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Night Sky Camera and Roof UPS for Remote Observatory

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#1 rgsalinger

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 12:58 PM

My remote observatory project is almost completed. I have a particular issue in that I don't have permanent power at the observatory so everything runs off batteries which are charged by solar panels when there is no mains power available. So, I only have my internet connection (microwave link), my router and a digital logger permanently running. These gobble up about 20 watts/hour and the battery pack that powers them has plenty of power to keep them running for a week without any charging. So far so good. I use the SkyRoof system from Interactive Astronomy to control the roof. The observatory is 20x20 so there is lots of space.

 

What I have not been able to do is to find an inexpensive night sky camera. I don't want to spend more than 250 dollars on one. I just need something that will let me see if it's clear or not once I open the roof. It needs to be accessible over the LAN at the observatory. It would be even better if I could get to it using port forwarding over the internet. Since it needs to run without human intervention it's best if it has some kind of long lasting battery BUT I have spare 120V AC and 12 DC spare ports if needed.

 

I have also been looking for a UPS that can be turned on/off using some kind of GUI or (second choice) scheduler. The one I have  has a GUI that allows me to monitor the voltage and current in/out but does not allow me to turn it on/off. The purpose of this device is to act as fail safe power if the batteries are depleted and the roof needs to be closed. When I tried to use it on my roof in "always on" mode it drained in just 2.5 days even though my watt meter puts the roof at 1.4 watts/hour when idle. 

 

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas of good ways to solve these problems I'd love to hear from you. 

 

Rgrds-Ross



#2 jnmyersnj

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 02:01 PM

Ross

re the camera, it sounds like one of the ZWO ASI120 cameras could work for you. 

There is an ASI120MM that comes with a fish-eye lens, and it has a wide range of exposure times. 

They also make a color version.

I haven't tried this but would be interested in others' comments.  It is under US$200.

Jeff



#3 rimcrazy

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 02:40 PM

 

I have also been looking for a UPS that can be turned on/off using some kind of GUI or (second choice) scheduler. The one I have  has a GUI that allows me to monitor the voltage and current in/out but does not allow me to turn it on/off. The purpose of this device is to act as fail safe power if the batteries are depleted and the roof needs to be closed. When I tried to use it on my roof in "always on" mode it drained in just 2.5 days even though my watt meter puts the roof at 1.4 watts/hour when idle. 

 

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas of good ways to solve these problems I'd love to hear from you. 

 

Rgrds-Ross

Don't know of any UPS that have this feature but myself and many on this board use this:

 

https://dlidirect.co.../new-pro-switch

 

Digital Loggers makes an excellent product and hooks to your network. Has lots of nice features and will do what you want to do.



#4 kathyastro

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 03:23 PM

A typical UPS is intended to run a computer for 10 minutes: long enough to close running apps and shut down.  They aren't meant to run anything for days.  2.5 days at 1.4 watts (watts aren't "per hour") is doing pretty well.

 

Your best bet is to double your solar-charged battery capacity and run the roof off the main batteries rather than off the UPS.



#5 lambermo

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 04:40 PM

Is DIY an option ? I built an allsky camera with a raspberry pi and a wide angle lense.

 

20151122-NoIR-rpi-in-a-box-allsky-camera-test.jpg

 

The camera is limited to 6s exposures, but that is enough to see clouds at night.

 

20161031_213718-rpi4-small.jpg

(downscaled considerably to fit CN limits)

 



#6 ksouers

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 05:00 PM

My remote observatory project is almost completed. I have a particular issue in that I don't have permanent power at the observatory so everything runs off batteries which are charged by solar panels when there is no mains power available. So, I only have my internet connection (microwave link), my router and a digital logger permanently running. These gobble up about 20 watts/hour and the battery pack that powers them has plenty of power to keep them running for a week without any charging. So far so good. I use the SkyRoof system from Interactive Astronomy to control the roof. The observatory is 20x20 so there is lots of space.

 

What I have not been able to do is to find an inexpensive night sky camera. I don't want to spend more than 250 dollars on one. I just need something that will let me see if it's clear or not once I open the roof. It needs to be accessible over the LAN at the observatory. It would be even better if I could get to it using port forwarding over the internet. Since it needs to run without human intervention it's best if it has some kind of long lasting battery BUT I have spare 120V AC and 12 DC spare ports if needed.

 

I have also been looking for a UPS that can be turned on/off using some kind of GUI or (second choice) scheduler. The one I have  has a GUI that allows me to monitor the voltage and current in/out but does not allow me to turn it on/off. The purpose of this device is to act as fail safe power if the batteries are depleted and the roof needs to be closed. When I tried to use it on my roof in "always on" mode it drained in just 2.5 days even though my watt meter puts the roof at 1.4 watts/hour when idle. 

 

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas of good ways to solve these problems I'd love to hear from you. 

 

Rgrds-Ross

First, I think you'd want to know the sky conditions before you open the roof. So you'll want the camera outside.

Funny, I was just looking to do something similar and came across this dome for a camera:

https://www.amazon.c...lv_ov_lig_dp_it

They have several sizes.

 

As for as a UPS... Basically you created a UPS with the solar panels, charge controller, batteries and inverter. Just spit-balling but what may work better is more of a power monitor that will start a shut-down sequence and close the roof when a certain power threshold has been reached, before the house batteries have been depleted. Depending on your battery chemistry you would initiate this before reaching 50% capacity for a flooded lead-acid battery, Lipo can go deeper without damage.
 

Food for thought.

 

Kevin



#7 iwannabswiss

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 05:09 PM

Is DIY an option ? I built an allsky camera with a raspberry pi and a wide angle lense.

 

attachicon.gif20151122-NoIR-rpi-in-a-box-allsky-camera-test.jpg

 

The camera is limited to 6s exposures, but that is enough to see clouds at night.

 

attachicon.gif20161031_213718-rpi4-small.jpg

(downscaled considerably to fit CN limits)

The v1 Raspi camera is limited to 6s.  The newer version, which I think most would most likely buy, has increased and limited to 10s exposures.

 

I agree with this route, this is also what I've done and had great success with.


Edited by iwannabswiss, 15 December 2019 - 05:10 PM.


#8 rgsalinger

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 01:23 PM

Thanks for all the replies.

 

It's the roof that draws 1.4 watts/hour, not the UPS as it turns out. I have 2 3000 w/hr LIPO battery packs. One runs the imaging system and the other runs the observatory and sometimes a second imaging system if someone is present to make sure that there's enough power. The battery packs shut the observatory down when the power gets down to around 10 percent. For the record I also have a weather station from Interactive Astronomy and so I know what the weather is.

 

I went out yesterday and did some testing on the UPS. The problem turned out to be that the UPS, even when turned off, is still drawing 25-30 watts/hour from the battery pack. Normally, just keeping the internet running, my router operational and one digital logger powered on.  The draw is around 25 watts/hour  I have 300 watt solar panels for charging and so I never had a battery drain problem until I hooked up the UPS to the roof/weather system as a failsafe mechanism.  I have no idea why this UPS is drawing this much current while doing nothing, but there it is. So, if anyone knows of a UPS that can puts out 10 amps at 120 volts but has a low drain when not running, that would be great. (As you can see I really don't understand the innards of these UPS boxes.)

 

What I'm finding is that I'd really like to be able to see what's going on as well. Partly belt and braces and partly just curiosity. There's another accessible sky camera at the site but it's up and down all the time. So, I figured if there was something that I could buy/cobble up, I'd have something more reliable and adjustable to my particular needs. I like both the idea of the ZWO and the Raspberry Pi. So special thanks for those ideas. 

 

Rgrds-Ross



#9 ksouers

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 02:29 PM

My personal opinion, I would get rid of the UPS. You don't need it and it sounds like it's just burning up power.

 

Quite simply a UPS is a battery charger and an inverter, with a battery in the middle. That's how they operate uninterrupted when the power goes out. The charger simply stops charging, but the inverter still runs off the battery. Many people think there is some kind of pass-through switching system. There isn't. It's a step down converter that runs an inverter, oh and it happens to produce enough power to keep the battery charged. Terribly inefficient but most people don't notice it and big data centers don't care.

 

If I understand how you have this hooked up, basically what you are doing is taking in solar power to charge batteries, then an inverter converting to AC to run the observatory and the UPS. The UPS is converting that back to DC to charge it's internal batteries while on the other side it has an inverter to output AC. That is highly inefficient. Please correct if I'm misunderstanding something in this power chain.

 

I have a solar power system to run my garage and machine shop off-grid, the system is also backup power for the house when the grid goes down.

 

This place has plenty of options: https://www.solar-electric.com/

They may have a monitoring system that will work for you.

 

I haven't looked in awhile but I think the Outback inverter (rather expensive, but very good) had a monitor that would turn on a charger (either switch to on-grid or start a generator) at a predetermined condition (load, charge).

They are good people, I bought all my solar panels, charge controllers and inverters from them.

 

As of now my understanding of what you need is really a monitoring system. Throwing another UPS into the mix is simply a waste of energy and money. You are powering a UPS off of another UPS.

 

Camera: Since you already have a weather station, probably just a couple security cameras will work. Ring has some nice ones, both battery and mains powered.

 

Kevin



#10 rgsalinger

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 03:06 PM

I forgot that the UPS (did I ever know that?) converts the 120VAC to 12 VDC and then back to 120VAC. That perfectly explains the draw I saw.

 

I'm running everything at 120VAC at this point because it's convenient. All of the devices being powered accept 120VAC so I just need to plug the standard AC plug from the digital loggers into the (Goal Zero Yeti 3000) battery packs and I'm done with wiring. The battery packs can provide 12 volts DC but then I'd lose the use of the digital loggers. Since I have plenty of power as is, it seems unnecessary (but who knows what happens next) to convert everything. Plus the Paramount MX+ I have requires 48 volts and so I'd need to rig up something special for that as well. All in all, with the draw at 25 WH and so I've got what I need. 

 

The weather system will automatically close the roof if there is bad weather. It will also close the roof if power is lost using a separate emergency power supply. That's what the UPS was supposed to do. That's the way I understand the system. This is really never going to happen, but I'd like to be as safe as possible. Normally, you'd have permanent AC power in an observatory and the system works great for that use case. It just doesn't work in my case. 

 

I think I'm just going to have to live with the problem.

 

Rgrds-Ross



#11 Phil Sherman

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 03:59 PM

Your ups is probably drawing power when shut off to keep its batteries fully charged. I believe the following steps could fix your problem:

1. Disconnect the ups's internal charger at its input terminals.

2. Replace the ups battery with a small lithium based battery that matches the chemistry of the one in your power box.

3. Connect the new little battery to a 12v output of a power box. Include a diode in the connection to allow the power box to charge the little battery and prevent it from being used to run the power box inverter. If you can get it, use a geranium power diode instead of a silicon one. (You might need to attach this directly to the power box battery.)

4. Run a pair of lightweight wires from the ups power switch to a relay you can control remotely. You can use this to turn on/off the ups when needed.

 

I think a better approach would be to get a dc Digital Logger device. You can hook it up to both power boxes and run the router and link directly off of dc using buck or boost dc-dc converters to avoid multiple voltage conversions. Use a remotely controlled dpdt relay to manage which of your power boxes provides power to the roof control system. If you can control the power box ac output remotely, then you could also keep one of these inverters turned off most of the time.

 

An inexpensive webcam aimed at the front of the power boxes will allow you to monitor what the boxes are doing.



#12 rgsalinger

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 10:20 AM

The motor that I need to control via a UPS is unfortunately an AC motor. So, I need 120VAC. The battery pack that controls it is 20 feet away on the other side of the observatory. So, I'd have to run a 50 foot DC cable to use a digital logger instead. I think that the power loss would end up being just as great as what I have now. That same fact means that (assuming I'm following along) the inverter/diode idea doesn't work.

 

I think that the whole idea of using a UPS as backup for the roof was a bust because I didn't realize that it was going to be AC->DC->AC drawing 25 watts even when it was basically doing nothing. The problem is that I need something that (like the battery packs that I own) only runs an inverter when it needs to. (There's a switch on the battery pack to turn the inverter on and even then it draws very little power for some reason.)

 

Rgrds-Ross



#13 Raginar

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 12:25 PM

My remote observatory project is almost completed. I have a particular issue in that I don't have permanent power at the observatory so everything runs off batteries which are charged by solar panels when there is no mains power available. So, I only have my internet connection (microwave link), my router and a digital logger permanently running. These gobble up about 20 watts/hour and the battery pack that powers them has plenty of power to keep them running for a week without any charging. So far so good. I use the SkyRoof system from Interactive Astronomy to control the roof. The observatory is 20x20 so there is lots of space.

 

What I have not been able to do is to find an inexpensive night sky camera. I don't want to spend more than 250 dollars on one. I just need something that will let me see if it's clear or not once I open the roof. It needs to be accessible over the LAN at the observatory. It would be even better if I could get to it using port forwarding over the internet. Since it needs to run without human intervention it's best if it has some kind of long lasting battery BUT I have spare 120V AC and 12 DC spare ports if needed.

 

I have also been looking for a UPS that can be turned on/off using some kind of GUI or (second choice) scheduler. The one I have  has a GUI that allows me to monitor the voltage and current in/out but does not allow me to turn it on/off. The purpose of this device is to act as fail safe power if the batteries are depleted and the roof needs to be closed. When I tried to use it on my roof in "always on" mode it drained in just 2.5 days even though my watt meter puts the roof at 1.4 watts/hour when idle. 

 

Anyway, if anyone has any ideas of good ways to solve these problems I'd love to hear from you. 

 

Rgrds-Ross

 

 

 

 

I used a simple SB400 security camera in a security camera (weatherproof) housing with a widefield lens as my first night sky cam.  It worked pretty well. Basic security cameras were used by the electronic astro guys and I used that style software to run it.  It was able to be controlled via a serial cable (new ones probably do ethernet or better) and it could integrate up to 8 seconds so you could get quite a bit out of it.  

 

Any of the big(ger) UPS will power a garage door opener.  The nice ones have scheduling.  My 1500VA UPS had no issues closing the roof even with my telescope gear running. The scheduling options are usually on the really expensive ones... I never found open source software that was good at it.  To leave the UPS 'always on' you could just put a internet switch on the back and plug everything into that.  Digi-loggers I think was the company?  It's rated for quite a bit of power and you can schedule it to turn on and off as required with basic scripting.

 

Chris


Edited by Raginar, 17 December 2019 - 12:28 PM.


#14 archer1960

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Posted 17 December 2019 - 02:04 PM

I forgot that the UPS (did I ever know that?) converts the 120VAC to 12 VDC and then back to 120VAC. That perfectly explains the draw I saw.

 

I'm running everything at 120VAC at this point because it's convenient. All of the devices being powered accept 120VAC so I just need to plug the standard AC plug from the digital loggers into the (Goal Zero Yeti 3000) battery packs and I'm done with wiring. The battery packs can provide 12 volts DC but then I'd lose the use of the digital loggers. Since I have plenty of power as is, it seems unnecessary (but who knows what happens next) to convert everything. Plus the Paramount MX+ I have requires 48 volts and so I'd need to rig up something special for that as well. All in all, with the draw at 25 WH and so I've got what I need. 

 

The weather system will automatically close the roof if there is bad weather. It will also close the roof if power is lost using a separate emergency power supply. That's what the UPS was supposed to do. That's the way I understand the system. This is really never going to happen, but I'd like to be as safe as possible. Normally, you'd have permanent AC power in an observatory and the system works great for that use case. It just doesn't work in my case. 

 

I think I'm just going to have to live with the problem.

 

Rgrds-Ross

Not all UPSs are dual-conversion (which is what you describe above). Most less-expensive ones have a quick-reacting switch that change over to batteries when the AC power is lost. Only ones that support loads that cannot tolerate ANY power interruption use dual conversion, because it's more expensive. Most AC loads can tolerate a few ms of power loss without issue.



#15 t-ara-fan

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 12:52 PM

The v1 Raspi camera is limited to 6s.  The newer version, which I think most would most likely buy, has increased and limited to 10s exposures.

 

 

Is that with the "Raspberry Camera"?   I am working on an All-Sky camera with an ASI224MC camera. Testing the camera and my upgraded lens with SharpCap I take 75sec exposures under a dark sky ... the Milky Way shows on them.  Or clouds ;)  

 

Next step is to get a Raspberry. I need to run from a battery.  I am just trying to figure out what is the lowest power Raspberry that has Ethernet, and maybe PoE.  PoE will simplify running cables out to the Raspberry.



#16 iwannabswiss

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 11:23 PM

Is that with the "Raspberry Camera"? I am working on an All-Sky camera with an ASI224MC camera. Testing the camera and my upgraded lens with SharpCap I take 75sec exposures under a dark sky ... the Milky Way shows on them. Or clouds wink.gif

Next step is to get a Raspberry. I need to run from a battery. I am just trying to figure out what is the lowest power Raspberry that has Ethernet, and maybe PoE. PoE will simplify running cables out to the Raspberry.

Yes, that's using the Raspberry Pi Cameras. Using any Raspberry Pi with a v1 Camera has a maximum 6s exposure. Using any Raspberry Pi with a v2 Camera has a maximum 10s exposure.

I've built and am running two versions of all sky cameras, about to be three. All using Raspberry Pi's; of the two currently running, one has a v1 Pi camera, the other uses a ASI120MM-S. The third one, soon to be in operation, has the v2 Pi camera. For the ASI version, I'm using software written by Thomas Jacquin. If you use his software and use auto-exposure during the nighttime, the maximum exposure is 20s. However, I think you could do longer like your 75s, provided you don't use the auto-exposure. I've never tried longer. My other setups using Pi Camera are running on software I wrote. In additional to v1 and v2 of the Pi Camera, they also come in two models, one with an IR filter and one without. I use the NOIR versions, which means no filter. I live in Charleston, roughly a Bortle 5 location, and even with the v1 NOIR camera taking 6s exposure I can faintly see the milky way in my videos. It's slight and you have to know what to look for, but it's there. I can't wait to get one of my cameras running in darker location to see what they'll do.

The makers of the Raspberry Pi also make what's called a PoE Hat ($20). It's a module that plugs into the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and newer models, which allows for Power over Ethernet.

Edited by iwannabswiss, 20 December 2019 - 09:05 AM.


#17 calypsob

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 05:30 AM

Off brand imx290 — https://www.ebay.com...ByABEgKK-PD_BwE Theres a few threads about them and apparently the work certainly well enough to operate as a sky cam

#18 t-ara-fan

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 03:46 PM

 
The makers of the Raspberry Pi also make what's called a PoE Hat ($20). It's a module that plugs into the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and newer models, which allows for Power over Ethernet.

Thanks for the info. I elected to go for a RasPi 3 Model B, because it draws slightly less power than the 3B+ and 4.   So a PoE hat is not possible.  I ordered a PoE injector and PoE splitter, and just need to get a 12V-48V DCDC power supply for the PoE. (The Injector comes with a passive splitter so I bought another splitter that does 48-5V conversion. )

 

A fun project. I will add a weather station to the mix, looking at an AcuRite but I need to figure out if I can talk to it over USB.

 

 



#19 rgsalinger

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Posted 21 December 2019 - 01:27 PM

I found a different UPS that appears to be of the "line interactive" type which I'm hoping will only draw a couple of watts while there is AC flowing in from my battery banks.  By plugging into it my router, observatory weather systems, internet modem and the roof I think that I will have an emergency backup system that won't deplete my battery banks. 

 

I haven't figured out the camera part yet but I've looked at the ZWO stuff and it looks promising but the raspberry pi solution looks like more fun.

 

Rgrds-Ross



#20 physics911

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 08:31 AM

I know this isn't what you asked about, and certainly isn't under $250, but I recommend looking at the SkyAlert from Interactive Astronomy, the same folks who make your SkyRoof.  With this, there is no real need for an all-sky camera unless you just want one for viewing or meteor showers.  I got my SkyAlert with the battery backup in it so it will automatically trigger closing my roof if there is a power outage.  Plus it closes the roof under any range of weather scenarios you tell it to.

 

Chris



#21 rgsalinger

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Posted 22 December 2019 - 11:47 AM

I have the SkyAlert and it works just fine. Nothing compares to having an all sky camera so that you can see what's actually going on. I already have a security camera in the obsy and I use it all the time to make sure that the scopes are parked properly and that the roof is closed. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

Rgrds-Ross


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#22 DMRandall

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Posted 25 December 2019 - 09:03 AM

Regarding the allsky camera.  I use the Raspberry pi project here: https://github.com/t...sjacquin/allsky with the basic construction that followed this plan https://www.instructables.com/id/Wireless-All-Sky-Camera/ and a ZWO ASI120MC. 

 

Lets you configure your exposures for auto-gain, or auto-exposure length, overlays info on the image, and automatically creates a MP4 video of your night's exposures, does auto-pruning of old data, and has a nice web server to view the images, videos and configure the whole allsky operation.  Even does dark frame subtraction if you need it. 

 

 

I did add a seedling heat mat to mine - that just keeps sufficient heat to keep dew and frost off the acrylic dome - and it melts the snow quickly enough too.  I also found that using a right angle USB connector on the B side will help give you a bit more room and prevent any tight bends for the cord.  


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