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Merlin66

Observatory- after the first year

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I'd be interested to hear from members who have recently built an observatory and the good and bad reports after the first year of operation.

Did it live up to expectations?

In hindsight what changes would you have made? Things you wouldn't do again?

Surprises?

Foundations?

Size?

Walls?

Roof/ dome? Ease of function?

Water/wind/dust leaks?

Power and data cabling?

Share your pain and gain.....

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Great thread Ken!!

My obs was finished late in 2011 and so I've not had that much time with it so far.

Anyway, quite frankly I love it! It makes life so much easier for imaging that it is like a different hobby now. If the cloud doesn't clear until 10 O'Clock, no problem I can be up and operational in minutes.

It has survived the best winds that Spain has had to throw at it, and a solid week of winds at that. Everything was fine.

I don't think I'd do anything different with hindsight. There is in reality little I could change anyway. The space was fixed and it is surrounded by concrete. I had a big concern regarding thermals in the summer as it will be in the full sun for most of the day - That is yet to be tested. The temperatures at the moment are not high enough for the concrete surrounding me to really warm up and retain the heat.

The roof works like a dream and there has been no rain ingress at all. The pond liner skirt has done the trick and keeps out the elements, which is good as I have probably a 3 inch gap all round the obs!

The flooring (foam jigsaw stuff) is excellent and makes a huge difference compareed to bare concrete. I've not got many power sockets, but there's enough for me.

Probably THE best addition to the obs has been using EQMOD. It has worked brilliantly and makes life just so easy in comparison to before. I can not now live without it! I would recommend anyone who has an obs to run with EQMOD. I have no warm room, so the computer is within the open obs. I'm often up there with my fluffy hat and thermals, but that is a small price to pay. A warm room would have been nice, but it was not feasible with what space I had.

So all in all, a resounding success. An obs that is far away from the usual build due to it being made of brick. In all honesty, very little planning compared to most threads I have seen, but it works like a dream.

My thermals concerns will have to wait until the summer for me to decide how successful it is in the warm Spanish months.

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Hi Ken - are you finally taking the plunge ? I've built 6 domes over the decades [two for myself] and wouldn't do it any other way. Can't see the point of going to all that trouble and effectively "standing outside" a RoR observatory.. I can do that on the patio anytime. :)

However I'm told by the experts here RoRs are 'easier'? but anyway good luck with your project:rolleyes:

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Built mine in May/June last year... Observations (pardon the punn) are:

* Not to use crecote on the shiplap - It's going to have a couple of coats of some other preservative in the spring.

* Use 1.5" waste pile for the cables from the warm room to the pier. I used 1" pipe and it soon got tight.

* Cabling - I hadn't really thought out how all the hubs, focuser, and other boxes would be fitted around the pier.

* More power sockets !!

Other than that, wouldn't change a thing - I love having the convenience the observatory has to offer, and a warm room / office I can escape to :)

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Completed my Obs/warm room October 2010.

Additions since completion:

Extra mains sockets to both warm room and Obs..:p

Double glazed window added to door between Obs/warm room.

Upgraded mount :HEQ5 running EQMOD

Structure/foundations/size: I wouldn't change a thing!!:(

No Leaks!! :)

You cannot beat being set up and ready to go in 5 mins

Wayne

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You cannot beat being set up and ready to go in 5 mins

Wayne

Not to mention the other way around. Knowing it takes two minutes to park the scope, close down the PC, close the roof and lock up.

One of the biggest plus points is not waking up the wife and kids at 3am as I made the 5 trips from the garden to bring all the kit in.

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One of the biggest plus points is not waking up the wife and kids at 3am as I made the 5 trips from the garden to bring all the kit in.

Oh Yes!!

I just about remember those days....:(

Dumping everything just inside the back kitchen door in the middle of the night.

Leave it in there to let the dew dry off.

Strip down and repack it all in the morning.

To then carry it all back upstairs to the spare room.........

Memories!!....:)

Wayne

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What about the warm room v's network cabling back to the "office"?

Cheaper observatory built, less complicated structure??

If a ROR..more or less rollers? larger or smaller roller?

Was the design "over-kill" and in hindsight could have been made cheaper/ better?

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Having a warm room right next to the scope room with a window in the adjoining door is a real boon. You can see exactly what the mount is doing with the scope and check that no cables are getting tangled or caught up. Last night I noticed the draw tube was slowly moving out of the focuser complete with DSLR without the focussing unit moving. I wondered why I couldn't get any images on the screen!! A few nights ago I had a fault (PC overload I think) which caused the mount to slew at full speed in one direction. I had to dash to the mount and switch it off just as the cable clips were being torn off. If I'd had to dash out from the house in the dark it would have been a calamity!

So far I'm extremely pleased with my build with just minor improvements to make. Just things like the catch on the sliding door not being strong enough and the door hanging not quite level and the door slowly sliding open on it's very free running rollers. Having a human friendly environment right adjacent to a scope friendly scope room is quite brilliant and worth the enormous effort I put into the building of it. (With a day's help from Francis and Chris with the very awkward long pieces of shiplap.)

Very early days yet for me - I've only had a few clear nights to be able to make use of it but I love it :)

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What about the warm room v's network cabling back to the "office"?

Cheaper observatory built, less complicated structure??

If a ROR..more or less rollers? larger or smaller roller?

Was the design "over-kill" and in hindsight could have been made cheaper/ better?

The fact that most roofs are supported by a rail structure, in filling to make a warm room seems the obvious thing to do. It offers the best of both worlds, a nice environment to work from in the warmer nights, or remote into from the home PC when it's -11C in the winter

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Best decision I've made so far since taking up this hobby!

To be able to be up and running in a couple of minutes from opening the door is so beneficial in such a weather dependant hobby, it gets rid of all the frustrations we've all felt when we've taken our scope outside to set up and left them to acclimatise, only to find that when the scopes ready the clouds have covered the sky.

The warm rooms been great (although I do need to stop using it as a store room!)

Using EQMod makes life a lot easier too (thanks Chris)

One expensive learn for me has been leaving my PC out in the warm room over winter, on first use last week the PC had died, proberbly moisture or climate cause.

Replaced it with a Laptop and workstation/base unit (all plugs connected etc)so now I just take the laptop out to the Obsy and drop it onto the workstation and I'm up and running.

One recommendation to anyone building their Obsy - always put more power sockets in than you think you'll need, I assure you, you will use them all (and more)

Powered USB hub is a must

HTH

Mark

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It's nearly 4 years now and little has changed since it was built - I still love it.. Tweaks that I have made are that the lighting is better now and are there even more plug sockets and there's MUCH more storage space thanks to a new built-in cupboard.

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I think this is relevant and not off-topic from Merlin's initial question:

Armsoft, real shame about your totalled PC, is this a common problem folks?

Somewhere I've seen a PC kept in a cupboard with a light bulb for company, to keep it free from condensation I presume.

Component breakage due to thermal stress also a possibility if its got to -10.

Cheers

Michael

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I don't have any pearls of wisdom I'm afraid since I don't have an obsy. But I think this is going to be an interesting thread and worth following for anyone like me who hopes (at some point) to build an obsy.

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One thing I've found is that I want some red lighting at floor level (or shining on the floor). A red light at eye level on the partition wall was NOT the right place! Also, several small lights rather than a single one would be better. I'm thinking in terms of a ring of red LEDs under a narrow shelf on each wall of the scope room. Even with mains lighting, a head light is still wanted to see to fit things on the scope and to see the on/off switch on the DSLR.

The red bulkhead lights several of us are using are fine with a 60W bulb run off a dimmer switch - it dims sufficiently with the ones I'm using. I tried a lower wattage bulb but the dimmer failed at lower settings producing a flashing light.

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I make use of those cupboard LED light - three LED -press to operate. Covered by some red film they can be strategically placed as required.

Any comments about ROR tracks/ rails?

We seem to want to over design them with metal angles and heavy duty wheels/ castors. Is this really neccessary?

My roof structure is so light the 2" x 2" battens and the three 50mm nylon wheels/ side still works well after three years. No metal rails, no angles etc....

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One thing I've found is that I want some red lighting at floor level (or shining on the floor). A red light at eye level on the partition wall was NOT the right place! Also, several small lights rather than a single one would be better. I'm thinking in terms of a ring of red LEDs under a narrow shelf on each wall of the scope room. Even with mains lighting, a head light is still wanted to see to fit things on the scope and to see the on/off switch on the DSLR.

The red bulkhead lights several of us are using are fine with a 60W bulb run off a dimmer switch - it dims sufficiently with the ones I'm using. I tried a lower wattage bulb but the dimmer failed at lower settings producing a flashing light.

Gina,

All my red lighting is via Red LED strips - purchased off e-bay for a few quid

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Yes, that's the sort of thing :p

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I love mine, despite the fact that it has been rather problematic to get it to this stage!

My lessons would be..

Make the roof as light as is possible, but without compromising stability. Our original roof failed on both counts and as a result the rolling mechanism was always under stress, and I needed a pulley system to open the roof. We rebuilt the roof - lightweight, but properly braced - and decided to spend some money on a proper rolling mechanism (gate rolling wheels and track) and its brilliant. It rolls easily and I have no worries about it going off course.

Remeber than materials expand and contract depending on temperature and moisture, so build in enough tolerance. What is a perfect fit at daytime summer temperature may well be a collision course at 3am on a freezing winter morning (and its a bit worrying if you can't get the roof all the way on when rain/snow is forecast!).

A dehumidifier is great for keeping kit/books/computers etc in good condition, otherwise use lots of sealed boxes.

I find my warm room allows me to feel much more involved, as well as providing a place for storage. Heating is necessary!

Make your cable/power runs as accessible as possible and if you use pipes for ducting go large (serial connectors, plugs etc are difficult to get through small tubes).

HTH

Helen

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What about flooring?

Carpets/ interlocking foam/ artificial grass ( don't laugh - it's been used on a few observatories) Others options??

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My floor is 150x22mm T&G wood with 50mm thick insulation underneath in the warm room. I also have 50mm insulation in the warm room ceiling and 25mm in the walls. I have a 1/2KW fan heater in the warm room. Snug as a bug in a rug ;) I have not yet felt the need for carpet as yet.

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I went for the interlocking foam - It was easy to fit and easy to keep clean. It does get a lot of wear by my desk, and it seems to be developing somthing of a sag, so I will see how that goes. Either that or my concrete floor is sinking!!

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I had carpet to start with (from a friend). It was warm, quiet and comfortable and saved a load of eyepieces! being fairly light it was easier to find things too. I had a water leak problem though and the carpet went a bit mouldy, so it had to go. I've now got interlocking tiles. It probably looks better, but I don't think its as warm.

Helen

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Sorry mine is is a little older than 12 months old. Now almost 8 years old what I will say is until just over a years ago when I upgraded my kit I was more than happy with my obs. Offering shelter from the wind and dew and privacy from the neighbours. Now I have upgraded my kit I wish I would have spent a bit more time and money on my pier and for sure made it a tad bigger. While planning an obsy you may only give consideration for the kit and budget you have now it is worth considering will you ever upgrade in the future.

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