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Lil'Astro Barn - My roll of HUT home Observatory


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Hi All,

I've finally finished my home observatory and wanted to share with you the end product. It looks like a little barn when closed up, it is not too big so that it doesn't take up too much of my yard, but it is big enough to get the job done in relative comfort.

Instead of having a roll off roof design, I opted for a roll off half of the housing to slide over the smaller part revealing the scope and pier, but as a added bonus, the part of my yard where the obsy is located also is open, so there is plenty of room for AP and observation space if need be. This way the physical size of the hut was able to be cut down.



After scribbling a basic plan and sizes on a piece of paper I started the construction with pouring the slab first, derr. As you can see there is a pipe inserted into the slab for cables to be run between the power, computer and the telescope. This way no mess and no trip hazard.






The next stage of the project build was the back part where the computer and storage will be situated. Simple frame at an angle toward the back for any water/rain to run off, and small enough to be practical but not invasive.

The frame was dyna-bolted to the slab, I used some rubber wrapping between the frame and the concrete on the bottom to stop any moisture from getting in and rotting the frame over time, followed by some sarking and cladding for the outside walls and some basic aluminium sheets for the roof, with fibroboard inside and insulation in the walls for temperature regulation. Lastly siliconed around the bottom to seal it against water getting in between the cladding/fibro and the frame.

You might notice that a good proportion of the photos are taken during night time, this is because a lot of the work on the obsy was done after work late evening. The times I set working on the obsy aside is during rain, of course, unless I could do some work in the garage and when I had to do work that generated a lot of noise with power tools.






Next came the cabling for power and the lights. Basically the power is delivered by a caravan type of inlet, it is also weather proof and at the back of the hut. The light is a 50cm long RGB LED strip powered through a 240V-24V LED driver. The way it is wired up is that there are two light switches on each side of the back hut. When one switch it turned on it sends the 24V only to the Red input on the strip, when the second switch is flicked on it completes the circuit to the blue and green input resulting in a white light. This was set up like this so that there is no accidental destruction of highly valued dark adapted eye sight by an accidental turning on of white light mid astro sessions. 

The LED strip is also up behind a lip on the inside shining in and bouncing of the ceiling, so the red glow is not as bright as it comes out on the photo, but bright enough for when sitting in the dark for a while.

The edging of the hut is finished of to make it look presentable and two coats of stain & varnish give it a nice natural fitting look to the rest of the garden.





The next part of the project is the moving part of the telescope housing. I attached L bars to the edges of the slab and to those some small tracks. The walls of the movable hut have 3 wheels on each side inline sliding along the tracks. Of course I spend extra time to carefully line up the wheels since those inline is critical for smooth operation of the movable section.

Each of the 3 wheels are rated at capable of a load of 60kg each, so the total weight that the wheels can handle is 360kg carry load of the total weight across all 6 of them. This is on a structure that weights approximately 140kg so hopefully 3:1 load to capacity ratio will make the wheels last a long while.

I constructed the walls and seated them on the tracks roughly held together to do the sliding test. The test was a great success. The movement was smooth. Of course at this point, most of the structure is still not finished so I knew that the movement might not be this easy.





I constructed the roof frame, according to my scribbles, in the garage and surprisingly the roof was a perfect fit with out needing for any modification.

Once the roof frame went on the whole structure, it all started to feel very rigid and solid, and still the sliding of the moving part is smooth, literally one finger easy to move. When the whole obsy is finished the movement is a bit heavier, so no longer one finger movable, but still easy enough for even a child to operate, so smooth enough.

I reinforced the tracks against any flexing and removed the bar at the front that was holding it from spreading apart. When reinforced the whole structure is rigid and strong and operates exactly how I hoped it would.





I added a few finishing touches such as edging for cosmetic purposes and reinforcing braces on the frame of the moving part. I also added some small wheels on the inner back part of the obsy for the moving segment to roll against, this keeps the whole structure under a very small amount of tension pushing out, eliminating any side wise slack stopping any potential shake that might loosen and weaken the structure over time....





.. so far I though it is taking on the right shape and looking pretty good.






The inside of the storage section of the obsy needed shelving and painting, and, while I was doing that I decided to prep the custom designed pier....




.... Believe it or not, this thing also originated as a crude scribble on a bit of paper and after acquiring some scrap metal it was welded together and a sketch became reality... the only thing on this pier that was bought was the CGEM pier mounting saddle from Starizona.





Next stage was the finishing of the paint job on the inside walls, few finishing touches to the outside, placing some rubber mats on the floor (the kind you see in gyms), bolting the pier into place and constructing some doors.... and the lil'barn illusion is almost compete... all that left is the telescope setup, cable runs and polar aligning.





Powered, Polar aligned and ready to do some astrophotography in comfort and style..... 





Lil'Astro Barn is born... now just for the moon go away and the skies to be clear.


Thank for looking,

Clear Skies....



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A nice little project you have there. Its something still in the back of my mind, I'm constantly looking for the right component?

Haven't found it yet, but as close to a dome is what I'm considering.

I've  also re-considered  my earlier plans,  having just a shed with the roof off would suffice, as my views are severely limited below 45° all round.

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If you're limited to above 45 degrees, than you're limited to the best part of the sky... not all bad.

My thinking on a dome is that a dome stands out and brings attention to itself. basically advertises "Hey, astro gear in here", where a shed or barn :-) basically looks like a garden type nothing special kind of housing that blends in.

I was thinking about a dome, but the more I though of it, the more it would have stood out like dogs b4ll5. The next plan was a shed with a roll of roof, than I decided to build a completely something uncommon that looks neat and like nothing special.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 22/09/2017 at 08:34, Shibby said:

That is an excellent build, you must be very happy with it! I love your idea with the LEDs and 2 switches - I might just have to steal that idea! ?

Thanks, so far I am very happy with it... don't steal... Borrow instead ;-)

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19 hours ago, Mick J said:

Brilliant, given that it's Sydney and a bit milder than blighty looks mighty comfortable, good on yer. 

Generally the nights are definitely not as cold as in UK. A cold winter night is 9-10 degrees C... that is +9-10 degC... and that is rare... usually winter is 13+ degree nights, spring/autumn high teens and summer nights get up to 28-30 degrees... so temperature wise it is comfortable... 

the fact that it opens up, basically gives me the rest of the yard to observe using the dob while the SCT/frac is exposing.

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19 hours ago, RogerTheDodger said:

What a brilliant design! Might have to borrow that once my Mrs gives me permission to build one :)

Thanks for the comment... I decided on this idea due to the part of my yard where it's built. When it's opened up, I have the whole yard to move around in instead of just a "room" where just the roof opens up. This way I could keep the size down and not take more yard space than necessary.

I can set up a imaging session, while around then obsy have my dob for observing and not disturbing the guiding/exposing.

If building again, there are two changes I would make....

1. Insulate the part of the cement slab under the pier and make that part deeper. I noticed that when I walk around on the slab, the star slightly moved on a 1/2" CCD at 2000mm, not crucial, but still movement so insulating and stabilizing the pier will be priority if I build again.

2. I'd make the highest part of the roof a bit lower, I did overshoot in height and lose more of the sky than I needed to... again not crucial or a major hinderance.

If you need any more in depth info to parts I used, like the wheels and tracks, than send me a message... I'm more than happy to help.

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