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Micro Observatory Build


Dougie
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With my micro observatory now complete, I’d like to share the nine month journey in a few instalments.
SGL has been a good source of information when I hit several snags along the way.
Plus I've had great technical support from Grant at FLO, Terry at Starlight Xpress, Leonardo Orazi at Voyager and Harry@harryastroshed.com

Micro Observatory Build Part 1

Four years ago, I gave up with my temporary set up due light pollution and lost interest. 
I decided to box up my newly acquired scope and mount from Ian King along with the rest of the equipment and store it in a bedroom.

But in June last year, a much sought after house move came to fruition. But there were criteria to the location.

  • Had to be a bungalow
  • Had to be close to my daughter (babysitting purposes)
  • Good garden for the dog
  • A garden that had a reasonable view of the night sky.

The journey has been one with a steep learning curve on every change that I made from my temporary set up.

  • from a temporary tripod set up to a fixed pier
  • from a temporary USB lead to permanent CAT 6 cabling
  • from a USB powered hub to a remote laptop at the mount
    The remote laptop is currently an old windows laptop courtesy of my daughter. The hard drive was reformatted with Windows 10 Home installed and then upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for RDP capability.
    There lies a saga in itself! 😠
  • a reduction in cabling at the mount using an MHP V4 hub mounted on the scope and connected to the remote laptop via a single USB cable.
    The mount, imaging camera, guide camera, dew heaters and focuser are all connected to hub.
  • removing the Synscan hand controller and connecting the mount through an EQ Direct cable which is then connected to the MHP V4 hub.
  • removing the Lakeside focuser control unit and connecting the Lakeside focuser to the MHP V4 hub
  • moving to Voyager software for image capturing
  •  from Polar aligning using the Polarscope to using PoleMaster. (Sharp Cap didn’t work for me and many hours were spent trying to get it to work.  PoleMaster took a few minutes)
  • over three years of Pixinsight updates and learning the software all over again.

A house was found which was a complete renovation project of all rooms together with the front and back gardens
Week one of moving in was to tackle the overgrown garden of many conifer trees and bushes.
 

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Somewhere amongst all the vegetation, is a location for the observatory

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But a bit of gardening was required before the ideal spot could be found.

 

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Location found

Unfortunately now the site had been cleared, is was an ideal location for a patio to get the sun’s rays, compared to the existing patio location.

Discussions were made with the management as to what sort of observatory would be permitted.
Too tall and it would block sunlight and too wide it would take up too much patio space.

Have scoured the forums, I searched for micro observatories and found something that was being used by some of the guys in the States. A resin compound shed with sliding roof.

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Not ideal, but from what I had seen, it could work.
It would only be for astrophotography and not visual.

If I operated remotely, with the close proximity to the garage for power supply and with the planned change of use of a bedroom into an office overlooking the observatory, it would fit with few problems.

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Hi Swoop1

The one I purchased is the one in the link below.
It did take 12 weeks to deliver but it was the height of summer during COVID lockdown when I ordered. All the UK stockists were out of stock and having to get direct from the States.

I believe there are some UK stockists with 7 to 14 days delivery time.

https://www.suncast.com/bms4900.html

It is bigger than it appears in the photo.  I only get a few drops of water seeping in and it’s stood up to the recent high winds and rain we have been having.

I’ll add the next instalment in a few days time.

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Micro Observatory Build Part 2
(Apologies if there are duplicated images at the end. Have tried to remove but still appear in Preview)

Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the sheds were out of stock and delivery took 12 weeks from the States.

The pier that I ordered was also taking 8 weeks for delivery.

Preparation works could continue without the delivery of key items
My scope was unpacked after 3 years of lying idle and set up approximately on the spot of it’s planned location.
After many updates of software, all seemed to be working well with a 25 foot USB cable connected to the laptop in the garage.
Measurements were taken when slewing the scope to get he highest point above ground level that the end of the dew shield would be.
Also the maximum slewing radius that would be reached in relation to the centre of the mount, was measured.
This would dictate the location of the pier foundation.

Garden landscaping commenced in October 2020 and the patio design roughed out on a piece of paper to accommodate the observatory.
Working around an observatory was new to the landscaper.
 

Without the shed on site, drawings had to be down loaded from the supplier’s site and the setting out of the pier foundation and position of the shed had to be done from these drawings.
Setting out had to be accurate as calculations showed thee was not a lot of tolerance between scope and internal walls of the shed and the roof.
The finished level of the pier foundation was critical.
If the foundation was too high then the pier would be too high, causing issues with the slewing of the scope once the roof was opened.
There was only a clearance of 50mm from camera cables to internal walls and closed doors of the shed.

Ducting

Having the landscaper's a mini excavator on site was useful when having to dig trenches for ducts and foundation for the pier.
The main duct from the house would carry the CAT 6 data cable and the other duct from the garage would carry the electricity cable.
A 40mm flexible duct was laid with a sand bed and surround with a nylon draw rope inside the duct.

 

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Hardcore was placed and compacted to make up the levels and sub-base laid to the proposed patio area.
100x200mm timbers were laid for flower beds and as a retainer to the patio.

Pier Foundation

The concrete was poured for the pier foundation prior to the patio being laid.
Dimensions of the foundation are 500x500x600mm

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Paving of patio completed and still awaiting delivery of pier.

 

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At the beginning of November 2020, the pier arrived and was bolted to the foundation with resin bonded anchor bolts supplied with the pier.
The pier is a 32" pier and fixed below the finished paving to be at the correct height with the shed and shed floor installed.
Unfortunately the plate adapter to connect the mount to the pier plate was delayed, but an alternative supplier was found.
The rear segment of the shed floor can be seen in the photo.

To be continued.....

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Micro Observatory Build Part 3

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100x200mm timbers fixed in place for shed base.
Timbers have been bolted on two sides to the existing timbers and have not been fixed to the patio paving.
If anytime in the future, the shed and pier are dismantled, the timber base can be removed and paving reinstated where the pier was fixed to the concrete foundation.
The scope has been mounted to aid accurate positioning of the shed

 

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Two longitudinal 100x200mm timber pieces were fixed along the centre line at the front and back to prevent bouncing of the shed floor.

Marine ply can be seen in the background ready for screwing into the timber base

 

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Ply screwed to timber base. Cutting of the hole for the pier was the awkward part.

 

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Rear floor segment bolted to the marine ply and timber base.
Rear walls and roof of shed fixed loosely into position to make sure all was going to plan.

 

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Scope, mount and pier top removed, so that the floor segment with a hole cut out for the pier, could be slid over the top of the pier.
Floor segments clipped together and bolted to the timber base.

 

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Right hand wall segments fixed to the shed floor.

 

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Left hand wall and rear wall fixed to the shed floor

 

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Roof segments now in place

 

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Doors in place, time for a beer.

Final instalment of the finished interior to follow shortly.

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Micro Observatory Build - Final Part

With the electrician back on site carrying out electrical works to the house, the CAT 6 cable was connected from the shed to the house and power connected from the garage to the shed.

The mount was fixed to the pier and telescope balanced on the mount.
To get the balance, the finder scope had to be jettisoned along with the hand unit for the Lakeside focuser.
The hand  unit was eventually replaced by a single cable from the focuser to the Mount Hub Pro.
As the scope was only being used for astrophotography, the finder scope was superfluous to requirements anyway.

Polar alignment took several weeks not helped by a lot of cloud.
The pier plate made access difficult to the eyepiece of the polar scope, which I now realised why other piers have a half moon cut out in the pier plate.
I tried SharpCap, but it didn't work for me and it wasn't for want of trying.
Then I looked at a right angled eyepiece for the polar scope.
This didn't work either, as it kept slipping and only a partial view could be seen through the eye piece. It was designed for the Skywatcher mount but not a good fit.
Finally looked at PoleMaster and it worked straight out of the box.

Laptop connected from the house to the CAT 6 cabe and eventually, after a few more weeks with lots of suck it and see and looking into various remote connections and alternative ways, connection was made though RDP in Windows 10 Pro.

Final piece of the jigsaw was in the use of Voyager and a fast learning process to get it working.
With the help of their technical support, including one remote session on a clear night to get my autofocus settings correct, it is now working as it should be.

 

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The two pieces of timber on the floor on the right are currently been used as a seat.
With the roof closed, the doors can be closed from the inside with the use on an allen key and the shed is then wind and water tight.

 

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To Polar align, the front roof section is slid right back and the rear roof section has to be unscrewed and slid back about 100mmm.
The steel cross member has to be temporarily removed otherwise it is in the line of site.
This process doesn't take long and should only need to be done once a year, unless I knock the mount or counter weight.

 

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The laptop will eventually be replaced with an NUC or similar and the guide scope which has served me well, to be replaced with something smaller and lighter.
The front roof segment has two plastic screws at the front and two large plastic clips at the rear.
These are detached and the roof slid fully back over the rear section to get full imaging access. This is a two minute job.
At the end of the session, the roof is slid forward and screws and clips are then reattached.
 

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There is a red led strip light on the left hand wall near the floor and an inspection light hanging up on the back wall inn the corner.
There is an A4 led artists tracing panel attached to the back wall, which I use for flat fields.
I do have an Aurora flatfield panel, but the A4 panel works better for me.

 

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Cable management still has some minor tweaking to be done.
A few minor external jobs to tidy up the outside, but the micro observatory is now fully working.

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On 05/04/2021 at 19:17, Dougie said:

Hi Swoop1

The one I purchased is the one in the link below.
It did take 12 weeks to deliver but it was the height of summer during COVID lockdown when I ordered. All the UK stockists were out of stock and having to get direct from the States.

I believe there are some UK stockists with 7 to 14 days delivery time.

https://www.suncast.com/bms4900.html

It is bigger than it appears in the photo.  I only get a few drops of water seeping in and it’s stood up to the recent high winds and rain we have been having.

I’ll add the next instalment in a few days time.

I found one in the UK at https://www.a1sheds.com/suncast-bms4900-kensington-7-glidetop-shed-1984-p.asp For £549, quoting 2-4 weeks delivery

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Thanks Swoop1.
 I’m 5’8” and 11st and yes it is compact and tight at the sides.
There is enough room at the back to sit down when I have to do any maintenance, or Polar align at the remote laptop.

When I’m sitting down at the back and with the roof open, I can slew the scope in any direction.
I do need to remember that there is a steel cross member under the roof and to keep my head down when going in or out. 

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2 minutes ago, Dougie said:

Thanks Swoop1.
 I’m 5’8” and 11st and yes it is compact and tight at the sides.
There is enough room at the back to sit down when I have to do any maintenance, or Polar align at the remote laptop.

 

Excellent solution, unfortunately at 6’ 2”, 20st - I’m never going to get in there unfortunately.

Edited by iapa
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8 hours ago, Dougie said:

Thanks Swoop1.
 I’m 5’8” and 11st and yes it is compact and tight at the sides.
There is enough room at the back to sit down when I have to do any maintenance, or Polar align at the remote laptop.

When I’m sitting down at the back and with the roof open, I can slew the scope in any direction.
I do need to remember that there is a steel cross member under the roof and to keep my head down when going in or out. 

So not just health and safety conscious professionals that need a hard hat when stargazing then?

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  • 1 month later...

I needed to give it an established look, otherwise it wouldn’t have got through the planning process.
Things have moved on a bit and I’ve now had some steps put in with the same paving slabs.
Walking backwards and forward in the early days was creating a bit of a mud bath.

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