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Imaging computer & camera power in observatory

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#1 jerahian

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 12:49 PM

The fan on my ASI1600MM-Cool runs as soon as I have the USB cable plugged into it when it also has the 12V power plugged into it, even when my computer is off.  I don't want to have to unplug the rig from the outlet every time nor do I want to unplug anything from the back of my camera.  Which got me thinking...

 

For those of you with an observatory (backyard observatory only), do you keep your imaging computer on all the time?  Do you keep power to your camera established all the time (not necessarily cooled all that time, of course)?

 

For those of you with a truly remote observatory, how do you handle power and computing?  Is there some crafty way of managing this remotely?

 

How about dew heaters?  I loathe to have those running all the time and sucking energy unnecessarily.

 

CS, Ara



#2 dghent

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 01:06 PM

Depending on your needs, get an Ultimate Powerbox v2 or Pocket Powerbox Advanced from Pegasus Astro.

 

The 12V and dew heater outlets are switchable (via the management app or ASCOM switch driver). Additionally, the built-in dew controller can be managed by the included temperature+humidity sensor via the Auto Dew feature, so the power of the dew heaters will be adjusted in accordance with how close the measured dew point is to the ambient temperature.

 

So with this one box you can turn off the 12V outlets that feed your camera and any other accessories, as well as the dew heaters. The UPBv2 can also switch the USB ports on and off, if that's desired.

 

I replaced 5 individual boxes (powerpole hub, USB hub, FocusBoss controller, dew controller, home-made temperature+humidity+air pressure sensor) that rode on top of my telescope with a single UBPv2. Far fewer wires, more compact, lighter weight, and it's all controlled via the app.

 

As for keeping your PC on, you can likely use Wake-on-LAN to remotely turn on your PC if your PC is connected to your home network via wired ethernet, or ethernet via wireless bridge. Absent that, you can get a network-managed power strip from Digital-Loggers


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#3 njrusty

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 01:48 PM

My PC in my observatory is on 24 hours/day.  Not only does it control my observatory, it also has a weather station and all sky camera.

 

Once I connect to it remotely, I use X10 power modules and home unit to control the various outlets in the observatory. The x10 software allows me to turn on/off individual power outlets which in turns allow various equipment to be turned on/off.


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#4 jerahian

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Posted 23 October 2020 - 09:14 PM

Depending on your needs, get an Ultimate Powerbox v2 or Pocket Powerbox Advanced from Pegasus Astro.

 

The 12V and dew heater outlets are switchable (via the management app or ASCOM switch driver). Additionally, the built-in dew controller can be managed by the included temperature+humidity sensor via the Auto Dew feature, so the power of the dew heaters will be adjusted in accordance with how close the measured dew point is to the ambient temperature.

 

So with this one box you can turn off the 12V outlets that feed your camera and any other accessories, as well as the dew heaters. The UPBv2 can also switch the USB ports on and off, if that's desired.

 

I replaced 5 individual boxes (powerpole hub, USB hub, FocusBoss controller, dew controller, home-made temperature+humidity+air pressure sensor) that rode on top of my telescope with a single UBPv2. Far fewer wires, more compact, lighter weight, and it's all controlled via the app.

 

As for keeping your PC on, you can likely use Wake-on-LAN to remotely turn on your PC if your PC is connected to your home network via wired ethernet, or ethernet via wireless bridge. Absent that, you can get a network-managed power strip from Digital-Loggers

Dale, thanks for the recos!  Sadly, although I've always found the UPB quite slick, it is rather expensive.  Moreover, I have one set of supporting electronic gear (USB hub, dew heater controller, focus controller) which I have installed around my observatory pier and these service multiple scopes and astrocams as I swap the OTAs in and out.  So, in the end, only 3 cables (camera power, focuser, dew strap) run up to my scopes instead of the 2 which would be required for a UPB (power, usb3).  My computer is not mounted on my scope.

 

That said, thanks for the Wake-on-LAN idea.  I hadn't thought of that!  I have wired ethernet into my observatory, so this should work swimmingly.

 

Also, your link to Digital-Loggers got me looking at their full set of products, which are very cool!  I found their IoT Relay II (only $26.95) which will do exactly what I need it to do!  I will plug my computer into the "Always ON" outlet, and by "sniffing" the power from a USB port on the computer itself, it will trigger the relay to turn the "Normally OFF" outlets on!

 

Thanks again for the link and suggestions!

 

CS, Ara



#5 sn2006gy

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Posted 24 October 2020 - 12:46 AM

I use a web power switch and the pegasus astro power box.

 

The web power switch i can control via ascom or - via the web. My observatory assigns it a port I can access via public internet and authenticate in and control power. 

 

I typically leave the imaging PC on 24x7 so it can synchronize data to the cloud and upload all the subs.

 

Even though I can control ports and such through the pegasus, i typically power everything down but the PC through my web power switch.

 

The pegasus power box gives me granular control of USB/Power ports as needed (which is nice) and auto-dew but i typically don't leave it on.



#6 jerahian

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Posted 24 October 2020 - 06:23 AM

I use a web power switch and the pegasus astro power box.

The web power switch i can control via ascom or - via the web. My observatory assigns it a port I can access via public internet and authenticate in and control power.

I typically leave the imaging PC on 24x7 so it can synchronize data to the cloud and upload all the subs.

Even though I can control ports and such through the pegasus, i typically power everything down but the PC through my web power switch.

The pegasus power box gives me granular control of USB/Power ports as needed (which is nice) and auto-dew but i typically don't leave it on.


Which web power switch do you use? I’m intrigued by your statement of controlling it via ASCOM!

#7 kathyastro

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Posted 24 October 2020 - 06:42 AM

I keep my observatory computer on 24x7.  It does my weather observations.  It talks to a couple of Arduinos that control the power and dome functions.


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#8 Chucke

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 03:32 PM

I keep the hardware in my observatory powered off when not in use.  I have a UPS for each pier and another for the two computers in the warm room.  I power off the UPSs between sessions.  I started doing this after burning out a couple USB extenders and the UART chip in one of my Robofocus controllers during the summer heat.  The observatory is in my yard so I don't have to deal with remote power switches.


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#9 jerahian

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 01:37 AM

I keep the hardware in my observatory powered off when not in use. I have a UPS for each pier and another for the two computers in the warm room. I power off the UPSs between sessions. I started doing this after burning out a couple USB extenders and the UART chip in one of my Robofocus controllers during the summer heat. The observatory is in my yard so I don't have to deal with remote power switches.


Yep, that sounds like a good plan for me as well. My observatory is in my backyard also, so with the changes I made in the last couple of days, all I do is hit the power button on my imaging PC now and everything else (camera, mount, drew heaters) turns on along with it. After all, I still need to roll my roof off manually; that’s phase 2 :)
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#10 f430

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 08:16 AM

all I do is hit the power button on my imaging PC now and everything else (camera, mount, drew heaters) turns on along with it.  smile.gif

Curious, what you use for an interface between PC and the other components to turn them on automatically?

 

I'm actually looking for a way to automatically turn the 120 volt power off after an imaging session. I'm assuming if you can have it turn on power, it'll also turn it off.  

 

Thanks for any suggestions!



#11 kathyastro

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 09:15 AM

I'm actually looking for a way to automatically turn the 120 volt power off after an imaging session. I'm assuming if you can have it turn on power, it'll also turn it off. 

SGP allows you to run a script at the end of a session.  I have it run a script that parks and closes the dome.  It then delays for mount parking, camera warm-up, etc., then it shuts off first the 12v power to the pier, and then the 120v power to the power supplies. 

 

If you have software that will operate power relays, this approach is fairly simple to implement.



#12 nimitz69

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 10:50 AM

everything that requires DC power is connected to a RigRunner.  The rigrunner has 1 cable coming off it to an DC/AC converter box (also from powerworx) which plugs into an AC wall outlet.  However, at the end of a session I disconnect the DC out line from the rig runner to the converter box and I unplug my laptop which is on a separate line to a wall outlet.  I don’t want a power surge from a lightning strike  or outage to fry $8,000 worth of equipment 

 

it takes 10 secs to plug in both my computer and equipment cable to ac power once I enter my observatory and open the roof


Edited by nimitz69, 28 October 2020 - 10:53 AM.


#13 rgsalinger

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 11:01 AM

My observatory (two imaging systems) is powered by the sun (coupled to two LION battery packs). So, I keep the PC's off during the day and only turn them on when I want to actually do something with them. Each battery pack produces 15 amps of AC current. My rigs draw at most 5 amps when imaging. 

 

What I leave on (the place is 90 miles from my house) are the observatory router, my wireless internet receiver, a 16 port ethernet switch, and three digital loggers. The loggers are accessed using port forwarding through the router. I just turn things on in the evening using the loggers and turn things off in the morning.

 

My automation program parks the mount and turns off the cooling but that's it at this point. I have my roof scheduled to close at dawn and there's a failsafe that closes it if the batteries lose power for any reason.  

 

I've thought about a power box but I have not seen the point. I can power things on and off from the loggers, I don't want to run the PC's, and every extra component is something that can fail.  I wish I had permanent mains power and then I'd operate differently.

 

I've been careful to make sure that my scopes do not ever get above the roof line in the observatory. That way I can close the roof at any time - weather, dawn, etc. 

 

Rgrds-Ross



#14 jerahian

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 11:16 AM

Curious, what you use for an interface between PC and the other components to turn them on automatically?

 

I'm actually looking for a way to automatically turn the 120 volt power off after an imaging session. I'm assuming if you can have it turn on power, it'll also turn it off.  

 

Thanks for any suggestions!

Data-loggers has a product called "IoT Relay II" (only $26.95!!) which will do exactly that!  If you look at the link to the product, you will find it has 4 outlets (1 always on, 1 normally on, 2 normally off).  I now plug my computer into the "Always ON" outlet, and by "sniffing" the power from a USB port on the computer itself, it will trigger the relay to turn the "Normally OFF" outlets ON and the "Normally ON" outlet OFF (I don't use this one outlet)!  Then, when I remotely shut down the computer, once it powers off, the relay shuts off the "Normally OFF" outlets as well, thus shutting down my camera, mount, and dew heaters which are plugged into those 2 outlets.

 

Now, to "sniff" the power from a USB port, I stripped one end of a cheap USB cable and wired it to the relay port.  Here is a video of exactly what I did (this video is made by Data-Loggers and isn't me :) )

 

Dale, in post #2, posted a link to a Data-Loggers product which allows you to manually control 8 outlets over Wifi called the Pro Switch.  It's more expensive ($169) than the IoT Relay but gives you full control over each outlet.

 

CS, Ara



#15 f430

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 11:54 AM

SGP allows you to run a script at the end of a session.  

 

If you have software that will operate power relays, this approach is fairly simple to implement.

Thanks for all the suggestions for power control.

Currently I have everything automated, from opening the roof, taking the images, to parking the mount and closing the roof and disconnecting from SGP and APCC. To shut down the 120V power, I have a digital timer that I have to set each evening, and that's what I'm hoping to eliminate.

I have seen the script options in SGP, and am pretty sure using one would work, but, I know Nothing about writing scripts! I googled scripting, found lots of info, but very little on the beginner front. 

Kathyastro, I wonder if its possible for you to post the script you use, to give me an idea of what I'm trying to learn?

 

Thanks, John



#16 airscottdenning

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 12:22 PM

In my back yard I use an Eve Power Strip controlled through Apple Home Kit. Expensive for what it does (around $100) but way cheaper than the Pegasus (I have one of those too).

 

Easy to switch individual components (computer, mount, cameras) on and off independently on my phone, tablet, and laptop. Ridiculously easy to set up.



#17 OhmEye

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 12:54 PM

Hey Google, tell Alexa to power up the observatory. lol.gif


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#18 kathyastro

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 01:10 PM

Kathyastro, I wonder if its possible for you to post the script you use, to give me an idea of what I'm trying to learn?

This is a VB Script.  It is called from SGP's end-of-session options.  My Dome Sync application (I could use SGP's, but I don't) and my Power Controller application accept script commands via temporary text files.  So the basic format for the script to do anything is:

- create an empty text file;

- write the command into it;

- wait long enough for the application to read the file, act on it, and delete it.

 

Set myShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
myShell.CurrentDirectory = "C:\Users\Kathy\Documents\DomeSync"

Set objFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")

'Turns off dome tracking...
Set objTextFile = objFSO.CreateTextFile("DomeSync_Script.txt", True)
if err.number > 0 then
  'if we couldn't create a new file
  wscript.quit
end if
objTextFile.Write "UNTRACK"
objTextFile.Close

 

WScript.Sleep 10000 'Sleeps for 10 seconds

 

'Stops any dome slew that was in progress...
Set objTextFile = objFSO.CreateTextFile("DomeSync_Script.txt", True)
if err.number > 0 then
  'if we couldn't create a new file
  wscript.quit
end if
objTextFile.Write "STOP"
objTextFile.Close

 

WScript.Sleep 10000 'Sleeps for 10 seconds

 

'Closes the dome...
Set objTextFile = objFSO.CreateTextFile("DomeSync_Script.txt", True)
if err.number > 0 then
  'if we couldn't create a new file
  wscript.quit
end if
objTextFile.Write "CLOSE"
objTextFile.Close

 

WScript.Sleep 120000 'Sleeps for 2 minutes (dome close can take up to 1m30s)

 

'Disconnects the ASCOM dome driver...
Set objTextFile = objFSO.CreateTextFile("DomeSync_Script.txt", True)
if err.number > 0 then
  'if we couldn't create a new file
  wscript.quit
end if
objTextFile.Write "DISCONNECT"
objTextFile.Close

 

'----------

WScript.Sleep 900000 'Sleeps for 15 minutes: time for camera warmup

 

myShell.CurrentDirectory = "C:\Users\Kathy\Documents\PowerController"

'Turns off all power switches.  Controller knows to turn off DC first, then AC...
Set objTextFile = objFSO.CreateTextFile("PowerController_Script.txt", True)
if err.number > 0 then
  'if we couldn't create a new file
  wscript.quit
end if
objTextFile.Write "ALL OFF"
objTextFile.Close


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#19 f430

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Posted 28 October 2020 - 04:05 PM

Kathyastro, Thanks so much for the example. It gives me a good idea of what I need to do, and what to look for. bow.gif



#20 sn2006gy

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Posted 29 October 2020 - 10:26 AM

Which web power switch do you use? I’m intrigued by your statement of controlling it via ASCOM!

This one - https://www.digital-...rs.com/lpc.html - purchased from Amazon because it was same day shipping. Works with web/ascom/remote - has lua scripting too. Overkill, but works great :)


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#21 Ladyhawke

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Posted 29 October 2020 - 10:31 AM

For my observatory, I have a web power remote and everything is plugged in on it. From the office inside the house I can remotely turn everything on and off and if I am not imaging, everything stays powered off. If I want use the computer, I will just use a Wake on Lan command and can also power the computer on and off remotely, then I use AnyDesk to remote in. This system has been working flawlessly for me.


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#22 sn2006gy

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Posted 29 October 2020 - 10:39 AM

Here is the ascom driver for that switch: https://ascom-standa...of the switch. 


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#23 f430

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Posted 29 October 2020 - 11:26 AM

Hmmm, so with a Digital-Logger and the ascom driver, is there a way to have Sequence Generator Pro turn Off the switches, once the imaging run is finished? And if so, how would you do it?

 

I know I can turn them off from a computer, but I want them turned off by the computer (SGP), so I don't have to get out of bed at 3AM. 

 

Should add that I've noticed that the to be released SGP 4, will have a Switch section, and wonder if this is what I'm looking for.



#24 jerahian

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Posted 31 October 2020 - 01:17 AM

Hmmm, so with a Digital-Logger and the ascom driver, is there a way to have Sequence Generator Pro turn Off the switches, once the imaging run is finished? And if so, how would you do it?

I know I can turn them off from a computer, but I want them turned off by the computer (SGP), so I don't have to get out of bed at 3AM.

Should add that I've noticed that the to be released SGP 4, will have a Switch section, and wonder if this is what I'm looking for.


Yes. That’s exactly how it would work. I haven’t used SGP in a long while, but I know NINA’s switches module does exactly that, so I suspect SGP will be very similar.

#25 f430

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Posted 31 October 2020 - 10:50 AM

Thanks very much for that jerahian!

Hopefully you'll get your rig sorted out as well!

John




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