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Observatory for under $500

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#1 PWP

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 12:21 AM

Hello all. Perry here who broadcasts on NSN as DFW Star Party. After a year of shopping and doing research I finally decided on a observatory style and type that not only would do the job but fit the budget as well.

I didn't really like the roll off roof design as the walls appeared a bit too tall for anything less than 30 degrees and as far as the dome my wife didn't want an igloo in the back yard let alone the price of one.

I found this shed on Amazon.com which is a Keter Apex 4X6 with a price currently at $489.98. It is a roll off design which I like because it leaves the observatory out in the open sky and the shed once rolled off can then be an observatory and warm room. I operate everything remotely...the scope, focuser, filter wheel and camera.

Total all in with construction of roll away decking and concrete slab is around $850.00. The shed is easy to put together and although rather light once put together it becomes rather rigid and not a bad looking either. I tried to detail everything while in construction so if anyone wanted to copy it or perhaps you have better idea's I am posting on CN to show how I did it anyway.

I am a big guy and I am quite comfortable in the shed once rolled away. This shed has already stood up to some good rainstorms and I haven't witnessed any water inside yet. If anyone wishes to copy and wants to ask a question feel free to write me and I will answer. Here is the link for photos of my build.

https://www.facebook...100000638365...

Clear skies!

Perry :)

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#2 skinnyonce

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 05:49 AM

I like that people of questionable morals think its a tool shed, and doesnt house thousands of dollars worth of gear

#3 Jeff Smith

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 08:33 AM

I like that people of questionable morals think its a tool shed, and doesnt house thousands of dollars worth of gear


Me to.

#4 Midnight Dan

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 10:15 AM

Looks nice! Just curious - why did you bother with two separate concrete tracks at the rear instead of one chunk? For a couple of extra bags of concrete you would eliminate a spot for weeds to grow or critters to make a home.

-Dan

#5 PWP

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 11:02 AM

Thank you Dan. In the planning stage I went back and forth on that. I know I wanted concrete in the front for a nice approach to the observatory and as well underneath because having it directly underneath also not only addresses the critter issue but it also serves as a continued concrete approach once the shed is rolled back. All that is really needed of course is two tracks the full length which would have saved a lot of extra digging and back braking concrete work. I guess in the end my thoughts were that sitting stored position (over the scope) it would have concrete under it most of the time which leaves the rear with the center area exposed unless observing. I didn't think critters would take refuge in an open piece of my lawn any more than they would the rest of my lawn.

I still have to fill dirt in around the concrete where the forms were and then install some sod which will include that patch in the rear. Since it is open with the observatory in the stored position it will be easy to keep it mowed/weeded. I guess in the end I just didn't see the need. Guess if it ever becomes an issue I can always fill that section in with concrete later since it is easily accessible sitting in the stored position. :)

#6 Smack

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 12:24 PM

Looks great Perry. I'm thinking about something similar for my very small back yard. You've given some great ideas.

Thanks,

Steve

#7 Canada_LX10

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 12:35 PM

I know it was not what you wanted but for others that may be interested.

I am starting a 7' wooden dome observatory. The materials used are fairly reasonable and the construction methods seem fairly straight forward. I have the plans which I found on the net after lots of searching.

The original designer said about $500 in materials (back in 2003 in Canada which has higher costs). I am going to build this dome and will report back the actual costs.

Anyone wanting the dome plans...just PM me.

#8 Raginar

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 05:50 PM

Perry,

I was on chatting with you about this the other night. Looks like a fantastic build! Congratulations!

#9 PWP

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 09:37 PM

Thanks Chris! Glad you got a chance to view it. Describing it and seeing are two different things. :)

#10 Raginar

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 09:54 PM

Definitely! It's a wonderful shed. Now, you need to post one of your setup broadcasting.

#11 RobertED

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 10:39 AM

Awesome project!!...Clear Skies!!

#12 LoveChina61

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 10:17 PM

Now there we go. The best of all ideas combined. Good job!

#13 Starhawk

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 08:52 AM

Actually, if I may be so bold, it makes me think of disguising a telescope cover as an outhouse. Sure to limit break-in attempts.

-Rich

#14 Midnight Dan

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 09:07 AM

Actually, if I may be so bold, it makes me think of disguising a telescope cover as an outhouse. Sure to limit break-in attempts.

-Rich


:lol:
... and a Crescent Moon emblem on the door would be appropriate for either use! ;)
-Dan

#15 Starhawk

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 09:30 AM

And I hate to say it, but a portapotty is the right size. Just saying.

-Rich

#16 droid

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 10:35 AM

I see two possible issues with the mini observatory....

The first is the concrete pad....that puppy will radiate heat for a while createing localized seeing issues, of course as soon it cools down itll be fine.Maybe spray it with cool water out of a hose to minimize this???

The second is it is taller than it is wide, making it inherently top heavy.I know you said the parts have been wind tested , but Id suggest some sort of tie downs ,when its in the stored position.Ive seen several observatorys with larger foot prints be destroyed by straight line winds.

Other wise I love the design and idea

#17 PWP

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:11 PM

There is no need for tie downs. Pictures in the link of my build show how I have addressed this by securing it to the ground with heavy duty steel C channel tracks anchored to the concrete and the steel dogs that extend out the side of the machine skates ride in the C channel on all sides. The shed itself is lag bolted to the base. I pray this should keep this shed on the ground in strong thunderstorms unless winds hit over 50+ mph, all should be good. To that thought I doubt any structure would survive unscaved in very high winds but for local thunderstorms I pray I am good. If not, I have insurance for detached structures. Be sure to disclose your use to your agent. Even a small increase in your yearly premium is worth your peace of mind.

As far as heat concerns go currently since it is winter there isn't any issue. For summer, I have sprinkler heads from my lawn sprinkler system on each side of the observatory and behind it. Simply setting the timer to come on at sundown should greatly reduce the heat build up by the time I am ready for my viewing session come nightfall.


I see two possible issues with the mini observatory....

The first is the concrete pad....that puppy will radiate heat for a while createing localized seeing issues, of course as soon it cools down itll be fine.Maybe spray it with cool water out of a hose to minimize this???

The second is it is taller than it is wide, making it inherently top heavy.I know you said the parts have been wind tested , but Id suggest some sort of tie downs ,when its in the stored position.Ive seen several observatorys with larger foot prints be destroyed by straight line winds.

Other wise I love the design and idea



#18 Starhawk

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:21 PM

So, all you really need to do is get busy on automation!

-Rich

#19 PWP

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 12:30 PM

Although not neccessary, it would be nice to have it roll forwards and backwards without my assistance. Thought about a garage door opener but I am limited on room inside and really not enough underneath. I thought of mounting it at the rear at ground level in a weatherproof box. Probably pros and cons to that. :foreheadslap:

So, all you really need to do is get busy on automation!

-Rich



#20 gastargazer01

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 04:30 PM

Nice, I may do something similar shed wise with my deck OBS that I am planning.
http://bufordexchang...Splacement.html
Do you lock it down when closed up any way to the foundation or is the shed heavy enough with it also tight on the pier?

#21 PWP

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:18 PM

It is tight on the pier...I cut the U in the floor tight for that very reason and also to cut down on possiblity of wasp coming in from underneath and setting up shop while it is in the stored position. Of course having it tight (about 1/3 inch on each side) also means being careful when you roll it forward as you don't want to hit the pier as even though I have it on tracks there still is some play. Total weight I would guess to be around 500-600 lbs. You will also notice the U channel has vertical slots all along the length. It hasn't moved back on me yet since it is tight but I could always slide a long bolt or some kind of metal dowel rod in one of the slots just behind any of the machine skates and that should hold it steady and keep it from moving. ;)

Nice, I may do something similar shed wise with my deck OBS that I am planning.
http://bufordexchang...Splacement.html
Do you lock it down when closed up any way to the foundation or is the shed heavy enough with it also tight on the pier?



#22 PWP

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 10:12 PM

Got a chance to check out your scope setup. Looks like a C11 on CG5? Looks like you have plenty of room for your additional deck and shed. Post your build as you go. Would really like to see it take shape. Email me or post if you have questions if you want to mirror my build. I can tell you where I got the supplies etc.

Best regards,

Perry

Nice, I may do something similar shed wise with my deck OBS that I am planning.
http://bufordexchang...Splacement.html



#23 Patrick

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Posted 04 April 2013 - 01:53 PM

Hi Perry,

I like your roll off shed idea and I'm thinking of ways I might incorporate it on my deck. I have a 10' x 14' deck with a wood pier in the middle of it.

I have a couple of questions...

1) Have you found the Keter 4x6 to be weather tight or have you needed to do additional sealing to make it so?

2) Did you order the Northern Machine Skates with the dogs or were those obtained somewhere else?

I think I know the answer to this, but the black flooring I see in your pictures looks like the floor that comes with the shed. Did you lay down an additional subfloor?

3) Did you block some of your horizon out because of the proximity of the shed to your mount?

4) What is the height of the door frame? I have a fairly tall mount and telescope setup and I'm wondering if it will clear the door when it's in home position.

My main concern with my possible implementation would be that I won't be able to move the 4x6 shed back far enough to amply clear the mount and telescope. In your research did you come across any sheds that were 4x4' and similar to the 4x6?

Thanks! I really like your setup!

Patrick

#24 PWP

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Posted 05 April 2013 - 08:47 PM

Hi Perry,

I like your roll off shed idea and I'm thinking of ways I might incorporate it on my deck. I have a 10' x 14' deck with a wood pier in the middle of it.

I have a couple of questions...

1) Have you found the Keter 4x6 to be weather tight or have you needed to do additional sealing to make it so?

2) Did you order the Northern Machine Skates with the dogs or were those obtained somewhere else?

I think I know the answer to this, but the black flooring I see in your pictures looks like the floor that comes with the shed. Did you lay down an additional subfloor?

3) Did you block some of your horizon out because of the proximity of the shed to your mount?

4) What is the height of the door frame? I have a fairly tall mount and telescope setup and I'm wondering if it will clear the door when it's in home position.

My main concern with my possible implementation would be that I won't be able to move the 4x6 shed back far enough to amply clear the mount and telescope. In your research did you come across any sheds that were 4x4' and similar to the 4x6?

Thanks! I really like your setup!

Patrick


See my answers below:

Hi Perry,

I like your roll off shed idea and I'm thinking of ways I might incorporate it
on my deck. I have a 10' x 14' deck with a wood pier in the middle of it.

I have a couple of questions...

1) Have you found the Keter 4x6 to be weather tight or have you needed to do
additional sealing to make it so?

The shed is pretty straight forward to put together and honestly 1 person can put it together until you get to the roof which can be a little tricky only because it is awkward. Once finished, I got inside and did notice daylight near the front left side where the roof gutter met the A frame there was about a 1/8 in gap. It didn't appear to be at an angle that would leak, but it was a west facing wall so I was more worried about blown wet winds...so I went ahead and put some clear silicone in the gap. I think I didn't make sure the shed was completely square before I put on that section of gutter so I think the gap was my fault. I haven't had torrential rains yet but I have had decent rain and up to 45 mph winds and all remained dry so far.

2) Did you order the Northern Machine Skates with the dogs or were those obtained somewhere else?

The dogs you see on the side in my pictures are welded to the side of the machine skate although Northern Tool doesn't show this. The real use for them
is to join two machine skates together side by side in a slide and lock type setup. When I bought these it was because they were the cheapest thing I could find that would be low profile and support the weight of a building with me in it as I am a pretty big guy. I thought about casters but the ones that support any weight are way too tall and I didn't want the shed to be a skyscraper. The dogs welded to the side turned out to solve my main problem was how to keep the shed from tipping over in high winds. I didn't even know they were there until I went to northern tool to pick up the machine skates and saw
them sticking out on one side which gave me the idea to pick up some C channel and let them glide inside which would keep it on the ground. I was very
happy to solve that as it was gnawing at my mind.

Here is the link: http://www.northernt...56891_200356891

You will also need the link to HEAVY DUTY C CHANNEL which is nothing more than industrial gauge track lighting rails they use for commercial use. I
found these at LOWES and I stumbled upon them. When I looked in the normal C and U channel section of hardware at LOWES I found nothing heavy
enough or large enough to use. These come in 10 foot length which is perfect and work very well. Make sure you keep these rails about a quarter inch away from the skates on each side and use lithium grease on them to help the skate slide easier...otherwise you will find way too much friction.

Remember, these are found in the Electrical isle, not the hardware Isle as one would think. I just stumbled on them while looking for 12/2 wire to run power to the observatory.
Here is that link: http://www.lowes.com...uctId=312875...


I think I know the answer to this, but the black flooring I see in your pictures
looks like the floor that comes with the shed. Did you lay down an additional
subfloor?

The black flooring does come with the shed and it is one piece. I do have subfloor under it as it is 3/4 weather treated plywood. Word to the wise though...since I have been using it I have a chair with rollers and I am a pretty big guy. The black floor is made to support weight of a foot...evenly distributed. I have noticed the rollers
of my chair while sitting in the observatory for some time now while I broadcast on NSN begin to put dents in the black flooring and the other day it finally broke
through on one point of contact because of my weight bearing down on one wheel when I shifted my weight. So...as to not have this issue continue to happen I
went ahead and put some 1/2 inch plywood on top of the black flooring just under my seating area to more evenly distribute my weight.




3) Did you block some of your horizon out because of the proximity of the shed
to your mount?

Yes....northern sky...but I have large trees that were in the way anyway so not a loss over what I was already dealing with when I was observing out in the driveway which is in the rear of our home.


4) What is the height of the door frame? I have a fairly tall mount and
telescope setup and I'm wondering if it will clear the door when it's in home
position.

Good question and that one was the most challenging for me. How tall do I make the darn pier? Too high, and I would have to park the scope in a horizontal home position to get it through the door instead of it sitting upright facing Polaris. Too low, and when I look through my polar scope won't see over the top of the shed which is directly in the path of sight to polar align with Polaris.

The height from my concrete pad is like this:
1. Skate = roughly 4 inches
2. 4x4 = roughly 3.75 inches
3. 3/4 inch plywood = 3/4 inches
4. Black floor that came with shed = 3/4 inches
TOTAL = 9.25 inches from ground to door bottom. Door on shed bottom to top = 72 inches. So from your deck floor to top of the door frame should be looking at about 81.25 inches.


My main concern with my possible implementation would be that I won't be able to move the 4x6 shed back far enough to amply clear the mount and telescope. In
your research did you come across any sheds that were 4x4' and similar to the
4x6?

Another great question and I think I know exactly what your talking about. I didn't research anything smaller than this shed. If you look at my pictures, I was faced with the same challenge. My pool is in the front of the shed and my fence for my property line was behind it. If I put the pier too close to the fence when I roll back the shed it would hit the fence and not give enough room for the door to open and close and remember not between the shed and the pier but between the shed and the front leading edge of the scope that is parked in the home position. If you allow 6 foot of travel from the back edge of the U that you cut in the floor you should have enough room
for it to roll back and the door still open and close.


**IMPORTANT** I cut the U in the floor by counting back 4 squares on the bottom side of the black flooring which is about 2.5 foot. It was enough for my scope to clear but I have an 8 inch Celestron SCT. This is also important as you obviously want your door to close and lock once you have the shed rolled over it but not waste room on the back part of the shed where you would want to set up your computer and you don't want to crowd yourself with a U cut in the floor more than you need. If you have a refractor scope...you will need a deeper U cut in the floor. My suggestion is when your measuring, measure from the front of your pier to the back of your scope eyepiece and that should tell you how deep to cut your U without cutting too much or too little.

Also, with your limited room you will face the same thing I did...is the polar scope high enough once the shed is rolled back for me to still look through it and see Polaris or will I be looking at the A section of my shed
roof? In my case, I couldn't see Polaris in the polar scope but I can see it in my main scope so I simply polar alight that way even though as long as your current pier and plate/scope is set up pretty much north now
you can simply align and use the hibernate feature on Nexremote like I do and when you wake it up and my gps pulls down current data it is still aligned with the sky even though it may be a week or two later. That is
the main reason I moved to an observatory. I got tired of aligning every time I wanted to use my scope not to mention rolling everything out of my garage and then back in again. That got old really quick. :(

Hope this helps you.

Would love to see pictures of your build as you do it. Feel free to post them on this thread.

Clear skies!

Perry :)

#25 Patrick

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 12:51 AM

Hi Perry,

Thanks for all the great information~

Right now I'm focusing on the 6x3 version of the shed. That's all the room I need and the double doors would be perfect with the scope and mount horizontal. I'm pretty sure my setup is too tall for me to use a 6x4 with a single door.

I will be spending some time looking at my deck with measuring tape in hand. I'll let you know what I decide to do. :smirk:

Thanks again!

Patrick






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