Ever since I picked up a copy of the Sky Observer's Guide shortly after I became interested in astronomy back in 1968, I have wanted my own observatory.  The few photos in that small Golden Guide book showed a domed building, another with a roll-off roof, as well as Clarence Custer's mammoth 12.5-inch backyard reflector.  That was enough to whet my appetite.

That boyhood dream became a reality in the summer of 2004, as I constructed a shelter and deck for my 18-inch Starsplitter reflector.  I decided to temper those dreams of domes and roll-off roofs, and instead build something that would be possible given my limited talent as a carpenter.  I decided to place the telescope on a concrete pad, which would be surrounded by a wooden deck.  The telescope itself would be covered by a minimalist shelter that would be mounted on casters.  The end result is a "roll-away observatory."  Rather than roll the roof off the telescope, the entire building moves.

Now, where I live on Long Island has great horizons in all directions (I call it "Long Island prairie"), since my house is on the site of a former nursery.  Nary a tree to be found.  But that blessing is actually a double-edged sword, since neighborhood lighting from surrounding homes shines through unabated.  We have also discovered that we live in a sort of mini-wind tunnel, especially in the winter.  To combat both, the deck and shelter would have to be surrounded by wooden stockade fence.

The observatory has been occupied and in use since early August 2004.  Here is a photo essay showing construction along the way.  Complete plans and construction details are now available in the 4th edition of Star Ware.

Thanks for your interest,

Phil Harrington

 

Clear Sky Chart

 


 

Construction

Progress

 

Page 1

(May 29-Jun 19, 2004)

Page 2

(Jul 3-Jul 23, 2004)

Page 3

(Jul 29-Sep 4, 2004)

Page 4

(Nov 11, 2004-June 23, 2005)

Page 5

(July 28, 2008-present)

May 29, 2004.  Groundbreaking.  The deck, measuring 16 feet by 16 feet, is staked out and the ground leveled.

May 30, 2004.  The concrete pad, measuring 31" by 31", and about 8" deep, is centrally located and dug into the ground.  Since the telescope is simply going to sit on top, I decided it was unnecessary to sink it terribly deep into the ground, unlike what would be required for a permanent pier.  Still, it took 10 60-pound bags of Sakrete to fill the form and make a level surface.

 

May 31, 2004.  As the concrete pad continued to cure, I begin laying out the deck.  The deck is supported by 8"x16" concrete blocks dug into the ground, rather than be supported by permanently fixed footings.  Because of the weight of the pressure-treated wood, I don't expect this will be a problem, even in the winter when the ground freezes.

The deck frame consists of 6x6 pressure-treated beams, as shown at right.

June 12, 2004.  Half of the deck is laid out with 2"x10" pressure-treated decking boards.  The deck is being constructed in such a way that there is about a half-inch gap between it and the concrete pad, in order to eliminated vibration.

June 19, 2004.  The deck is completed.

 
continue

 

Page 1

(May 29-Jun 19, 2004)

Page 2

(Jul 3-Jul 23, 2004)

Page 3

(Jul 29-Sep 4, 2004)

Page 4

(Nov 11, 2004-June 23, 2005)

Page 5

(July 28, 2008-present)

Comments?  Questions?