observatory and equipment
- Losmandy G-11 Mount.
- Robin Casady custom machined dovetail and cross arm mount TGAD.
- Stainless steel counterweights from Robin Casady.
- Onstep Goto drive system.
- Kendrick Anti dew system.
- Celestron C8 F10/F1.9 fastar with internal flocking, Williams optics crayford focuser and Starlight Instruments feather touch focuser. Williams optics 2" dielectric diagonal.
- Celestron C6-R F8 refractor with internal flocking, williams optics focuser.Williams optics 2" dielectric diagonal. Baader 2" fringe killer filter.
- Williams optics Zenithstar 80 mm fluorite doublet refractor "10Th" anniversary.
- Stella Cam II analog video camera from Adirondack Video Astro.
- Mallincam EX analog video camera from Rock Mallin.
- Digital setting circle Deep space explorer system from David Chandler with losmandy Encoders via RS-232.
- Polar finder from Losmandy with Astro Electric illuminator.
- Compaq cQ57 laptop.
- HP 2000 laptop.
- Two Taurus USB hubs.
- Two 30' Cables to go active USB cables.
- two Frame grabbers.
- Radio shack 12 volt PWR supply.
- Current software includes CDC Carts de ceile, The Sky, Sharpcap, RTGUE,
Observatory Construction and Philosophy:
My observing style, goals and constraints have driven my observatory construction and setup to its present shape. It is Optimized for live real time video viewing with ease of start up and shutdown.
I first started using a three wheeled scope dolly system rolled out and in from my garage to observe. Although it worked better than hand carrying the equipment outside it had issues. The concrete retained the days heat and affected the local seeing. Also, there was a lot of jugging cables and equipment in the roll out / roll in process. At that time I was also transporting the system to dark sites for observing.
Moving the equipment, assembly and disassembly was back breaking and since the dark skies camping opportunities were infrequent I decided to build a temporary geodesic structure in the backyard that I used for a few years to increase my observing time throughout the year. The temporary observatory was made to be taken down in case of a hurricane and was not an issue with local code. It was a success as designed but I still had to take the system down for the summer. It was just too hot for the equipment and I was also unable to use it in the summer because I was sharing space with the telescope in the open structure and the bugs and heat made it unbearable.
The present structure was a gift from my parents when my father passed away and was a hurricane approved, code approved structure. It is now in the same location as the temporary observatory was. At first I contemplated an opening roof modification but ultimately discarded that idea because of the number of problems to get through and the end result wouldn't really fit my needs. I designed the trolley system and tracks to allow the telescope mount with all equipment to be rolled out and in for climate controlled storage. The instruments have an area away from heat sinking structures when rolled out. During good weather I can use the system with eyepieces or video. During the summer I can roll out and use the system from inside the air-conditioned room using EAA. A cool room was a mandatory thing if I was going to build a permanent observatory. This has greatly increase my observing time yet again. Moving the trolley, cables & power in and out is very easy. The roll out is Usually performed in less than 10 minutes maybe a little longer for roll in with a late night stupor! I use a simple checklist so I don't miss anything important when working with an astronomy hangover!
The trolley is constructed of wood with 5 heavy duty wheels per side. The mount is held down to the trolley with a cable system. The G11 head has a safety bolt installed to hinder turning in the quick locks. The trolley structure has surprisingly proven to help dampen vibrations. Polar alignment has proven to be quickly repeatable even with the mobile nature of the design. Polar alignment importance was a trade off. A simple camera allows me to see what the trolley is up to during slews when the roll door is closed in the summer. A remote red flood light is also installed on the trolley when needed and can be selected to white light if necessary.
The trolley also serves as a convenient storage platform for eyepieces, filters and other equipment.
The 110 volt power is supplied by a mobile cord routed away from other cables to minimize electronic interference. A converter allows for 12 volt power. Cable management problems are minimized by utilizing dual 30' active USB cables with hub's to operate the cameras and frame grabbers. The mount is operated via wireless wifi control with laptops and a samsung phone as a wireless hand control. I am not a huge fan of wireless systems due to connectivity problems that can come up just when you are deep in observing but the wifi mount control has proven to be flawless. If problems ever arise I will revert to an optional cable control.
Focusing is controlled via a servo system and is done with a bahtinov mask. One mask fits both telescopes and can be performed quickly via a dedicated mini monitor at the mount or from inside the cool room.
The trolley tracks are constructed of wood, leveled and supported by post blocks. The design allows the trolley to roll restrained side to side and is not connected to the building to minimize vibrations. I have installed ground anchors with turnbuckles but i don't think they were really necessary. The tracks can easily be picked up and caring into the building if necessary for a hurricane.
A security system alarm with cameras monitors the observatory and since the structure doesn't stand out or attract attention like a classic dome tends to the equipments safety is increased. Motion flood lights are installed on all door sides as well.
- Hurricane approved structure.
- Code approved structure without custom engineering approval.
- A Quick setup roll out / roll in.
- Ability for telescope trolley to reach ambient temperature quickly and have no heat retaining material under the mount.
- Climate controlled room for Me! Have you seen the bugs in Florida! Not to mention the heat!
- Storage of the telescope and systems in a controlled structure for year round use.
- Ability to retain a rough polar alignment.
- Trolley system isolated from vibrations from the structure and the observer.
- Susceptible to heavy wind.
- Susceptible to direct light pollution.
- Precise arc second polar alignment must be adjusted at each use if needed.
- sky not visible from inside the structure.
- Dew has to be controlled.
- Not a classical observatory structure.
- When visually observing some scope positions can be awkward.
Possible upgrades and changes in the future:
- All sky Camera.
- weather station.
- Remote focusing for all telescopes.
- multi monitor system for computers. This has been completed.
- Upgraded desk and chair. This has been completed.
- Remote bahtinov mask operation.
- Imaging and slewing automation.
- wind breaks for the trolley. So far even in windy conditions this hasn't been an issue.
- Backup power for the mount to allow for a temporary power loss that would result in having to realign the mount and reset the system.
- light color floor paint in the observatory cool room to aid movement in dark conditions.
- walkway from the house to the observatory. In progress and half completed.
Security. motion LED flood lights are on all sides. A security motion alram is wired int to buildign. Servalance is provided by a KASA wifi cam that allows me to moitor at any time and alerts if any movment occurs aorund the observatory and suronding area. It will also alert of a power outage.
Regulation of temperature and humidity. A self resetting Air Conditioner and a dehumidifier.
lighting LED white lighting and Red lighting are installed in the cool room. A color selectable light is installed on the trolley operated via a remote.
cables and run
flexability The system can be operated outside at the mount with just a phone but can also use a laptop. the system can be operated from the cool room using the same setup but via a powered active repeater cable.
The cool room is separate from the mount and is is positioned to the north of the mount thus minimizing thermal waves that affect local seeing conditions for the telescope. This separation also minimizes vibrations from the people using the instruments.
when operating from the cool room visual and audible cues on the mount performance are lost so i employ an camera with a microphone to help replace these important cues. when operating close to the horizon or the meridian I take extra caution on mount performance to avoid problems and take note of any irregularities.
Increasingly I find I use my hard copy reference material and charts less and rely on computer charts and reference copies of favorite books when observing and planning.
Portable flashlights are mounted on the telescope trolley for handy quick access if needed.
The mount legs have industrial female velcro applied in bands for quick placement of hand pads and equipment.
12 volt power is supplied at the trolley by an inverter and 12 volt buss.
lightning protection. summer lightning in my area can be frequent and violent. when the trolley is in storage in the building all cables and power are disconnected helping to minimize any stray current from a strike. The building is metal and also grounded at the mains entry via a copper spike which should help peotect the sensitive electronics and instruments.
outbuilding electrical was wired to the resident main and treched to the building. work was done to code and inpsected.
Trolley rails. Yearly cleaning and paint.
schematic diagram of observatory data network. control network. trolley power.
seclusion from tv radios family and other disrruptions while observing.
I typically plan my observing on one side of the meridian minimizing merdian flips and concentrating on and area rather than moving all over the sky unless doing outreach.
link to super nova data.