Sunday, August 18, 2013

Building an Observatory

After years of packing my mount and telescope out of the city I finally have my own observatory!

I noticed an ad in the local RASC newsletter about someone selling a SkyShed Pod and within a week I had purchased and transported the entire observatory.  SkyShed Pods are essentially a polyethylene clamshell dome.  It stands about 7 feet tall and has a diameter of about 10 feet.  The model I bought also has 3 storage bays.

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The first task in setting up the pod was transporting it.  I was actually incredibly lucky because someone in Edmonton was selling one.  Although they are relatively cheap (new ones cost around $3500) transporting them across Canada can add almost 25% to the price.  However, transporting it across the city was an all day job.

Once I unloaded it at home it stayed in my garage for about a week while I cleaned it and figured out exactly where it would be situated.  I built a wooden deck in my backyard that the Pod sits on and ran an electrical line into it.  Once the Pod was assembled I weather treated it with silicon sealant and moved the gear in!

The only thing I still need to do is to add a permanent concrete pier to support the mount & telescope.  I seriously thought about doing this before I assembled the observatory but there were several reasons why I didn't.  First, my wife was 8 months pregnant when I finally got the Pod.  I wanted to make sure the optics were installed before the baby was born so I could open it up and use it even with a newborn. Second, I just put a deposit on a new mount; the Skywatcher EQ8. I want to make sure whatever pier I build will suit that mount so I'm waiting until it arrives.

However, since the observatory is already assembled digging the hole for the concrete will be quite the challenge.  I've talked with several people about the depth of the pier and I've gotten several different answers.  My sister and her husband (both civil engineers) insist that I should dig at least 8 feet, even going as deep as 12 feet.  My brother (a journeyman carpenter) has suggested between 6 and 8 feet.  A professional astronomer friend (who built his own observatory 15 years ago) has said 4 feet is sufficient.  I'll probably go with the 4 foot depth, simply because its easier and even if there is a bit of shifted I can adjust the adapter plate.

The Observatory is complete! All I need now are clear skies! Anyone know how much those cost?





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