Now that I'm getting older I have decided to make a permanent home for my telescope. As having to lug my heavy Meade 10" Schmit Newtonian out side every time I use it is not going to get any easier in the future.

So here I'll be blogging all the trials, tribulations, successes and failures (of which there will be many I'm sure) of building an astronomical observatory from scratch.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Send for reinforcements

Had a very busy and productive day today, after a week long  think about the observatory I decided to reinforce it from the outside as you can see from these pictures.

I fixed a piece of 2.7Mx34mmx34mm wood to the concrete base then four 1.5M uprights on each corner and then another cross piece at the top. This frame will support the weight of  the roof and lower the stress on the frame of the observatory.
(Teri, there's no point trying to hide)

Time to put the roof back on for the final squaring of the building.

Screwing around again!

RIGHT! So what the hell am I going to do with this roof now?

Here's how the roof is opened and closed, you can see that the load is spread between the front and side panels. I needed to strengthen the roof at the hinge point as it's not as strong as the Norboard and will need to do the same where the hinges are screwed to the roof.

Here's the final piece of mechanics, and it works really well if I do say so myself! This locks the roof nice and tightly to the central truss and will stop it blowing open in a hooley. Only three more sections to go and then it's felting and weather proofing time.
Another day or two should see the project completed. HOPEFULLY!

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Night (Test)

 Had a trip to Highland Industrial Supplies today to get some hardware Hinges/ handles/ fixings ect, Oh yes, and a new washing line for the wife as the remains of hers is incased in two tonnes of concrete!
I fitted a handle to the inside of the roof to help shut it firmly.

 When I opened the roof I was greeted with this sight, LOVELY!!!!

My youngest, enjoys the views of Venus, Jupiter and the moon.

My turn!

I think there may be a queue at the eyepiece when this project is finally finished.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Phase Three (the roof)

I seemed to been busy all day long but seemed to have got nothing done!
Done an awful lot of thinking about the roof and decided to give my idea a whirl with a small manageable piece of Norboard. I cut the board 360mm up from the eve and fitted two large hinges, screwed the lower piece to the frame of the observatory, which in fact helped to strengthen the frame by locking the side and front panels together better.
This half sized piece was easy to manage, so tried it with a full sized piece.

Here it is in place in the closed position.

And in the open potion, I've attached a length of string to the roof section and tied it to a hoop which is screwed into the other side of the front panel. This seemed to work and there was no nasty creaks of cracking noises from the frame. 
I may do this roof in four sections to cut down on the  overall weight plus will allow more options when observing. Yes I know this means seven joints to make water tight, but I'll get to that problem when I come to it.
The Central truss you can see in this photo may have to stay in place permanently both to allow for partial opening of the roof, as well  as for keeping the structural integrate of the frame when the roof is open. This may be a bit of a pain but will be a small price to pay as the truss block out very little of the sky.  

This is the view from the outside

I always knew this was going to be a project full of compromises and redesigns from the onset but so far so good.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Phase 2 Part2

Things are really taking shape now after spending the whole day in the garden putting the observatory together. I was very pleased at the ease of this construction, from this.......

..... to this in less than an hour,.

By 3pm I was ready to try the scope on the mount..

 Not a bad fit if I say so myself!

The rest of these photos were taken by Hazel, my eight year old daughter, she was clicking away on my Cannon EOS 300D like David Bailey. I think this gives a nice childs eye perspective on this build and the world!

My Meade LXD 55 fit's just nice into here when it's parked in the Polar home position, but the jury is still out on what I'm going to do with the roof. At the moment I'm thinking of using corrugated plastic  sheet/sheets for the roof co cut down on the weight. I know this will mean reenforcing the body of the observatory but that was always in the plan.

Here's me in DEEP THOUGHT trying to work how to keep the doors closed.

 Here's me do my ZAPHOD BEETLEBROX  impression, just before the other head pops out.
 A childs eye sees the world so differently!

 A few more minor adjustments and ..........

.......WHAAAALLLLAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!    the finished article ! (well almost)

This is going to work! As you can see I'm feeling fairly pleased with myself as this is going just to good, the few weeks of planning is starting to pay off  :-)

Once again a BIG Thank you to my wife for the help and advise, and to Hazel for taking such fantastic photos.

Friday, March 23, 2012

First Light

Last night allowed me to test my pier out for the first time and I must say it preformed better than I could have wished for. I had worries about vibration transfer after asking for advise on the Stargazers Lounge forum, where I was told that vibrations would transfer through the floor up the pier to the scope. B****cks  I can kick the pier and any vibration settles down within five seconds. This all-in one concrete floor/pier design works!

Don't just take my word for it here is the test photo I took of M81/ 82, a 50 second image unguided as I walked around the scope.Where's the vibration? I know there is allot of noise in this photo, it is just a test shoot as I stated but it made me very happy to have detail in M82 without having to use Registax.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Phase 2

 It was a nice day here today, far to good a day to waste, so I set about laying the base of the observatory. 
As you can see I dared to take the shuttering away from the concrete base and low and behold it didn't crumble away, that was a bonus. Plus the dimensions are good to and there is little movement it the four floor panels too so the base must be level, PHEW!

I made a slight modification to the floor panels to allow the pier to come through, was worried that this would weaken the panels but no, the structural integrity held. 

I treated the base and the rest of the panels to a coat of cuprinol to protect them from the harsh Scottish weather. Here's hoping for some more good weather next weekend for a bit of construction work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Phase One Completed

Phase one of the observatory is now complete, just could not help myself tonight when I got home just had to see what the set up looked like. I must say I like it!!!! 
I know a few people in the SGL were worried about vibration transferring through the floor and up the pier, those  fears can now be put to bed. I aim the scope at a near by church steeple and then stamped  my feet on the base, not an iota of a shake was seen. My plan worked well. (Smug mode). 

It looks like a professionally made mount, not bad for a £28 soil pipe, £4 of M10 threaded bar, a scrap brake disc and a bit of concrete (OK allot of concrete). It is a solid as a rock too, there is no slop in bar or mount at all.

I will be looking forward to a clear night or two now so I'll be able to test my new rig, so if we have cloud for the next two months it will be my fault for having something new to play with, all you astronomers know the score on the new equipment clear night paradox!

This weekend will be time to plan the erecting of the shed, really must start calling it the observatory not a shed! Got some real planning to do with regards to the opening of the roof now.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Concrete base done

Well the concrete base is laid, I have spent most of the weekend mixing and spreading. I'm so glad I borrowed this cement mixer from a friend as I was planning to mix the aggregate by hand, my body aches enough from loading the mixer think it would have killed me if I had chosen  the hand mixing option.

First in was the pier and mounting plate, very pleased to say that everything ended up nice and level.
I learned a very valuable lesson on Saturday about aggregate quantities that I would like to pass on to anyone who may be planning a similar venture. Work out the  quantity you need then add 60% to the total,  yes you guest it I didn't have enough All-in Ballast to do the whole base. So it was a quick dash to B&Q at 4pm on Saturday evening for ten large bags of  ballast. Surly that will be more than enough I thought, huh I thought wrong. 1.25 tonnes and ten large bags of ballast was only enough to do the pillar hole the pillar and one third of the base. Was starting to lose the light anyway at 6:30pm so decided to cover it all with the tarpoline and go to the pub for a well earned pint and a couple of wee drams.

Daddies little helper 
Sunday morning back down to B&Q I went for 20 bags of ballast and a bag of concrete, this lot tested the suspension of my Vectra estate I can tell you. (not to self, check springs and shockers in the morn)!
As you can see from this picture below I had a little help today from my daughter Hazel, she was happy moving the empty wheel barrow around but was not so keen when it was full.

I think Hazel recons she Bob the Builder here, Can we fix it?  Yes we can!

I'm very pleased with this DIY mounting as you can see I pained the soil pipe black to make it look a little less like a poop pipe and more a proper pier. 
(the wooded poles under the disc are just there to set the height of the mount and will be removed when the concrete in the pipe has fully hardened)

 All done and dusted, you can see how far I got on Saturday with the 2tonnes of ballast here not even up to the  pier, not ideal I know but these things happen.

I know allot of people advised me to cement the pier separately from the base as apparently vibrations can be transferred from the floor up the pier. I'm no going to be having a ceilidh in the observatory and will be seated at the laptop when imaging, and decided to go with my original plan of an all in one mount and base.  

I must put out a very big thank you to my wonderful wife who helped with the leveling  and for keeping the tea and coffee flowing!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pier & Mounting Plate

The 160mm soil pipe I ordered from Ebay arrived yesterday, so tonight I after work I decided to cut it to the right size and place it in the hole to see how it looked. Not bad even if I say so myself. At the moment the  pipe is in my shed with a coat of primer on it ready to be spay painted black tomorrow. I'm hoping to have it cemented in by the weekend (weather permitting), as I'm of to hire a van tomorrow to collect a cement mixer from a good friend in Kinloss.

I also redesigned the mounting plate again tonight, by placing some spacers between the level adjusting nuts and the pier head, (brake disc). This will   make it allot easier to level the head when it is cemented into the pier.

 A close up of the leveling bolts and spacers

I think you will agree that the disc look better know it's spray painted in mat black.