Modern day astrophotography setups are getting more complex with many devices working together simultaneously. Gone are the days of manually focusing your telescope with a DSLR camera on the back of the telescope.
Many imagers now use dedicated cooled imaging cameras as well as a secondary guide camera, a motorized filter wheel, focuser, and rotator. There is also the issue of dew, which requires heaters for the optics. By the time you are done setting up, you’re left with a web of USB and 12V cables that need to go from the moving mount to the PC or laptop.
The Pegasus Ultimate Powerbox V2 is an elegant solution that consolidates all the connections into single neat package.
Connection, Power Management, and More
With all these devices running, one option is to strap a mini-PC to the telescope and connect the USB devices to that. But that still leaves the 12V and dew heater power issue unsolved.
There are some other all-in-one astronomy PCs that come with USB and power hubs, such as the PrimaluceLab Eagle, but they are often bulkier and much more costly.
The Pegasus Ultimate Powerbox (UPB) acts as a central hub to connect all your devices, requiring only single USB and 12VDC power cables to operate (both included). The Powerbox, along with its computer interface, allows the user to control and connect all the devices individually.
The Pegasus UPB is very light, weighing only 400 grams (14 ounces), and measuring 135mm x 107mm x 30mm (5.3in x 4.2in x 1.2in).
I initially thought the UPB was a glorified USB hub, but it’s much more than that.
- It can handle 6 x USB devices simultaneously with the industrial grade 4 x USB 3.1 and 2 x USB2.0 ports.
- Each USB port provides 2.5 Amps of power, and has short circuit and overload protection.
What I like here is that you can individually turn each port on and off, which is very useful for troubleshooting or when equipment needs to be reset.
I have no issues running my extremely data-intensive planetary camera at 300 frames per second; there is no loss in data transmission through the USB 3.1 hub.
DC Power Hub and Controller
The majority of astronomy devices require 12V power to operate and the UBP V2 provides six DC power outputs for those devices.
- Power is provided for devices requiring from 12V to 13.8V, with a maximum of 20 Amps of total power (with one exception noted below).
- 4x user controllable 12V ports that can be turned on and off as needed, again very useful to reset devices. Most importantly to me, it is much safer when I need to plug in or unplug my expensive equipment when I can turn the power off first.
- 1x user adjustable voltage power output for devices that may require less than 12VDC.
- 1x 12V output that is always on regardless of whether the device is connected to the computer or not.
Dew Heater Controllers
Dew heater controllers are powered through standard RCA output ports using pulse width modulation (PWM) to control the duty cycle (output percentage). I have used these to power all types of dew heaters for telescopes from small refractors to my large CDK reflector.
These power ports can also be used to power and modulate telescope cooling fans, as shown below.
There are so many things that can go wrong in the dark, especially when you are sleep-deprived!
One of the main reasons I use these on all my setups is the multiple useful safety features.
- Built-in Voltmeter: It’s important to monitor power voltages, especially when using batteries in the field. When the battery runs low, a voltage drop means either the end the session or needing to replace the power source.
- Ammeter: Each 12V port and dew heater port has its own ammeter, so the device measures and displays the current each port is drawing. If you were to see the focuser is drawing a lot of current, for example, it could indicate it’s caught on something.
- High Voltage Power Cut-Off: A very important feature is that the UPB monitors the input voltage and cuts the power if it exceeds 14.5V. This can avoid potential catastrophic failures.
- Polarity Protection: I have had at least one incident where I’ve mixed up the positive and negative leads in the dark. That could have disastrous consequences. The UPB disconnects the power if it senses a reverse polarity power connection.
A small sensor on the UPB measures and displays the ambient temperature and relative humidity. These two values are then used by the software to calculate the current dew point and the UPB will warn the user if there is a risk of dew forming. I use this feature, increasing the dew heater output to avoid wet optics.
Focus Motor Controller
The UPB can drive stepper motors commonly used in motorized focusers (11 brands are listed by Pegasus). I use this feature to control my Optec Sagitta focus motor, which saved me $350 because I didn’t need to buy the separate Optec controller.
I’ve been using the Ultimate Powerbox for the past few years and really like the compact form factor and the efficient user interface. It came with all the cables needed to set up a system, including the environment sensor. What I didn’t like is that no mounting bracket was included, which you really need; the bracket is a $50 option.
While the Pegasus UPB is pricey, it is very reliable, and the host of features offered are extremely useful. Also, the constant monitoring of voltage, current, and humidity gives me extra peace of mind given the cost of my equipment. I’d say it is definitely worth the cost, and I consider it an essential device on all my setups.