Thursday, February 18, 2016

Correcting the Too-short Celestron Hand Control Cable

One of the perennial, if minor, "what were they thinking" topics in astronomy hardware is the short coiled cable used to connect Celestron hand controls to their mounts. The cable, stiffly coiled like an old phone handset line, is simply too short.

This wasn't so bad on my old CG5 ASGT where the mount head isn't all that large, but on my CGEM it couldn't be ignored. It was possible to have the handset pulled right out of its tripod leg cradle as the scope turned in RA. That's not something you want to see when you're imaging, since it means the coiled cord was torquing the mount and then letting the handset become a free-swinging weight in whatever breeze there might be.

One solution I tried for a while was a coiled extension cable. The added cable was so heavy and droopy that it was awkward to handle and tended to get snagged on the mount. Then I came across a video that shows how to replace the stock cable with one that's more user-friendly.

All you need is
  • A piece of flat 6-conductor telephone cable, preferably one with at least one end having an RJ12 connector attached--if not, you'll have to do that yourself. These can be found many places; on Amazon they're typically around $5 to $6.
  • A soldering gun and solder (A good, fast-heating gun is much preferable to the old pencil type)
  • A wire cutter
  • A craft knife for stripping very thin wires
  • Heat-shrink wire tubing (I found this on eBay)

Extremely helpful to have is a soldering jig to hold the ends of the wires together as you solder them.

The most important consideration is getting the wire connections correct. In my case the wire colors and order in the cable exactly matched that used by Celestron, so it was easy to get things right. If you get the connections wrong its quite possible you'll ruin your handset.

The filter from the old cable will be reused on your new cable. Aside from that, you can discard the old cable. Or toss it into your pile of stuff you probably should trash but are keeping "just in case" it might be useful someday.

The job takes an hour or so, when you're done you'll have the kind of cable Celestron should have provided in the first place!

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