Cables are Killers

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Imagine you have a great imaging session – everything fine and the imaging plan is running smooth and then it happens.

All of a sudden your telescope moves in an unforeseen way and although you secured the cables attached they become stretched beyond limits and kill parts of your pricey equipment.

Sounds familiar? Well let me share my story and lessons learned …

There are at least half a dozen scenarios that can lead to this from wrongly configured meridian flips, thermal changes, your neighbors roaming cat, critters eating your safety straps to bolts that loosen through vibrations over time.

Most of the time not much happens as generally most of the astronomical equipment is somewhat resilient to outdoor dangers but when it comes to glass or electronics the damage is costly.

Taking the QSI apart to fix a broken USB port – and yes of course:
all other elements need to be removed to finally get to the port controller print.

Happened to me several times that I sheered off non cables that cost a fortune (plus intercontinental shipping) – but the worst that happened was killed USB and guiding ports on mount and camera. Total cost beyond 2000$ … had to work hard to get it replaced and fixed. I learned my lesson the hard way.

Replacing an 80 cent USB-B Port

My new checklist to avoid most of this (to be completed over time):

  • Fixing ALL cables with cable straps and giving some centimeters for unforeseen cases (10cm will do most cases).
  • Using a mount with cable management (cables can be decoupled from moving parts)
  • The cleaner and simpler the installation the less risk
  • Check all movements at the scope before you start remote imaging sessions – especially simulate meridian flips and park/unpark sequences.
  • If your mount starts to fail in pointing check all bolts and brakes they might have become lose, then re-initialize pointing model and check for software issues.
  • Check the environment – easy with an observatory but if you have a less static setup chances are high that your family who are not aware of the risks place stuff too close to your installed kit and it might drop, fall, be dragged by the winds or just fail to behave in another foreseen way.

I hope that was the last lesson I had to pay for …

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.


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