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Building a 24' Dome

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#51 Raginar

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 07:48 PM

That's beautiful Tom.

#52 stmguy

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 10:32 AM

How are going to drive this beast ?

Norm

#53 Tom Clark

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 06:08 PM

Norm,

The Beast is not a new telescope. It was in use in Florida for 10 years before we decided to move to New Mexico for better skies. (See the first post of this thread.) The drive system is called a Sky Tracker - the same system used on Starmasters - and built by Vic McKiegan who builds the Sky Commander. It works great for visual use. Everything you enter ends up in the eyepiece after the slew is finished. Two tiny motors run the 1600 pound scope just fine.

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#54 saga01

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 10:52 PM

I think he meant a beast of a dome. I'm curious about that also since it looks pretty heavy.

Mike

#55 stmguy

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 06:06 AM

yes I meant the dome, sorry about that !

I ask because I need to come up with a drive system for my gable roof observatory which ended up a lot heavier than what I thought it was going to be.
Norm

#56 Tom Clark

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 08:50 AM


Sorry, honest mistake. The telescope was named The Beast when I was building it, simply because of it's shear size. Construction swallowed 18 sheets of plywood. Mike Zammit even made me a neat nameplateā€¦

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#57 Tom Clark

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 09:00 AM

Now, funny you should ask about drive motors, as I finished mounting two of them yesterday. They work beautifully but still have a little finishing adjustments to be made.

The motors are small 1/6th horsepower gear motors from my MSC catalog. The drive wheels are 8" versions of the 6" wheels the dome rotates on. The bearings were removed from the center and solid hubs machined so they could be driven by the gear motor.

The wheels ride against the 4" wide flat aluminum plates the other 10 wheels ride on. The domes rotates very quietly, unlike the Florida version that had steel V-groove wheels riding on an angle iron track. The neighbors named the Chiefland dome "The Thunderdome" because rotations sounded like distant thunder from down the street. I'm sure the new neighbors will be far happier as we silently cruise the universe.

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#58 Baxstar

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:19 AM

Really like your project! Look very solid, keep us posted ;)

Casper

#59 DeanS

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 11:51 AM

Hi Tom, are there any concerns about dust on the rubber drive wheel making it slip?

#60 Tom Clark

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 06:58 PM

Nope. That is why there are two drive wheels, not one. The dust would have to cling to the bottom of the aluminum plate, so while there will be dust it will not be thick. The drive wheels are hard polyurethane, not rubber.

The last dome had one drive wheel, and it occasionally would slip in certain spots, so you would have to reach up and give the dome a helping hand to rotate. Hope to eliminate that with two drive wheels.

#61 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 08:35 AM

Tom,

I just stumbled onto the Observatory form of CN and have been reading this thread. Having looked through your 42" in its old dome at CAV, I hope to one day get to your new location as I am sure the skies there are much better than the ones in Florida.

Jack Huerkamp

#62 ZRX-Steve

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 05:41 PM

That gives new meaning to the term "mini"van. Wonderful work Tom. I'm in the Saguaro Astronomy club and hope to see your dome in person someday.

Steve

#63 Tom Clark

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 10:04 PM

Hi Jack,

Look forward to your visit. I have four RV hookups in the front yard for friends. Scope will be operational in a couple of months.

Steve, We will coordinate with Steve Coe and have your club over for observing before too long. Steve will be here in a month or so.

#64 Jack Huerkamp

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 08:46 AM

Tom,

I look forward to doing so. I will be retiring next October and hope to travel more.

Jack

#65 Tom Clark

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:25 PM

We are now into 3.5 months of construction, and well into the hardest part of building a wooden dome - fiberglassing the dome. Of course you do not have to use fiberglass, but if you wish to build a dome that will last for many years, it is a good way to go. First we painted raw wood with polyester resin, and now are adding the glass cloth. A third coat of resin will be added when all the cloth is up. The final step will be painting with primer, and then a final color coat, so the walls and roof will match, and the whole observatory color will match house and barn. The tan color goes well with the desert surroundings.

The dimensions of the dome are 24' in diameter. The walls are 6' high, and the dome itself is 12'6" above the walls. A lot of time is spent on the scaffold and on a 24' extension ladder.

The last steps still to go are adding the sliding shutter, then the walls, and we will be nearly finished.

It's just my wife Jeannie and I doing the fiberglass, and we are working mainly when the wind is not too high and the weather is nice. With a big crew the work could be done much faster.

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#66 EddWen

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:47 AM

I'm far from an expert with regard to fiberglass and resins, but do have friends who home-build experimental airplanes. They frequently debate whether they need a UV protectant between the primer and finish coat (vs added weight).

I don't know what altitude you are at, but it might be a consideration for a longer life of the dome.

#67 Tim Gilliland

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 12:11 PM

I enjoy seeing this progress, It is so impressive! An Amature Astronomer's dream.

#68 David Johns

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 04:29 PM

Fantastic....

#69 Dr Morbius

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 04:50 PM

Any new updates?

#70 Tom Clark

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 05:15 PM

Well, I am only 66, but feel much older after Jeannie and I finished fiberglassing the dome. Well, actually, it is not all done. Next project is to close up the back and fiberglass it, then build the shutter. However, I started another thread looking for info on finding the long gear needed to open and close the shutter. I may have to look into using a chain driveā€¦

Took a short trip over to the Arizona Sky Village to visit old friends Jack and Alice Newton, to see how Jack builds his shutters and motorizes them. A project this size requires as much brain work as manual labor!

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#71 David Pavlich

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 10:19 PM

Terrific work, Tom! Gonna' be a masterpiece when completed.

David

#72 Baxstar

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:00 PM

It's already a masterpiece! Even unfinished!

Casper

#73 Norm Meyer

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 06:10 PM

Hi Tom,
I just finished reading this thread on your 24' dome. It
is amazing, beautiful work. I envy your location and this
new observatory taking shape. I'm up here in Maine and our
climate conditions are a complete antithesis to NM.We probably have 4 or 5 days a year of very good seeing.
Good luck on finishing your project.
Completely covetous.
Norm

#74 Tom Clark

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 09:14 AM

Hey Everyone,

Don't just be envious, it would be a lot more fun to come join us and live the astronomy dream. There is room for another 50 or so astronomy families here at the New Mexico Astronomy Village. It's growing quickly.

You don't have to stay where you are. Jeannie and I ran away from Ohio and moved to Florida 40 years ago. This last move across the country to NM was a bit of work, but we are sure glad we have made it. While we read about star parties back east being clouded out, I almost hate to tell old friends that we have had two cloudy nights in the last 6 or 8 weeks.

See the first post in this thread for lots more information on the NMAV.

Dome progress? More photos to be posted soon. Now closing up the back and working on building the roll-back shutter, since I finally found the hardware I was looking for to motorize the shutter.

#75 Tom Clark

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:04 PM

The last few days were spent closing in the back side of the dome, under where the shutter will roll back. It looks strange in this photo, but next it will be fiberglassed and primed.

The whole observatory will not be left white, but rather painted to match the shop and house. The tan color is well suited to the desert - it blends in rather than standing out like the stark white.

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