While setting up your computer for CCD imaging is pretty straightforward, there are a couple tips and tricks which can prevent problems you might run into.
It is important to turn off certain power-saving features before beginning CCD imaging! If your computer goes into sleep mode while an image is being taken it is possible that you will lose that image. Also, autoguiding or sequences of images can be lost this way.
You will be powering your CCD camera and likely your telescope from either AC power (from an extension cord) or from a rechargeable 12-volt battery. It is best to run your laptop off an external power supply as well. Your laptop’s batteries will likely not survive too long out in the cold during an imaging session. If using a 12-volt battery out in the field you will usually need an inverter to run the AC power for the laptop.
Tip: If using batteries, run your camera off its own separate power supply. Using the camera and laptop or telescope on the same power supply can cause interference with the power cables of the CCD camera that can appear as noise in the image. Also, CCDs and laptops can draw a lot of power (usually around 1-2 amps each) so separate power supplies will last longer.
It is best to plug everything in before turning anything on! Some connections are not critical, but others such as the camera head connection should never be done with power flowing. To be safe, always plug all connectors in first. USB cables are plug-and-play type connections which can be plugged in while the devices are running, but it is still best to get into the habit of not turning anything on until all connections are secure.
Tying Off Cables
An important and sometimes overlooked step in setting up a telescope for imaging is to tie off all the cables. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Many tracking errors are the result of cables either not being tied off or being improperly tied off. Velcro straps can be very useful for this.