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Orion Ranch Observatory

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#1 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:26 AM

Well, after a couple of months spending my weekends cutting and chipping cedars and scraping cactus off of the 11.2 acres I bought (Christened Orion Ranch) just down the road from the intersection known as Oatmeal, Texas (4 miles south of Bertram, TX), I finally broke ground on my new roll-off observatory this past weekend! I'll try to keep good picture logs, but this will give you an idea of where I started from.

Beo

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#2 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:27 AM

More cactus near where we were thinking of putting the observatory.

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#3 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:30 AM

And even more cactus and cedars in the area where we were thinking of putting the observatory.

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#4 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:32 AM

And after months of clearing...

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#5 David Pavlich

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:02 AM

Man...you've done a ton of work. My back aches thinking about it! :grin: So, when do you think the first image will be taken?

David

#6 csa/montana

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:40 AM

Congratulations! Looks like you will have beautiful, dark skies! At least with the cactus around, don't have to worry about much creeping up on you! :lol:

This will be an exciting time for you; and we love taking the journey as it will be built!

#7 Starman27

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:31 AM

Now the fun continues.

#8 andyschlei

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 12:46 PM

That looks like a wonderful site! Keep those pictures coming.

#9 Radiostar

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 01:39 PM

Are you taking reservations yet?

Best wishes for your project.
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#10 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 08:46 PM

Here's another view looking back towards the "House" (shack) that was on the property. It's about to fall down, but at least there's stinky well water and restroom facilities! For a frame of reference, the cactus in that second picture above was in front of the fence around that "house". Although I had to crop/shrink it a lot, this gives you an idea of the slight grade I have to deal with. Also, compared to the grey cloudy skies for the past couple months, you can see the beautiful blue skies we're having now!

Beo

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#11 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:07 PM

And here's a view of the area that's nearest level. Unfortunately there's a nice big red oak (with the moon peeking over its shoulder) right by the area. I don't have a problem eliminating cedars (they grow like weeds) but a big beautiful old oak is another story. It's got a few dead branches, but is still a nice looking tree. Unfortunately, moving the location further down hill doesn't help much for viewing as the elevation of the tree remains the same. Ugh!

Beo

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#12 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 09:41 PM

And finally, here's last weekend's ground breaking.

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#13 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:07 PM

Man...you've done a ton of work. My back aches thinking about it! :grin: So, when do you think the first image will be taken?

David


Thanks David. I actually took a few pictures a couple of weeks ago during the new moon. That was the first time we had clear skies long enough to even do any observing. It was also our "real" first light on our SkyWatcher ED-100 from Astronomics. That and the 8" SCT hits the limit on my CGEM SBS setup, but here's the Pleiades from that night. Turned out pretty good for a couple hours of shots and some quick processing. The ED-100 takes some nice shots and gives good views. My only complaint is that the focuser is too loose and doesn't hold when near vertical even when locked down. It also tends to shift focus when you tighten the focus lock. I've been meaning to contact Astronomics to see if there's an adjustment that could improve it. I lost about an hour or so of exposures due to shifting focus!

I'm hoping to pour the first pier this weekend and be able to try it out in the coming weeks.

Beo

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#14 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:26 PM

Congratulations! Looks like you will have beautiful, dark skies! At least with the cactus around, don't have to worry about much creeping up on you! :lol:

This will be an exciting time for you; and we love taking the journey as it will be built!


Thanks Carol. Funny you should mention the critters. I kept hearing something creeping around and shuffling in the leaves on a couple nights while I was out there. Finally got the flashlight on it and discovered a small armadillo. Certainly not uncommon here in Central Texas. At least now I know what's been digging all the holes around the area! And then last week we had a visitor come check out our carrying cases we'd left out overnight (attached). :p

On the other hand, we did catch a nice buck in the headlights when leaving one night. Looks like I'll have a few other things to try to take pictures of while I'm out there.

Beo

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#15 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:28 PM

Thanks to all for the comments!

Beo

#16 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:49 PM

Here's my attempt to verify the direction of true north. Either Starry Night gave me the wrong time for the solar transit or my attempt to align on Polaris was WAY off. My initial attempt involved setting a T-post with my red headlamp on it at one end of the field and then moving to the other side and attempting to site the post location to be directly in line with Polaris when vertical and in a position such that it blocked the light from the first post. That SHOULD have been a decent north/south line and is represented by the light shadow in the photo. I then hung a plumb bob from the line and photographed the shadows when the sun was directly overhead (supposedly). The shadow from the plumb line should be pointing straight north. Not sure which is which, but I'll have to try both a couple more times to decide. Once I get the first pier in place I can also attempt to use my telescope alignment to verify the axis as well.

Beo

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#17 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:05 PM

Just about level. You can see the north-south line strung up here as well. But boy look at all that rock!

Beo

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#18 David Pavlich

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:11 PM

Nice image of M45! It's one of the images that I never grow tired of seeing. The blue nebulosity is gorgeous. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about imaging it, printing a bunch, frame them up and send them to family and friend for Christmas.

David

#19 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:17 PM

And another view showing the wide orientation for the observatory. Of course right in the center you see that big red oak.

Beo

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#20 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:26 PM

So here all the cedars are down on the uphill side, and while I took down a couple big branches off the red oak, I just couldn't bring myself to cut it down.

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#21 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:36 PM

And finally it's down, with what should now be a clear view in all directions above the observatory walls.

Beo

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#22 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:40 PM

After all was said and done, I don't feel too bad about taking that tree down after all. Turns out there was a reason for the number of dead limbs. The core of the tree was completely infested with wood ants and the whole thing would have eventually come toppling down, possibly on my new observatory!

Beo

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#23 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 11:48 PM

Ok, back to the construction! Here's the approximate location of the slab including the two piers. Of course when I initially marked it off I'd forgotten the dimensions I'd finally set on, thus the extra lines!

Beo

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#24 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 12:07 AM

And just so you can see where I think I'm headed...

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#25 Lord Beowulf

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 12:13 AM

So, time to put the backhoe back on the tractor and start digging for the pier! I'm down about a foot here...

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