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Random Camera Disconnects Solved After 4 Months of Differential Diagnosis

Astrophotography Equipment Observatory
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#1 drblevy13

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Posted 25 May 2024 - 11:00 AM

I had been getting disconnects of my camera (ZWO ASI 2600mm Pro) as well as focuser errors (NINA reports invalid response from device, or failure to move).  Everything is plugged into a Pegasus Powerbox Ultimate V2.  My focuser is a Moonlite Edge CHL V2.  The only other device plugged into the Powerbox is a single dew heater strip for my EdgeHD 11 OTA, which is set to auto-dew control.  I had spent all this time trying to figure out why I'm getting these disconnect errors.  The device is used in a roll-off roof observatory.  Here is what I had done so far:

 

1. Changed cameras.  Regardless of which camera I connect to the Powerbox (I own two 2600MM Pros), I get the disconnect errors.  When I use the cameras with another setup, they work fine.

 

2. Uninstalled and reinstalled Pegasus Unity, ZWO drivers and ASCOM.  All firmware and drivers up to date.  No improvement.

 

3. I had tried running the setup a few nights with the observatory closed to see if I could reproduce the error.  Sometimes it would disconnect and other times not.  However, almost every time I had the observatory roof open, I would get the disconnect error. 

 

4. Changed USB cables from USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 leading from camera to Powerbox, and also changed USB cables going from Powerbox to PC (high quality USB 3.0, and also tried USB 2.0).  Still get disconnect errors.

 

5. Changed power cables going from camera to Powerbox (all supplied from Pegasus).  Also tried changing which power port on the Powerbox the camera was connected to.  No improvement.

 

6. Plugged the Powerbox into a different USB port on the laptop I use.  Still get disconnect errors.

 

7. Plugged camera USB directly into the laptop, but kept power coming from Powerbox.  Still disconnects.

 

8. Plugged camera USB directly into the laptop, and used a ZWO power supply for the camera.  This resulted in no disconnections when I ran the setup for 4 hours.  The focuser remained connected to the Powerbox, and also stayed connected.

 

When I saw that using the ZWO power source for the camera improved things, it lead me to believe that it may be related to some sort of voltage drop when the camera's TEC is running and power is sourced from the Powerbox (though I haven't directly witnessed this since the error usually occurs in the middle of the night when I'm asleep).  I contacted Pegasus, and they didn't think it was a voltage drop because my setup is so overpowered for what I have plugged into it, and the errors would have occurred as soon as the fan started spinning.

 

Well, I think I finally figured it out... drum roll...

 

Ants in mobo.jpg

 

I made the mistake of storing the computer under the floor of the observatory at the base of the pier.  I opened the floor and saw ONE ant on the keyboard.  On a hunch, I opened the laptop.

 

I had uninvited guests living in the motherboard of my computer, under the RAM, crawling through the USB ports, under the battery and laying eggs in the fan!  I disassembled the entire laptop and evicted the little #$@#$@% using my shop vac, but for good measure I replaced the entire computer and mounted it above the floor on the pier.  I set out a bunch of ant traps.  Last night, for the first time in months, I had a flawless run.


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#2 pfile

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Posted 25 May 2024 - 12:38 PM

wow - literal bugs, just like the original bug. i hate ants, where there's one there's guaranteed to be a bunch. my stupid house gets ants in the kitchen area every time it rains and i've spent the last 20 years caulking up every crack i find them coming thru.


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#3 drblevy13

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Posted 25 May 2024 - 02:37 PM

Yes! My best friend who is a mechanical engineer told me that story about the original bug. Had no idea it was actually a fly in a computer! Well, I literally debugged by astrophotography rig!

#4 bignerdguy

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Posted 25 May 2024 - 03:56 PM

To borrow and corrupt a quote:  They weren't bugs, they were "creatures" (features)!  LOL  Yup, those pesky little jerks love electronics and electrical fields in general and laptops are especially vulnerable to contaminants in the works.  Glad you found the source of your issue.


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#5 idclimber

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Posted 25 May 2024 - 07:22 PM

You just reminded me to go out to the observatory and spray for bugs. 


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#6 pfile

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Posted 26 May 2024 - 11:02 PM

speaking of spraying for bugs, my RC6 seems to be infested with tiny spiders. every time i look down the OTA i see very thin spider webs everywhere. i have never seen one of these spiders, so i am assuming they must be very small. not sure what to do as i don't want to spray raid anywhere near the telescope...


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#7 GiorgioF

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Posted 27 May 2024 - 01:12 PM

How can you blame them? A dry, warm, protected place. Adon futuristic fashion. 😀
Sorry but I can't resist. Similar to me with spider finding comfortable to create web on the old newton.
Maybe it was a male spider looking for another spider.....

Edited by GiorgioF, 27 May 2024 - 01:13 PM.

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