If you have a telescope, and you’re trying to take photos through it, you’re going to have cables. The more gear you use, the more cables you have. Before long, it becomes clear that you will need some sort of astrophotography cable management solution. But aside from the obvious messy look, why should you really worry about cable management around your telescope anyway? It’s dark out, and this ain’t no beauty pageant. Well my friend, there are plenty of reasons why. Keep reading to find out some of the top ones.
My Top 3 Astrophotography Cable Management Fixes
We all know that balance is a crucial factor in being able to do astrophotography. Poor balance can lead to inaccurate slews or tracking errors that can show up as drift. Due to this, the result is challenging auto-guiding performance. Therefore astrophotographers want to able to eliminate or minimize as many of these factors as possible should be a first step to our goal of hassle free astrophotography.
The trouble with all of our equipment is that without a cable management solution focused around astrophotography, the cables simply hang off of our telescope and cause an imbalance. Because the cables are free hanging as the telescope moves the cables move too, always being pulled down, and changing the center of mass of the telescope. The dynamics of this system makes perfect balance impossible to have.
The solution would be to have all of your cables tied up in a single bundle. This forces all of the cables to move in the same way, hanging off the same point of the mount or telescope, making for only one dynamically shifting mass. However, this leads to the second problem
2) Cable Drag
A bundle of cables running from the back of the telescope and mount drag across the ground while the mount slews. This cable drag imparts a pulling force on the mount and can impact everything from your slew accuracy to your auto-guiding performance. It’s one thing to fight seeing, and a misaligned mount. In addition to that, when you factor in cable drag, and astrophotography becomes all the more difficult.
Apart from removing equipment from our astrophotography setup, there isn’t much we can do. We need our cameras, dew busters, filter wheels, focus motors, and other gadgets to get the shots we seek. Our goal here should be to eliminate as many cables from the cable bundle as possible, without removing equipment.
The simplest solution for our astrophotography cable management project is a USB hub. A single long USB cable from our computer can run up to the USB hub on the tripod, mount, or even the OTA itself. All of our cameras and other accessories can connect to the USB hub removing their combined cable mass from the bundle. This should significantly reduce the cable drag on our astrophotography rig.
3) Snagging Cables
Snagging cables are related to cable drag. Cables that drag across the ground can snag on anything – or nothing. It depends on where you setup. In a paved setting this is less likely to happen. If the grounds are well kept in a city park, this is still possible. However, if your out in the middle of nowhere this is almost a certainty. Twigs and rocks on the ground can grab any cable and begin pulling against it. Slowly as the mount tracks, or quickly when it slews, this pull can remove that cable from whatever device it is plugged into.
The ground isn’t the only place where snagging hazards can exist. Your mount is full of them too! Tripods have knobs to lock extended legs in place, and these knobs can act like a magnet to your cables. Unlike twigs or small rocks, these knobs are effectively unmovable.
Fortunately, the same USB hub solution above minimizes this problem. By having only the single USB cable for the hub running to your computer there is less cabling to grab and tug on something.
With these three big issues identified, and an astrophotography cable management solution identified all that is left to do is organize our equipment in such a way that all of the cables we need can be routed through a USB hub instead of hanging off the back of our telescope.