vital clue was provided by messages that appeared in the Console regarding a Mac OS X daemon known as "sandboxd". It was denying access to the Sky Safari application to the /dev directory so it was unable to communicate with the Keyspan device. This bug came about because of a change in policy by Apple mandating that all apps implement what is known as sandboxing. For professionals such as ourselves who have been using UNIX continually for 35 years and could then search for the bug in the comfort of a office during the daytime is one thing, for many users who are out in the field at night it may be another.  The moral of the story is that despite the hype, Mac OS X can also be obfuscated at times but the Console can be your friend.

    Another useful diagnostic is the Sky Safari "Save telescope communications log file" check box. This can be saved as a text file which you can later open and contains the dialog that occurred over the serial port or WiFi device between SkySafari and the Argo Navis. For example, when using the Meade protocol, if a
    connection is reported to have failed, try again and select the log file check box. When you Connect, a dialog will pop up asking where you want to save the log. Sky Safari gives by default each log file a default name such as SkySafariScopeLog-2012-04-23-14-14-40.txt which will typically get saved to your Documents folder.

    For example, SkySafari sends the :GR# string which is Meade protocol talk for "Get telescope RA position". Argo Navis should respond with something such as 04:24.1# which is the current RA in what is known as short format. SkySafari will then send a :U# command which is Meade protocol talk for "Please switch RA/Dec reporting to a different precision". The protocol expects no return response and Argo Navis does not provide one. SkySafari should then transmit another :GR# command and Argo Navis will respond with something such as 04:24:09#.

    If for example you see in the log file that SkySafari "Sent" a particular "ASCII" text string where a response was required but it did not receive anything, then it is a good indication to check your cables and settings on the Argo Navis. If there was something received but it had an error, examine the string returned.  If it looks like totally random characters, chances are it might be the BAUD rate setting that has been incorrectly set.

    The SkyFi interface also works and as far as Argo Navis is concerned it does not "know" whether the information coming and going from it is either via a USB Serial Adapter or a SkyFi device. If there is any drop-out when using a SkyFi device, it will most likely be due to a WiFi connectivity issue, Make sure you are in range and that the batteries in the SkyFi device are fresh.

    Thanks also to Bob Rose for his helpful follow-ups to John's question.

    Hope the above is helpful. If you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at

    Best Regards

    Gary Kopff


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      Chris J Miller

      These instructions also work for a SkyWire connected to the Argo Navis using a Wildcard DB 9 to RJ-11 serial adapter and with the SkySafari Pro 5 iPad app. Here are the detail steps:
      1. Follow the instructions above for setup of the Argo Navis Serial BAUD RATE and STARTUP mode
      2. In the Sky Safari app select Settings > Telescope Setup > Scope type: Meade LX-200 Classic and select the Mount Type: e.g.: Alt-Az. Push-To
      3. Since this is a direct connection disable Auto-Detect SkyFi
      4. As instructed above, disable Set Time & Location
      5. Optional: Change Readout Rate, Save log File