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Right: SPHINX SXW German equatorial mount with standard accessories: STAR BOOK, HAL110 Tripod, Counterweight and optional Half Pillar (28,972 bytes)
Click on image to see enlarged view (50,272 bytes).

Never before have so many used "Go To", so easily...

Overview: What are the SPHINX and STAR BOOK?

S&T 2004 Hot Product The SPHINX is a modular German equatorial mount system incorporating a "Go To" computer controlled system. It is designed to accommodate a variety of payloads including:

  • cameras for wide sky astrophotography or sky survey applications,
  • short telescopes of up to about 21 lb. / 10 kg weight

    • Refracting telescopes up to about 130 mm aperture *
    • Reflecting telescopes up to about 220 mm *
    • Catadioptric telescopes of up to about 250 mm *

    * there are factors acting upon a German mount affecting its suitability including: payload weight and length (torque), payload area and profile exposed to winds, desired tracking accuracy, tripod or pier resonance's, etc. What are most important to the user is how rigidly the mount holds the payload, how smoothly it tracks (amplitude and smoothness of the periodic error of a gear), and how well it overcomes the moment imparted by the load. The final operating weight put onto a mount can also depend on how the instrument is to be accessorized.

Configuring SPHINX for your use

STAR BOOK is the computerized "notebook" of the sky which is available separately for use as a stand alone reference device. It is quite possibly the "Apple Macintosh" of "Go To" mounts, the one for "the rest of us" as the Apple ads read. STAR BOOK is the first LCD screen portable reference star chart, and it is the controller for the SPHINX go-to system as well - another first in the world from Vixen. It is included as a standard accessory with the Vixen SPHINX SXW (standard mount) and SPHINX SX Compact (for compact lightweight payloads) series German equatorial mounts. Both mounts have been developed with the most up to date engineering techniques, and with precision components to permit the reliable high speed automatic location of celestial objects. These mounts are provided with built-in dual axis drive motors, and the world's first star-chart go-to controller - STAR BOOK; these components combine to provide highly accurate locating and tracking of celestial objects. The new series of Vixen astronomical telescopes whose designations end with SXW or SX are a new line of astronomical telescopes equipped with the SPHINX German equatorial mount.

The SPHINX equatorial mounts require the go-to controller STAR BOOK and 12 volt DC source to power and control their drive motors. STAR BOOK features a large color LCD screen with a graphical interface for easy and accurate operation. Just select then your target on the screen, click the "GOTO" button, and then the mount can point the attached telescope or camera to celestial objects automatically.

This allows you to experience the beauty of the night sky with ease - while the telescope "gets out of the way".


working with the

Above: Vixen Sphinx and STAR BOOK logo, Sphinx SX and SX Mount Heads, and STAR BOOK
Click on images to see higher quality, enlarged views (172,912 bytes).






The SPHINX SXW mount includes the STAR BOOK controller since the mount can not function without this component. Other components are selected as needed to fulfill a particular mission of the client. A complete SPHINX mount system may consist of several components:
    1. SPHINX mount head with STAR BOOK, 12 volt Battery pack (batteries optional),
        Aluminum SX-HAL110 Tripod, with one 4.8 lb / 1.9 kg counter weight


    2. choice of Dovetail plate hardware to attach a telescope to the mount


    3. one counter weight is included however, more may be required to attain about 2/3 of the anticipated payload


    4. Half Pillar for use with Field Tripod or Portable Pier


    5. SX 6x 20 mm Pole Alignment Finder telescope


    6. 12 volt D.C. power source: AC to 12 VDC Power Supply, or 12 VDC rechargeable pack

The SX series Quick Release Dovetail Plate and Saddle hardware permits the Mount Head to accept any telescope or accessory that has a Vixen SX series plate attached. This provides quick and simple removal of the telescope and installation of another system in it's place, all without the need for any tools.

For use with relatively compact and lightweight payloads, the SXW can be changed over for extreme portability and lighter weight to the SX Compact Mount by ordering the optional SX Tabletop Tripod.

The STAR BOOK Controller can be used in either of these modes:

    Stand alone: as a portable graphical reference device, where the night sky can be displayed on the color LCD screen as a star chart.

    Chart Mode: to control either the SWX or SX German Equatorial Mounts. As the night sky is displayed on the color LCD screen as a star chart you can push a go-to key after putting an intersection point of the cross lines on one of the celestial objects displayed on the screen, the telescope will point at that celestial object automatically. Zooming in and out of the star chart is interlocked with motor speed. When the star chart is zoomed in, the telescope will come to slew slowly so that you can make the corrections. In this mode, the names of objects can be set to show on the display as can most other features found in star charts (Constellation lines, coordinate grids, etc.).

      SX Navigation Function 1 - Automatic Location

      • Search for then choose a celestial object interesting to you in the Chart Mode of STAR BOOK by "Select" key, by pressing "Go to" key, the telescope mount automatically locates the object.

      • You can search for a celestial object by catalog numbers, or by name from a list made up of well-known celestial objects: these include objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy, Swan Nebula, North America Nebula, Pleiades and so on.

      SX Navigation Function 2 Automatic Tracking

        As soon as the mount centers the telescope onto the target, it tracks the object at sidereal rate automatically and accurately.

    Scope Mode: after selecting an object in Chart Mode and pressing the "GOTO" button, the display changes to Scope Mode as the mount slews the telescope onto its next target. This is where the night sky areas which the telescope is pointing to is displayed on the screen as a star chart. One can make fine control motions East, West, or North and South in this mode. You can zoom out or mover closer in to approximate that area shown by the telescope.

How to Use Starbook With the STAR BOOK "Go To" is easier to learn and use than it has ever been before:

  • Preparation: assemble the Mount, locate and balance the Telescope optical tube and Finder on the SXW or SX Mount
  • Initial Set Up*: establish 12 volt DC power supply, set the language preference (Japanese or English, French, German, Italian), enter observing location (Longitude, Latitude, Local Date and Time), then Store the settings for current and future use.
  • Learn Basic Operation of Telescope and Mount
  • Initial Position: set Telescope Tube to Initial Position using STAR BOOK directional keys
  • Index the Mount: use the Telescope to move the Mount onto two or more celestial objects (usually stars) overhead.

* Some initial settings are entered and then stored so that they do not have to be entered again later. After set up it is a simple matter to navigate the sky with the STAR BOOK, look at the following sequence:


When in the Map Mode. Note the panel control buttons correspond to those on the display.

Select your target on the display, then center it in the blue Cross Hair using the arrow keys on the right side to navigate up down, left or right.

Using the arrow keys on the left to zoom in to the target.

Next, more center your desired object even more precisely.

Press the panel "GOTO" key, this is in the right keyboard block.
The display changes from Map Mode into Scope Mode.
And then the mount will begin to slew towards the target.

Once the target is in the Field of View
manual fine adjustments may be made,
if you zoom in high enough and select the centered target
then the tracking should be good enough to permit people to line up and enjoy the view without making periodic fine adjustments.

To move onto another object
simply switch back to the Chart Mode


If you want to look for a celestial object by catalog number, then for example search for diffuse nebula Messier 17 (also known as NGC 6618):

the STAR BOOK user interface and good pointing attributes makes it very simple to find:

Select the Chart Mode, and then press the "Object" key so that you may select the object.

With the menu keys select the category "Messier"

Now scroll through to select M17.


After you select an object the STAR BOOK displays basic data
about the object including: brightness, type and size indicated. Confirm the choice by pressing "OK", then press "Select" on the right keyboard block.

Now press "GOTO" press and the mount will slew the telescope toward Messier 17  

STAR BOOK Features, Specifications

  • world's first "Go To" control with integrated star map and LCD monitor
  • fast Cirrus Logic CS89712 32 bit RISC processor for fast computing speed
    74 MHz ARM720TDMI core performance matches that of a 100-MHz Intel Pentium based PC
  • 4.7" LCD display
  • 320 x 240 pixel resolution with 4,096 colors
  • monitor brightness and contrast are adjustable
  • integrated audio speaker with volume control
  • Port connecting Starbook to Equatorial Mount is D-Sub 9 pin with straight through wiring (pin 1 to 1 etc.)
  • innovative and intuitive easy to navigate menu structure
  • database contains 22,725 objects, more than enough to keep you looking for years to come
      Stars: 17,635 brighter than Magnitude 7.0
      Messier Objects: 110
      NGC & IC catalog objects: 4,980 brighter than Magnitude 14.0
      Planets, Moon, and Sun

  • standard LAN Port 10 BASE-T Ethernet Port for fast communication directly with a PC by means of an Ethernet Crossover Cable and for firmware updates
    • LAN Port communicates with a network via a Ethernet Cable into a Hub or Router
    • LAN Port communicates with a directly with a PC by means of an Ethernet Crossover Cable
    • Firware is upgradable by the user so that it will be possible to add new free or payware features including Periodic Error Correction, optional Backlash Compensation, and compatibility with most autoguiding CCD systems.
    • Autoguider Port can be configured to operate as a conventional SBIG TIC compatible port, or by changing in internal dip switch can work with the Vixen AGA-1 autoguider.

  • power required is 12 volt DC (supplied from mount when connected)
  • Battery Holder included, requires eight 1.5 volt alkaline or lithium batteries
  • nominal 4 watt consumption, even in the fastest slewing mode only 10 Watts current consumption
  • CR-2032 internal Clock battery, lasts about one year and is easily replaced
  • operating temperature range from 32 to 104 Degrees F (0 to 40 Degrees C)
  • dimensions: 7.7 inches / 195 mm L x 5.7 inch / 145 mm W x 1.1 inch / 28 mm thick
  • weight 14 oz. / 400 g
  • provided with well written, illustrated manual (in English)

Above Right: Chart breakdown of standards and optional SX and SXW Mount components and part numbers (80,509 bytes)
Click on image to see enlarged view (144,886 bytes).

SXW Mount Features, Specifications

  • Right Ascension incorporates 180 tooth worm gear set for fine full circle motion
  • Declination incorporates 180 tooth worm gear set for fine full circle motion
  • Built in DC servo motors allow for improved motion of the polar axis rotation and reduce the need for heavy counterweights.
  • Slewing speeds up to 5 degrees per second
  • Counterweight shaft retracts into the head to facilitate storage and transportation
  • SX and SXW mount heads utilize the standard Vixen dovetail bracket for quick attachment of telescopes

  • SXW Mount Head weighs 19.4 lbs. / 8.7 kg
  • SX-HAL110 tripod weighs 10.5 lbs. / 4.75 kg
  • Provided Counter weight 4.2 lbs. / 1.9 kg
  • Counterweight Shaft Diameter is 0.781 inch / 19.84 mm
  • SX suggested for use with payloads totaling up to about 50 lbs. / 23 kg

Final Note About Power Sources

The SPHINX mount, STAR BOOK, and other common telescope powered accessories (Kendrick Dew/Frost Prevention System, CCD cameras, etc.) require a 12 volt D.C. power source. A battery holder is included with the Starbook, and this requires eight 1.5 volt alkaline or lithium batteries. If you plan to use the STAR BOOK alone then this is convenient, but when used with the SPHINX you may prefer a longer life option. Company Seven suggests the user consider one of the following options:

  • operate from wall current (GFCI outlet) with an AC/DC inverter: if you intend to use your own 12 VDC power supply then please ensure that it is noise free, and regulated to +/- 5%. It must have a current supply of at least 2.5 amps with no appreciable voltage drop.

  • consider the risks when using your instrument with a running vehicle as a supply source. A malfunctioning alternator or voltage regulator as well as cycling vehicle power demands can produce power surges and appreciable amounts of AC power which can easily damage the micro controller in your instrument.

  • for simple observing, buy a portable rechargeable 12 Amp hour (or greater capacity) 12 Volt battery pack

  • for higher current demands, use a sealed Deep Cycle/Marine/R.V. battery (easily found at automotive service and parts centers). This does not have to be the most immense battery; one designed for a golf cart for example may be adequate for your needs.

It is possible to power the SPHINX from an automotive battery on an occasion however, it is not recommended to regularly do so since automotive batteries are not designed for cycles of long, low current discharge. A car battery may fail to recharge after a number of such deep cycles. DO NOT operate from a running automobile since a malfunctioning alternator or voltage regulator as well as cycling power demands can produce power surges and appreciable amounts of AC power which can damage the micro controller in your STAR BOOK.

Further Reading

    Refer to our Library for the articles:

  • The Vixen Sphinx Equatorial GoTo Mount. An overview of the the SPHINX SXW German Equatorial Mount system by Ron Lee written in August 2004 for Company Seven. Copyright Ron Lee, from Company Seven's Library.

  • Instruction Manual for SX (SPHINX) Equatorial Mount. The complete illustrated instruction manual provided with the SPHINX SXW and SPHINX SXC mounts. Copyright Vixen Co., Ltd, from Company Seven's Library. Fourty-one pages. Download size is 18,056,903 bytes (in Acrobat Reader ".pdf" format).

  • Instruction Manual for SX Pole Alignment Scope. The complete illustrated instruction booklet provided with the SPHINX SXW and SPHINX SXC mounts. This explains how to install the optional Polar Alignment finder onto the these mounts, how to use the Pole Alignment Finderscope with the mount and the STAR BOOK controller, how to read and use the provided graduated circles. Copyright Vixen Co., Ltd, from Company Seven's Library. Eight pages. Download size is 502,271 bytes (in Acrobat Reader ".pdf" format).

  • Time Zone and Meridian Offset Reference Information. The information here will assist in setup of the Vixen Polar Axis Scope (GP and SX models), many third party Pole Finders, the SkySensor 2000 and STAR BOOK controllers. Copyright Vixen North America, from Company Seven's Library. Two pages. Download size is 31,714 bytes (in Acrobat Reader ".pdf" format).

STAR BOOK is available for sale separately for use as a stand alone reference device. It is included as a standard accessory with the Vixen SPHINX (SX and SXW) German Equatorial Mount. You may visit Company Seven's showroom to see examples of these Vixen systems firsthand! Or you may Contact Company Seven for help putting together a system for you.



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