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The Impressive Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox (Review)

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The Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox is an ingenious device that allows you to streamline your deep sky astrophotography setup. The goal of this little blue box is to replace your current mess of power cables running to various devices on your telescope with a single, lightweight power source.

The Pocket Powerbox includes (4) 12V outlets that I use to send power to the various devices riding along with my telescope. This includes everything from my dew heater band to my dedicated astronomy camera. The device came with all of the cables I needed in the box, which was a pleasant surprise.

Pocket Powerbox

It includes a dedicated 8V power supply for DSLR cameras, 2 dew-heater channels, an environmental sensor, and a slick software interface to control everything on my computer.

The Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox has saved me hours of setup time and created more opportunities for spur of the moment imaging sessions during the week. My favorite aspects of the Pocket Powerbox are reducing the chance of cable snags while imaging, and the dew heater channels.

About Pegasus Astro

The team consists of Evangelos Souglakos and Angelos Kechagias. They are talented amateur astrophotographers located in Greece who decided to start making their own astrophotography tools.

I think you’ll find that the solutions they offer are remarkably affordable compared to the competition, with features that only die-hard backyard imagers can fully appreciate.

Here is an example of Evangelos Souglakos‘ work on APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day). The astrophotography gallery on the Pegasus Astro website is absolutely incredible.
Pegasus Astro
I’ve reviewed the Dual Motor Focus Controller and Stepper Motor Kit in the past, so I knew what I was getting into with the Powerbox. My Explore Scientific ED102 telescope is now decked out in blue highlights thanks to the upgrades provided by Pegasus Astro.

The Pocket Powerbox was sent to me from Pegasus Astro and Ontario Telescope and Accessories for review. The team at Pegasus Astro has gone above and beyond in terms of service and support of me, and this YouTube channel.

Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox Review


 

If you’re like me, devices like this (and the original Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox) are a rather new concept. It’s not something that was on my immediate todo list, although I had seen a lot of them in use in the Backyard of the Week submissions.

I’d already sorted out all of my power sources and could produce consistent astrophotography results just the way things are. Unfortunately, this included a tangled mess of cables that were constantly snagging on the camera, telescope or mount.

Perhaps a way to streamline the way each piece of electronic equipment is connected could provide some much-needed organization to my rig? I liked the idea of being able to leave my telescope running while I sleep without the worry of a cable snag. Not to mention the time I could save by having everything “plugged into the telescope” rather than draped down to ground.

I believe the point of the Pegasus Astro Powerbox make the entire deep-sky imaging process easier and more enjoyable. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened.

Sky watcher HEQ5 mount

The Pocket Powerbox mounted to my Explore Scientific ED102 telescope

Specifications and Features

The Powerbox is ASCOM 6 fully supported. Up to this point, I have only used the standalone software build by Pegasus Astro to control the Powerbox, but advanced users can integrate its features with Sequence Generator Pro, Astro Photography Tool and more.

Here is a look at the included software interface:

software interface

Below, is an overview of the features provided by this little blue box:

  • 4 x 12V DC Power outlets for your equipment
  • 10 Amps of total power
  • DSLR 8V Output (Can be switched ON/OFF)
  • 2 Channels PWM Dew Heaters – RCA Outputs
  • Humidity and Temperature Sensor (included)
  • Auto-Tune Dew Heaters
  • Reverse Polarity Protection
  • USB / PC Controlled
  • Lightweight and extremely compact enclosure

Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

View full details and order online at Ontario Telescope

Mounting the Pocket Power Box to a Refractor Telescope

Here is a look at the pocket power box mounted to my Explore Scientific ED102 telescope. The box is virtually weightless at 250 grams, so it adds very little extra weight to your imaging payload. This is great news for owners of entry-level or intermediate equatorial mounts owners that are already pushing the limits of their payload.

It’s not the tidiest setup in the world, I went a little crazy with zip ties. I thought about wrapping black velcro ties to the PPB to secure it, but I’m not sure if this is any more organized. I could clean things up by mounting the Powerbox to a small mounting plate with some two-sided velcro strips.

For now, everything stays put and I can easily cut all of the zip ties and mount it properly later. For current owners of the Powerbox, please let me know how you have mounted the device to your imaging refractor in the comments section.

mounting the device to a telescope

The device requires just one power source, a 12V DC In – this is now the only cable that actually runs to my household electricity from my imaging rig. No more spaghetti of black wires running up separately to the camera, dew heater controller, mount, focuser, and USB port.

What I’m utilizing on the Powerbox

Let’s go through the ports of the Pocket Power Box I’m utilizing to streamline my imaging rig and how I cut out a whopping 4 cables running up to various places on the rig.

The first is the dew heater channel with an RCA output. I plugged in my Kendrick dew heater strap and now I use the “auto dew” feature built into the PBB software. I no longer have to run my DewBuster dew heater controller alongside the telescope.

The environmental sensor reads the current ambient temperature and dewpoint and sends a signal to the band to warm up when moisture is most likely to occur. Just like that, dew is no longer an issue on this telescope – and it’s all right there ready to go every time I set up.

temperature sensor

As I stated earlier, the Pocket Powerbox comes with all of these 12V cables to connect your gear. I just hope you’re able to wrap them around your telescope a little cleaner than I did.

I bought a small Anker 4-port USB hub to power my various USB devices. I mounted the hub to the sadly under-utilized eyepiece tray of my HEQ mount with two-sided tape. This way I can just run all of the USB cables from the telescope into a single location that’s close by.

The Anker 4-port USB hub was unreliable, I eventually upgraded my USB hub  for astrophotography to a Startech 7-Port USB 3.0 Hub. This is a much more robust USB hub to withstand the elements outside, and was recommended to me from Pegasus Astro.

USB hub for pocket powerbox

I recommend using the StarTech 7-Port USB hub to connect the Pocket Powerbox and other devices.

Then, I can plug a single USB cable into my computer from the hub. To recap, that’s one power cable into the Pocket Powerbox, and one USB cable into my computer.

 

Perhaps my favorite aspect of my new streamlined imaging gear is how much time I save setting up. Everything stays together on one rig, and I can carry the whole thing in and out of the garage on a moments notice.

I plug a single USB cable into my computer, and then everything’s connected at once. All of the gear is safely powered from a single source that’s riding on the telescope. It’s as close as I’ve ever got to a plug-and-play deep sky imaging rig that’s as capable as it is convenient.

iOptron SkyGuider Pro

I’ve used the Pocket Powerbox on a number of imaging rigs. 

I’ve decided to claim this setup as my “always-ready” telescope setup for quick and reliable imaging on a weeknight for a few hours.

What would this entire upgrade be worth if I couldn’t back it up with actual astrophotography results? In my book, a clean and organized rig sitting in the living room is trumped by a slightly disorganized assembly that can deliver the goods.

Here is an image of the North America Nebula captured using my upgraded setup that’s powered by the Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox.

North America Nebula

The North America Nebula – 2 Hours, and 20 Minutes Total Exposure

Connection Issues?

If you are experiencing issues connecting your Pocket Powerbox to your PC, listen up. I have found that by following the same routine each time I use the PPB to avoid any potential issues. I use the same cabling and AC power supply every time I use the PPB, and have even color-coded it in royal blue to match the blue powerbox.

12V power supply

The power adapter I use to power the PPB has an output of 12V, 10 Amp. This is the exact model I purchased on Amazon. Also, I connect the device to the same USB port each time I use it, and make sure that my PC recognizes it in the device manager.

Then, it’s best to follow the same order that you plug each cable in. I start with the 12V power supply into the Pocket Powerbox, followed by the temperature sensor. Then, I plug in the dew heater band via the RCA port, and the USB-PC cable to my laptop.

Once everything has been connected properly, I connect to the device from my PC using the Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox standalone software (USB Serial Port COM9). From here, I make sure that the “Auto Dew” box is checked off, as I like to use the PPB for me dew heaters even when I don’t control it with my PC. (The device stores this setting internally).

Final Thoughts

For those of you with established telescope setups that are looking to organize your imaging gear and cut down on cables, the Pocket Powerbox will be your new best friend. If you’re stubborn about changing your old configuration like I was, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier your life gets when the PBB is involved.

If you are new to astrophotography with a less involved telescope setup, the Powerbox is likely an un-needed upgrade for now, unless you really have your heart set on an organized rig with the cable management advantages the PPB provides.

If you want some great examples of the right way to mount the Powerbox device to your telescope, have a look at some of the example images on the Pegasus Astro website.

I want to thank Pegasus Astro so much for the opportunity to try their products, and for opening my eyes to new tools that enhance my deep sky astrophotography experience. If you’re interested in the Pocket Power Box, you can order it from Ontario Telescope and Accessories.

astrophotography setup

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Pegasus Astro Stepper Motor Kit Review

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The Pegasus Astro stepper motor kit is an affordable way to give your astrophotography telescope a huge upgrade. Once installed, it allows you to make precision adjustments to your telescope focus without touching the telescope. Achieving (and maintaining) focus is one of the most important aspects of deep-sky imaging, which means that this small upgrade can have a profound impact on your astrophotography images.

The Pegasus Astro stepper motor kit is easy to install on an imaging refractor telescope, and the included software works as intended right out of the box. For me, the process of installing the stepper motor to my telescope involved disassembling the focuser drawtube. It can be a bit daunting to take apart your telescope at first, but once the motor is installed you can enjoy the enhanced precision and remote focusing options now available.

Pegasus Astro Stepper Motor Kit Review

Astrophotography enthusiasts looking to automate their focusing procedure have a few options.  You can either purchase an entirely new focuser kit that includes a motor (such as a MoonLite Focuser) or upgrade your telescope’s existing focuser with a stepper motor like the one available from Pegasus Astro.

The point of the upgrade or modification is to better control the focus of your telescope, which is especially important for astrophotography.  There are many benefits to making this upgrade, but the most important aspect is to produce consistently sharp images with your DSLR or dedicated astronomy camera.

Pegasus Stepper Motor Kit

The Pegasus Astro Stepper Motor Kit Installed on my Explore Scientific ED102

Adding a Motorized Focuser to My Telescope

In this video, I take you into the backyard for an imaging session using my latest telescope upgrade. I was able to control the telescope remotely from inside the house using Team Viewer on my imaging laptop out in the cold. The addition of a Pegasus Astro Dual Focus Motor controller means that I can now adjust my focus on the fly, without venturing back outside once everything is set up.

Update:

I updated my laptop for astrophotography to a newer machine with more power and USB 3.0 ports. I’ve also added the Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox to the mix, and it now powers everything from my camera to the dew heaters.

Benefits of a Motorized Focuser

I must admit, when I was first approached by Pegasus Astro to try out their stepper motor and dual motor focus controller, I only thought of the idea of focusing remotely.  It wasn’t until I connected the focus motor to Astro Photography Tool that I realized I could do much, much more.  Here are some of the main advantages of using a motorized focuser and controller:

  • high precision control
  • the telescope is not touched
  • focus remotely using PC
  • use “autofocus” features
  • compensate for changes in temperature

There is really only one drawback in the upgrade, and that’s added hardware and wiring to your rig.  That means another USB connection to your PC, and 2 more wires running to the telescope and mount.  Those of you that own a personal observatory with a permanent setup are more likely to invest in an automated focus solution.

How to install a focus motor

A Close-up of the Pegasus Astro Stepper Motor Kit

On the night of January 6, 2018, I used the Pegasus Astro DMFC to adjust the focus of my Explore Scientific ED 102 refractor from inside the house. This was accomplished by accessing my imaging laptop outside remotely using TeamViewer. The computer outside ran the focus motor controller, which was plugged into the stepper motor via a D-Sub connection.

The Focus Motor Controller allows me to make fine adjustments without going anywhere near the telescope.

deep sky imaging telescope

The timing couldn’t have been better for this upgrade, as the outside ambient temperature dropped below -20 degrees Celcius. Once the mount was polar aligned and ready to go, all further imaging steps were taken remotely from in the house.  This includes framing my target using Cartes Du Ciel to control the mount.

The stand-alone software that comes included with the Motor Controller works exceptionally well and is very straightforward. I watched the star size change using Live View in Astro Photography Tool until I reached a sharp focus with the Altair Hypercam 183M.

There are a number of ways to install the stepper motor and controller to your telescope.  See more configurations on the Pegasus Astro website.

Stepper Motor Telescope Focuser

Below is a screenshot of the software I use to control the focus of my telescope. I found this application to be useful and responsive and was able to fine-tune my focus when looping a live-view 10-second exposure in APT. The DMFC will communicate directly within Astro Photography Tool, but I experienced some hiccups early on.  More on this below.

DMFC software

The stand-alone software included with the DMFC

Pegasus Astro Dual Motor Focus Controller

The Dual Motor Focus Controller (DMFC) was designed to maintain the optimal focus position during a night of imaging. It’s ASCOM compliant, so you’ll be able to use it with your favorite camera control and image sequence software.

The standalone DMFC software is compatible with Windows operating systems only, so keep that in mind. You can update the controller’s firmware using a USB 2.0 connection to your PC if updates become available in the future.

It communicates with the motor from my PC application commands and includes the temperature probe for a reading of the ambient temperature in my backyard.  It works the way it should, but I do not have anything to compare this to, as I have never owned a focus motor controller before.

Dual Motor Focus Controller

Although I mainly control the stepper motor using the Focus Control software from Pegasus Astro, I certainly appreciate the ability to make manual adjustments using the dial. As long as the controller is powered up, the dial is a great way to retract the focuser in a hurry when you’re packing things up.

Software Updates

You’ll find up-to-date drivers and software downloads for the focus controller on the Pegasus Astro website under “support“. In early 2019, I updated the focus controller software to the latest version. To find out if you need to update the software, just click on the “i” (information) icon within the standalone software, and click “check for updates”. 

software updates

Installing the Stepper Motor

The process of installing the stepper motor involved removing the focuser of my Explore Scientific ED102.  This was something I had never done before and definitely felt a little strange. Imagine the feeling of disassembling a high-end telescope that you use almost daily.

The team at Pegasus Astro was quick to respond to the early questions I had about installing the stepper motor. The process will be straightforward to anyone who has ever upgraded a telescope focuser before but might be a little confusing to newbies of this procedure.

Stepper Motor Focus Kit

It is best to remove the stock focuser from the optical tube first, so you can access the tight spots you’ll need to get into better.  You’ll only need 2 tools, a small Phillips head screwdriver, and an Allen key set.

Pegasus Astro offers step by step instructions for installing the focuser on their website.

how to install a motorized focuser

 

Controlling the focuser on my PC

Although I successfully connected to the focuser using APT (Astro Photography Tool), I had some issues when using it to control the focuser.  The focuser would only move one direction (outwards) no matter which command I sent.  This is likely an issue due to an outdated version of APT, and/or lack of the proper settings.

Many others have had success using APT with the DFMC, and the team at Pegasus has been very helpful on this issue.

Computer controlled focuser

However, using the Pegasus stand-alone software for the focus motor controller worked like a charm.  I simply leave this application running during my imaging session to control the focus.  Having the ability to adjust the focus of my camera while sitting indoors still blows me away!

You’ll find the necessary software to run the camera on your PC here: http://pegasusastro.com/support/

Final Thoughts

The Pegasus Astro Stepper Motor Kit is an affordable way to upgrade your existing telescope with remote focusing abilities. This installation process was straightforward on my small refractor telescope, but owners of other telescope types and sizes will need to research the Pegasus Astro website to make sure a motor focus kit is a good option.

The Orion Nebula

The image above was captured using the Stepper Motor Kit to focus the telescope

The Focus Motor Controller works as it should, and worked brilliantly with the standalone software provided with the kit.  I expect others will want to integrate the focuser with their existing capture software such as APT or Sequence Generator Pro.

I’ll continue to share my experiences using the stepper motor kit and controller over the coming months. One thing is for sure, I appreciate the warm hands while focusing in this harsh Canadian winter we’re having!

The Pegasus Astro Stepper Motor Kit and Controller is available to order online at Ontario Telescope and Accessories

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