Saturday, June 3, 2017

Same setup at home and in the field

I find it always tricky to move my scope into the field and make sure that everything works. The main two challenges are:
  1. Powering everything from 12V batteries
  2. Using my laptop vs. the NUC on the scope for control.
1. Powering everything from 12V batteries
I decided to start using a 12V power source for everything. So, when I get into the field, I just replace that one with 12V batteries and everything should work exactly as before:
  • Most equipment runs off 12V anyway (focuser, filter wheel...) - Just need coaxial plugs (2.1mm and 2.5mm) with Anderson connectors.
  • The NUC computers can run off 12V.
  • The FLI cameras need 12V-12V DC/DC converter
  • The MyT mount needs a 12V-48V DC/DC converter
All connections need to be secured by fuses. Actually, I should have done that a long time ago. But was "reminded" of it when I blew up my NUC AND the control board of the MyT mount :-(

For that, I measured the power usage of all components:
ComponentPeak Power UsageFuse
FLI ML160705A
(cooling at 100% and taking continuous images)
7.5A
FLI MLx6942.8A
(cooling at 100% and taking continuous images)
5A
NUC computer2.2
(network usage, storing, CPU usage)
3A
MyT mount4.2A
(when full slewing)
5A
MyT equipment
(FLI FW, FLI PDF, Dew Heater, Grasshopper3, USB Hub)
1.3A2A
Mach1 mount1.2A
(when full slewing)
2A
Mach 1 equipment
(FLI FW, FLI Atlas, Lodestar, Dew Heater, USB Hub)
1.7A2A
Lunt Pressure Controller, Microtouch Focuser<1A1A

I bought a RigRunner to power all components on the scope and have just one main power line from the 12V power supply. The RigRunners are great for this as they have blade fuses integrated:

Now, with the NUC computer on the scope, I have all USB cables running there and only one (actually two - see below) cable running from the scope!!!:

Now, when I take the scope into the field, I can either replace the main line with one battery, or depending on power usage at night, power individual components (then with inline fuses) from a battery!
2. Using Laptop vs. NUC for imaging
The other change in the field was always that I used the NUC for imaging when I was at home and then my laptop when I was in the field. Which means that I had to copy profiles... over to the laptop - and often realized too late that I was using an older profile or such (e.g. with older focusing setup).

So, instead, I want to use the NUC always for imaging. They are great as they can be powered by 12V, i.e. don't need any converter or such.

At home, I usually used the wireless network card of the NUC to connect with them, which of course meant that I would need a different setup in the field (IP address!)

I did a little bit of research and found out that Ethernet is a little less power hungry then WiFi anyway. So, in the field I will use Ethernet to connect the scope and the laptop for remoting into the NUC. In order to use Ethernet at home too, I did the following trick: use one of our Google Wifi devices on the scope. I connect the NUC to the Google Wifi device and now I can connect from my laptop from inside via Wifi.

Finally, I use reserved (static) IP addresses for my laptop and the NUC, so that I can use the same IP addresses at home or in the field.

To power both of my scopes, I bought a small Ethernet switch which had only 2W input power (with 12V, that's less then 0.2A!!!) At home, I plug the Google Wifi into the switch, in the field I plug my laptop into the switch. No IP address changes or anything!!!

And with all this, most cables and components are now on the scope and won't change. Which makes the whole setup WAY less cluttered!!!