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JamesF

JamesF's observatory build

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What a horrible weekend! :(

All thoughts of doing anything outside yesterday were rained off.  I ended up doing those niggly little jobs around the house that you always put off because they seem to consume more time than they're worth.

Today was a little less wet, but a lot more windy and with occasional bursts of hail or sleet, mostly travelling horizontally.  I didn't have any choice about going outside today though, as I needed to sort out a few things that had suffered in the wind overnight.

I did at least manage to get a little done on the observatory this afternoon though.  I finished off fitting the ducting for the cables under the warm room, cut and fitted battens to the joists and cut and fitted 9mm ply on top of the battens.  The next step will be to fit some 70mm insulation on top of the ply and then cut and fit the last sheet of 18mm ply for the floor.  (I'm using 70mm insulation because we have a sheet and a half of it in the barn; otherwise I'd probably have gone for 50mm.)  It would have been nice to get some of that done today, but playing with large sheet materials in the wind didn't seem like a great idea even if I could have avoided the rain.

I should probably start planning what comes after flooring.  Electrics has got to be soon I think, which means I need to think about sockets and lighting, and then wall lining in the scope room, but I could also get the piers closer to finished first.  I still need to screw the floor down, come to think of it.

James

Edited by JamesF

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Very frustrating when the weather holds you back. Sorting out priorities can be difficult. I reached a stage when everything seemed to be equal priority which I'm sure caused me delay due to indecision!

 

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I bought a huge tarpaulin to well cover my workings in a huge tent when I was building my observatory.

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I went through 2 heavy duty tarps during my construction. Sadly the wind progressively got the better of them and they leaked like a sieve. Better than no tarp at all though!

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Rainy days are for gaining the domestic brownie points to alow a decent run on Obsy building when the weather allows.

Paul

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53 minutes ago, Gina said:

I bought a huge tarpaulin to well cover my workings in a huge tent when I was building my observatory.

Yeah, it's not so much the actual being in the observatory that's the problem now.  It's more the walking between the workshop and observatory with tools and materials.

James

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Yes, I had that problem too.

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And if you get fed up with astronomy, you can use it as a holiday let for the Cloud Appreciation Society. Roll back the roof and enjoy the view... ?

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And, it gets worse when you only think you're finished.
Wait until you have to fit a shower tray and plumbing.
Just for the condensation pouring off the mounting.
You could always store it in a collection tank.
Then water your garden in next year's drought. :icon_clown:

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In case you've not seen it in the other thread, this is how the observatory looked on Friday.

obsy-build-62.jpg

Things hadn't changed a whole lot this morning, but I had a toilet cistern to replace before I could go out to play and by lunchtime much of the snow on the south-facing roof pitches had gone completely, with the east/west ones such as the observatory not a long way behind.  Warm it certainly wasn't however, despite the beautiful sunshine.  I suspect temperatures barely scraped a couple of degrees above freezing and adding the wind chill quite possibly didn't make it that far at all.

Last week I got as far as closing off the gaps between the joists in the warm room:

obsy-build-64.jpg

I've left myself a bit of space to fiddle about where all the cable ducts come up, but I'll close those off with removable pieces of timber before I'm done.  I still have the power supply to come up through there as well.  The next step was to dig the 70mm insulation out of the barn and slice it up to fit in the remaining gaps.  I like this bit.  It's so easy to cut :D

obsy-build-65.jpg

And finally the most awkward bit of the flooring, cutting the last large piece of ply to size.  I hadn't been very pleased to find that it had been covered with snow, despite me moving it into the log store (now fairly depleted) specifically to keep it out of the weather.  Somehow the snow managed to make it all the way to the back wall of the log store which is about 4m deep.  Fortunately I noticed on Friday morning and brushed it all off before it had started to melt, so whilst there was the odd slightly damp section nothing had been damaged.

After cutting it to size I did need to remove a few tight spots with the plane, but with that done it dropped into place very neatly and as the Sun had just set and with the temperature dropping rapidly I decided to call it a day.

obsy-build-66.jpg

I still have to screw it all down, but that's hardly a difficult job, just a bit time consuming.  I've just remembered that I may even have some nice flooring screws in the workshop left over from when I did some work in the house.

Feels great to have got the floor basically complete though.  No more falling through gaps when I forget where I'm standing :)  I think that pretty much uses up all the materials I have here, so it's time to order some more once I work out what I'm going to do next.  Probably make some progress with the piers and plan the electrics followed by insulating the rest of the warm room and lining the walls.  I know there's still a long way to go, but all of a sudden it feels as though the end is at least in sight.

James

Edited by JamesF
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I'm curious to know how you attached the critter barrier to the floor joists. Are there cleats on the joists to support the plywood?

This is a very good looking build. With some good weather, it looks like you should be able to finish the major work in a couple of weekends. Then it will be time to decide on an observing program which utilizes the facility sufficient to justify all the money, time and effort. After completing my last observatory, I found myself feeling a bit guilty if the roof wasn't open on clear, moonless nights.

Perhaps you could take up occultation timing...

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I had some 2"x1" roofing batten that I split down the middle with a bandsaw and fixed to the sides of the joists to support the plywood.  The white cross-shaped object on the right hand side of the second picture is actually the gauge I made to get the correct depth to make sure there was space for the ply and the insulation.

The most time-consuming and awkward job remaining is probably getting power from the house to the observatory.  I have a temporary feed from a socket in the beer shack next door, but even the power supply to the beer shack is really not ideal so my plan is to replace the whole lot with a new armoured cable in a trench.  I'd guess I'm looking at close to 50m of cabling for that.  Fortunately the house side is at least done already.  I also want to run some network cables as it's far enough that wifi is slow.  It's in the back of my mind that during warmer weather I might actually be able to work in the warm room whilst doing some solar imaging, but I really need a reasonable speed network connection for that.

I don't think we get enough clear nights here that I'd feel guilty about not making the best use of them.  Usually by  the time we get a clear sky I'm desperate to be outside and doing something :)

I was actually reading a fascinating article on occultation timing a couple of days ago that was referenced here (though I think I probably need a few more reads to get my head around it all).  It was a paper documenting an installation in Japan where a group had a couple of Celestron RASA units only a few metres apart (on a school roof, I think) that were being used to do occultation timing for Kuiper belt objects in the in kilometre diameter range.  If you've not seen it, the posting is here:

https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/329453-professional-science-from-amateur-equipment-finding-a-kilometre-sized-kuiper-belt-object/

James

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Do you see much thunderstorm activity in Somerset? If so, you may want to consider running optical fiber from the house to the observatory for your network connection. We lost a PC at Lowell a couple of years ago due to a nearby ground strike. I was told that there was literally a hole in the circuit board in the area where previously there had been a serial connector. At that particular facility, the control room is perhaps 15 m from the dome. We still have one RS-232 run between the two buildings, but both ends have to be left disconnected through our summer storm season. (One of my upcoming projects: replace that copper run.)

I hadn't read the particular article that you referenced, but I'm generally aware of activities to determine sizes and profiles of outer solar system objects using lots of amateur class telescopes. Some of the folks involved in observing occultations of 2014 MU69 in preparation for the recent New Horizons flyby were amateurs, one of whom I know from my own occultation work here in Arizona. Larry Wasserman published an interesting article about this work on Lowell's site last week.

https://lowell.edu/chasing-shadows-to-measure-the-size-of-ultima-thule/

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We used to get a lot of thunderstorms, especially in the Spring.  The first few years we lived here I quite often sat outside and watched them (I love a good thunderstorm :)  We've even had a couple of lightning strikes on trees within a few hundred metres of the house.  It has become clear however that our weather patterns are changing and in the last ten years we've had very few; many years nothing significant at all.  Nonetheless the idea of running fibre has been in the back of my mind, because it also makes some earthing issues go away.

James

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Very few thunderstorms here too, across the county boundary.

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Little to report today as I mostly ended up doing domestic and livestock-related things.  On the plus side we do now have a shiny new coat rail and hat/bag shelf in the boot room :)

I was lazy when I assembled the cable ducting for the piers and didn't put draw strings in at the time because they got in the way.  I felt relatively safe leaving them out because I have a long plastic draw wire that can be pushed through by itself and will happily negotiate slow bends.  This afternoon I used it to pull the strings through. At least until I ran out of string, anyhow.  I'll get some more this week.

It also struck me that it might be quite useful to design something 3d printable that allows me to tie off the ends of the strings so they can't disappear back down the ducts whilst allowing the rest to be wound up neatly and dropped back down inside where there's no chance of tripping over it in the dark.

James

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For my conduits I'm going to drill a small hole in the side of the tube at each end and simply tie the string off. At the moment I've got temporary strings tied to blocks of wood that are too big to fit in the tube

Edited by Astrokev
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Not made much progress over the last couple of weeks because I've been kept busy on other domestic stuff.  Reacquainting myself with the chainsaw amongst other things, thanks to the log store being very nearly empty.

This afternoon however I screwed down the flooring, picking off one of the jobs that need to get done before I can start lining the walls.  Up until now it's been fairly obvious what comes next, but now I think I need to start making a list and prioritising work, especially as the weather seems to be a touch warmer and there's now a hint of daylight after I finish work.  Probably means that by mid-March we'll be under two feet of snow :D

James

Edited by JamesF
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Good to see you posting again James. I was beginning to think you'd sold your scopes and turned your observatory into a beer shack extension :) 

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Nah :)  Just needed to start catching up with a few other jobs.  And in fact last weekend was so miserable and wet that I barely got outside at all :(

James

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It's been a lovely weekend here.  A little breezy yesterday, but whilst I wasn't quite prepared to switch to shorts today it was certainly comfortable enough to be t-shirt weather.  I've pretty much been outdoors from after breakfast until gone sunset both days.  Unfortunately I've not made huge amounts of progress with the observatory (again) because of catching up with other things that need doing.

However, I have made a list of jobs that I need to get done.  Two lists in fact, one for things that can be done now without needing to buy more materials and the other for which I do need further purchases.  On the first list I have:

  • Fix some additional timbers into the frame for supporting joins in the cladding
  • Complete the cladding at the tops of the walls where it isn't a full board width
  • Complete the cladding on the gables
  • Make some adjustments to the southern wall flap
  • Fit the flap
  • Make some supports for the flap so it lies horizontal(-ish) when open
  • Seal the runners so rain can't be driven in
  • Finish off the cable access panel in the warm room floor
  • Lower the height of the internal window (I have decided it is too high)
  • Add some more bracing in the walls
  • Fit the remainder of the blocks for the piers
  • Complete the external corners where the cladding ends
  • Fit the internal window
  • Fix the EPDM down on the roof

And the second:

  • Add posts to support the ends of the roof rails
  • Clad the internal walls
  • Clad the piers
  • Insulate the warm room
  • Fit the external door liner
  • Make the external door
  • Fit the internal door liner
  • Make the internal door
  • Fit stops so the roof can't roll off the end of the runners

There's more than that to do, but it's a good start and it gives me something to focus on.  I'm going to try to get most of the first list done before I start ordering more stuff as the workshop is a bit of a disaster area at the moment with bits of ply, OSB and cladding stacked up everywhere as well as a section of worktop to make a desk, an old set of drawers and some old flat-pack wardrobes that I intend to cut up and turn into shallow cupboards for storing kit.  I am thinking that it might be easier to clad the walls before getting the piers to their final height though, so I don't have to keep working around them.

Once I'd got through my other jobs today I cut the additional bits of framing to support the ends of the cladding where they didn't line up with the existing frame.  This was only needed for the lower half of the eastern wall where I'd used up a lot of off-cuts that would otherwise have been wasted.  The cladding itself has dried out so much since it was fitted that I had to drill pilot holes for the nails so it wouldn't split when I pinned it back to the new timber.

Whilst I had the right timber on the chop saw I also cut and fitted some more bracing for the walls.  I probably don't need it if I'm honest, but the wood was there and it can't do any harm.  Now I know roughly how much the roof weighs I just feel happier with it there.

By the time I finished it was 6pm and I was starting to lose the light.  It only seems a few weeks since I was having to stop before 4pm because it was too dark.  The early part of the coming week looks to be quite warm according to the Met Office website, so I'll try to take advantage of the extra daylight to make a bit more progress.

James

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Been lovely weather here too but I can no longer manage a whole day's work - I need lots of breaks to recover!  But there's life in the old girl yet!!

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Just now, Gina said:

Been lovely weather here too but I can no longer manage a whole day's work - I need lots of breaks to recover!

That was me yesterday, Gina :)  I finished working my way through the pile of old timber from the barn roof we had replaced, chainsawing it up for firewood.  But because I was near the end most of it was below comfortable working height with the chainsaw so cutting it was very tiring.  I was almost on my knees by the end :D

James

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