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Just starting my build and found advice of others really helpful. Appreciate views of others on my build before I get too far. I am building the Observatory for My HEQ5 with a short fast refractor for imaging and my LX90 SCT mainly for viewing, so my pier must allow me to easily swap scopes if necessary.
Design principles and interesting features:
Basic design: Concrete Plinth + Altair Steel Pier + Off-the Peg Shed
Pier: I chose the Altos pier because it looked sturdy and allowed some final leveling and North orientation after installation. It has a variety of fixing options and adapters, plus I might move and could take it with me. https://www.altairastro.com/altair-skyshed-8-observatory-pier.html
Shed: Went for a 10 x 6 shed. Intend to build just a 6x6 roof, which will slide over the other 4 foot bit + 2 foot more. The four foot section will be the warm room with a flat roof. I can build the internal partition after the shed is erected. Wanted a Shed that could be easily adapted and found the "Rowlinson Premier Shiplap Apex Shed 6X10" Price: £514.99 inc delivery This is good quality, but the real bonus is that the apex sections are separate. You build the four walls at level height and then the two apexes go on the ends. This will allow me to then easily adapt the design by attaching rails to the bottom box section and then wheels to the roof bit. The shed sides are also slightly taller than a standard shed at 172cms giving me some welcome headroom. The roof comes in sections, so building just the 6 foot bit looks straight forward (In theory). It is worth shopping around for sheds as the same model can be different prices on different sites.
Wheels and Rail: I think this bit is neat, I am using a wooden slotted fence posts as the rails. Wheels: B&Q TENTE FIXED CASTOR 45MM product code 3700001799978 price £2.14 each rated as 40kg each and I am using 8 of them for a 6 foot roof Rails: B&Q NEVA HALF WOODEN FENCE POST 70X35X1800MM product 3663602942825 £7 each and I am using two on each side for a total length of just under 12 foot. I looked at Aluminium rails but during a wander round B@Q I found these wood posts with grooves in them. I tried the wheels in store and it looks fine. Added advantage that they can also form part of my Obs structure.
Pier base: As per Altair instructions a very large hole in the ground filled with concrete. However my base is a plinth that protrudes 35cm above the base level. I calculated the height needed to elevate the pier so that my tallest mount (The LX90) would just fit under the closing roof. If I had mounted the pier at ground level I would have reduced my min elevation angle to 60 degrees for my shortest scope/mount combination. With the extra height I get down to 25 degrees, less if I raise the pier head. The pier also has a narrow central hole, so I have run a cable in a 12mm pipe through the concrete block and up through the middle of the pier.
Shed Base: Paving stones laid after the pier is installed. I will run a 40mm pipe under the slabs to carry all the other cables to the pier.
Today I completed the first stage and poured the concrete for the pier base and plinth as per the instructions on the altair web site. The concrete goes 80cm below the ground and 45cm above, with a 10cm base that leaves a 35cm plinth. I used a wooden former to contain the concrete above ground. I made it of 9mm ply with screws every few inches. On top I attached a template holding the fixing bolts which were pressed into the soft concrete. Even so the weight of the concrete nearly burst the mold and I had to reinforce with paving slabs. See picture, but it looks fine now. See pictures)
I should add that I employed a local garden handyman to dig the hole and pour the concrete.
The next stage is to lay the slabs for the base. Any comments most welcome, especially as they could save me from an imminent disaster, but so far so good.
My girlfriend and I have just come back from Sardinia island in Italy. One thing we did down there was to visit an amateur observatory. We did didn't plan to do this in advance so we just go up there to see if we could find anyone there. No luck with that but we got a very beautiful view from the summit.
Here are a couple of photos from the place:
What a dream, 1100 meters altitude!
There is also a link to the astronomy club, if you plan a visit in advance you maybe will get a chance to have the guided tour, I think they have one every Friday with clear sky.
A very nice place, visit it if you are nearby!
No doubt many of you already know about this but I came accross this free ebook and I thought some of you might be interested ...
The book has 188 pages and includes around 70 odd black and white images of nebulae and clusters captured in the few years at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s.
One example is plate 55, the Trifid Nebula
The ebook can be downloaded for free from : http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36470
To have all the needed equipment easy to use and functional is important out there in the dark. I have earlier built an astroserver and put it in a box with wheels together with a car battery. That was in mind of to be portable. The astroserver work as a standalone unit and I control it remotly. As I see it it's a lot of advantages to have it like that when doing astrophotography.
You can read about the details here:
But now when I'm ready to start to use my new observatory there is some different needs that the astroserver and it's power unit must be corrected for. My old astroserver works very well so I will keep most of the parts but remove the battery from it and have the battery stationary in the observatory. There are some other details that I have corrected too.
As usual I have taken some photos and written text to it so you can follow my work:
I hope you find something you can use, or at least one little small detail.
New everything... observatory, mount, Hyperstar, ... it was also rather novel having a clear sky on the night of August 10, between about 11pm and 1am. On the down side, there was quite a bright moon. Still, you can't have everything.
This was a shake-down session with all the new gear, so nothing really adjusted or tweaked to any great extent, and I wasn't expecting anything special. As usual, I just set the exposure to 60 seconds (except for M51 where I got it wrong) and pointed at a few things. Came to an end as the laptop ran out of power (mains power since connected!) Some findings from the session:
What a joy not to have to set everything up (or break it down again.) Mount:
I'd done a rough PA on an earlier night, but checked it again with SharpCap (which says it got me to within ~45") My previous mount (HEQ-5 with belt mod) was OK, but this one (Avalon M-Uno) is spectacular in stability, pointing accuracy, and zero backlash. Didn't bother with guiding Hyperstar:
I checked the collimation on Altair, and without any adjustment it looked fine focused with a Bahtinov mask - so easy to get spot on the with Avalon FOCS focuser drive controlled by the mount made no attempt to route the camera cable neatly (something for later) need to improve my fixing of a dew shield (think it led to some vignetting) Here's a few processed images from the night. Not very good - much room for improvement - I think I've remembered to do the left-right flip in each case. When I checked everything in the morning, I was appalled to see how much grime was on the corrector plate (there was a heavy dew by the end of the session - need to investigate options to remove this). All this with an Ultrastar mono camera and no filters (with bad pixel map, bias, but obviously no flats!)
M51, 22x 30s. ... because I know what it looks like from previous equipment M101, 11x 60s. ... ditto M13, 5x 60s. ... lots of stars Pelican nebula, 11x 60s ... I had no idea what to expect here: quite pleased with the result. Ha filter next time! Anyway, it's a start. Stars are not great - especially the bright ones - but adjustments yet to be done.