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7 foot Clamshell

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#1 John P

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 04:06 PM

I am waiting for delivery of my new 7 foot clamshell. I ordered it from Aphelion Domes of Langley, British Columbia, Canada. I understand this company and US- based Astro Haven share a common ancestry and Dave Hoffman of Aphelion Domes has been excellent to work with.
At 72 years old and active in amateur astronomy since age 12, I have had occasion to try everything from simply, “carry it outside”, to wheely bars and roll off roof fixed observatories. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Along the way, I had occasion to pick up a used clamshell observatory and despite it’s less than great condition and lacking a door and opening hardware, enjoyed its appearance and functionality. Because of medical issues, I sold it to a guy who wanted to set up a remote operation, astrophotography observatory.
Now healed, I want to re-enter amateur astronomy and have it be my retirement interest. ( I suggest you not wait till retirement) Considerations for my ideal observatory included;
1. Clamshell Design
I find this design-type to have the best attributes of both a roll off roof design and a standard rotating dome with a slit.
2. Must have a door
Because of health issues, my previous clamshell was pretty much unusable as it lacked a door and required me to climb over the sidewalls. A small ladder was not a very successful solution.
3. Must be adaptable to remote operations
You never know since remote operation is so feasible today and my location places the clamshell only 20 feet from the house
4. Must be able to resell
Few people consider this. Clamshell domes are expensive…no doubt about it. Eventually I or my estate will need to get rid of it. Assuming I maintain it well, there is no reason why I shouldn’t recover much of the initial expense
5. I must consider it attractive
I’m an architect and do find the clamshell domes attractive
6. Capable of holding a significant telescope on a significant GEM plus a small table and 2 people
Over the years I’ve owned a tremendous variety of astronomy equipment. Sold a lot of it too. My area and sky quality realistically supports perhaps an 11” SCT on an AP900. Obviously you can go bigger but I start to question how frequently it would be to your advantage. In addition, I plan on doing both night and solar astronomy.
Having a strong preference for a clamshell-type design really narrowed my options and after a month or so of talking things over with Dave (the other company was not as conversant) I placed my order. At that time, Aphelion was substantially less expensive although Aphelion’s base product was not electrically operated and the other manufacture’s dome was. Aphelion offered an entrance door in their 7 foot dome and I do not recall if the other manufacturer did or not.
The clamshell dome is currently being crated and Dave is shopping for a good shipper. I have a circular brick pad that matches the brick pool patio ready to receive the dome. I plan to install a fixed pier over the summer. Hopefully all will be up and running by May or June.

#2 1965healy

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 07:24 PM

Congratulations on your new dome! Thanks also for the well thought out discussion, it's possible to get so caught up in an idea that we fail to think in practical terms. Please keep us posted on your progress, and as always, pictures please!

#3 John P

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 06:07 AM

Thanks. Someone said,"too old, smart."
Love the Healeys. The pure definition of a sports car.
I'm going with a 9.25" Celestron OTA on a g-11 with one piece worm block. Also have a Nexstar 6 (truly excellent optics) and a 6" mak-cass. They're so close I'll sell one and trying to figure out which.

#4 Raginar

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 06:49 PM

Awesome. I think a clamshell would be pretty nice to own.

#5 Starhawk

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 12:31 PM

I'd like to have a clamshell- the price is a bit of a barrier, even if the aphelion version is cheaper and thoughtfully comes with a door.

Astro haven will allow a door under the base ring- not so easy to do. And, of course, I need a dark spot, and time.

At the end of the day, my little kids win the time trade.

-Rich

#6 John P

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 09:04 AM

I agree...kids first. At 72 years old, that is far behind me...now it's grandkids. So I more than understand but urge you not to wait till retirement as I did. Your eyes do nothing to improve as you get older. And I justify the cost of a clamshell, a lot of money to be sure, on the the fact it has resale value and can be relocated easily. My purchase is about 2x the cost for my stick-built roll off roof observatory. There was zero return when I moved...but it made a good playhouse or tool shed for whoever bought the house.

People who have been in this hobby for a long time, recognize you should start with a really good mount yet few of us did (or do). Start with the observatory you like. You'll save money in the long run.

#7 JJK

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 06:31 PM

Clamshells are neat, but I'll stick with a RoR design observatory. It will double as a mausoleum after the CFO terminates me for one Astro purchase too many.

#8 Starhawk

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 12:54 AM

Thanks for writing back, John. Let me know how the aphelion dome goes- those are the ones I am most curious about thanks to the nice door arrangement.

-Rich

#9 John P

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 08:18 AM

Her it is ready to be crated and shipped. Looks like it's coming via FedEx.

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#10 csa/montana

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 08:38 AM

John, Congratulations on your Clamshell! :bow: We look forward to pictures when it's setup; then simply enjoy! :)

#11 Bob Griffiths

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 09:09 AM

Congrads John...

When I discovered I had to build another observatory (had roll off 30 years ago at another house) just before I retired I decided that I would use my first few social security checks to fund the darn thing...

But resale value was honestly not a factor I intent to use it until I'm too old to even care about anything Those astro haven clam shells were on my list UNTIL I saw the price tags... LOL

CLEAR SKIES

Bob G

#12 John P

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 10:48 AM

Mine is an Aphelion Dome but I notice they just had a big price increase. None-the-less, read my opening comments on how I justified the cost. I believe it to be realistic. Right now, the cost of the Aphelion Clamshell is roughly twice the cost of my original 8' x 12' roll off roof observatory. Yes...a lot of money still.

The attached photo ( sorry it's in black and white...wrong camera setting) shows where I plan to initially place the clamshell. Trees are a problem but I have a nice wedge to the south east that's perhaps 10 hours wide. North is out. Part of the wedge is over the house...a problem with heat blooms in the winter. I'll try this location for awhile before installing a pier as if it's not working out, or if my health continues to head south...I can find another location. Cicilia, the Chahuahua, is not part of the observing team as she prefers sleep.

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#13 John P

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 11:38 AM

Slight hang-up. The dome is at a FedEx facility some 20 or so miles from my house. They refuse to deliver it stating they have no way to get it off the truck. This despite taking my money and knowing the delivery residential address. For me....so much for FedEx.

Tomorrow I have a local mover I've worked with, pick up the dome and bring it here, wait while I uncrate it, and move it to the circular brick patio for it's home, at least for now.

Dave Hoffman of Aphelion Domes, emailed asking if it got here ok. He and his company have been excellent to work with.

#14 Starhawk

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 11:50 AM

That is certainly weak on the behalf of FedEx. I'm surprised they didn't have one of those trucks with the small forklift ready for deliveries.

-Rich

#15 John P

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 12:33 PM

Despite FedEx, a local firm with imagination managed to deliver the clamshell with little trouble. Three guys, using a little care, got it off the truck, "crate" and all.

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#16 John P

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 12:39 PM

And here she is resting on the brick circular pad. I'll use the dome and telescope by tripod till I'm sure the location works, then install a permanant pier.

The clamshell so far, is all I could have hoped for. The door makes for easy access despite my worn out body. Best of all, there are two cranks, one for each half. I can open it completely, close it completely or manage any combination of the halves in between. Perfect for weather and light conditions.

I understand all the comments I'm getting about costs but to me, based on my first post assumptions, I got a bargain. I can only see my life's' enjoyment of this hobby getting better. Happy to respond to comments and/or questions.

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#17 csa/montana

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 12:49 PM

Congratulations! It certainly looks beautiful in that area! :bow:

Cost is your expenditure; no one else's; and as you said, it's well worth it to you; and that's what counts! You will get so much enjoyment out of your new dome, and we can't wait to hear all about it!

#18 mikey cee

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:15 PM

First time ever knew about these things. I'll say one thing....it's different. Like to see you and your scope inside with the "shutter" open. I need some reference objects to see how this design looks and works. ;) Mike

#19 Starhawk

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:49 PM

It looks good. I'm happy to see the shipping hostage drama ended successfully. What is the interior like?

-Rich

#20 John P

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 02:37 PM

I'll add some " in use" photos soon. Hoping to install the telescope, etc. Over the weekend assuming the weather cooperates just a little. The interior is no gell coat fiberglass painted black. Not a fine finish but uniform and looks good.

#21 Starhawk

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:07 PM

That would make the interior essentially equivalent to the Astrohaven dome interior. One thing I like on these is the ability to really uncover and see the sky, but the scope could be left in any arbitrary position without the risk of damage to it.

-Rich

#22 John P

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:06 PM

I have been told that Aphelion and Astrohaven share a common ancestry thus the reason there are no patent or copywrite problems. Other than a couple minor items, they are pretty much the same.

My roll off accomplishes pretty much the same thing as far as leave the scope and simply close up, but had no resale value when I relocated. At least the dome can be either relocated or sold. At my point in life it's a significant factor.

#23 John P

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 11:35 AM

Started to move in. This will take awhile and I hope to be operational by the weekend allowing the clouds to move in as they always do. Learned a few things so far. First......a tripod really takes up a lot of space. This will encourage me to start work on the pier very quickly. There is adequate room for the telescope and tripod mounted mounting plus myself and perhaps one other person. A pier will seemingly double that.

Second, the clamshell is watertight. Over the weekend we had a lot of wind-blown rain...even a little snow, and from what I can tell, nothing got into the dome. I intend to cover the telescope and mounting anyway, if only as a precaution.

So far, so good.

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#24 John P

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 11:38 AM

Here's a shop from the entrance door. The door is 30" x 36" but a whole lot better than having to climb over the sidewalls as I used to have to do. The door is not accessible with both halves of the clamshell fully open. Since my view north is almost non-existant, I placed the door that way and plan on rarely having both halves open at the same time. We'll just have to see how that plan works out.

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#25 Project Galileo

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 12:24 PM

Congratulations on your cool dome! You are going to love it.






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