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Blackwater Observatory Begins

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#1 Cotts

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 10:17 AM

April is the month I will be erecting Blackwater Observatory to house my TEC 200 Maksutov on a Mach 1 mount with the primary purpose of doing photographic double star measurement and other high-res photography of the moon and planets. A design constraint is that the observatory must be removeable in 2016 when I will be moving from this location. I have chosen a SkyShedPod for this reason.

Since I am 6'6" tall I have decided to raise the Pod 6 1/2 " on a plinth consisting of 2x6 and 2x4 pressure treated wood in a 16-sided (decahexagon? hexadecagon?) pattern. The extra height is not needed under the center of the dome but the 'shoulders' of the dome would have been a bit cramped for me at the standard height.

The site base will be 2'x2' patio stones in an 8' square over several inches of compacted fine gravel within a frame of railway ties. The plinth will be attached to the Patio stones with TapCon screws and the Pod will be screwed down to the plinth with large wood screws.

There will be no permanent electrical connection (again with the temporary nature of the project). I'll be using an extension cord from the house.

And there will be no pier, either. I'll make do with the Losmandy HD tripod which is plenty strong.

I'm starting the thread now so that it will be there as I post pics and updates. I will be breaking ground within a week as the frost leaves the upper foot of soil...

If all goes well it will all be done by April 26.......

Dave

#2 JJK

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 12:25 PM

Good luck! Even without dedicated mains power, you'll be happy to have access to your equipment at a moment's notice.

Last year, I completed a small (8'x8') RoR, and although the weather has been miserable for about a year, I've been able to sneak in short imaging or visual sessions because everything's ready to go. A thirty minute sucker hole here and there is better than nothing!

#3 Starhawk

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 01:26 PM

The leaky nature of PODs would concern me for that caliber of gear. I suggest planning on bagging the scope and mount within the dome. Maybe a dehumidifier scheme for the mount and scope could be put in place within the bag.

-Rich

#4 rlandsboro

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 09:07 PM

That sounds great for a semi-permanent obs! Be sure your site is not subject to strength wind gusts if you are relying on the weight of the plinth and some patio blocks to keep it from moving.

Cheers

#5 tclehman1969

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 09:12 PM

Very cool! Looking forward to the process over the next few weeks!

#6 Cotts

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 09:10 AM

As for leaking and moisture, I'm going to include a couple of vents in the plinth to aid the natural venting of the Pod. I will be covering my scope with my 365 shroud and will be using a heating stick inside the shroud.

I'll have to run an electrical connection under the plinth but I can't hook it directly to the mains from the house without having to enter the world of permits and inspectors... I could put it in some plastic pipe... Any suggestions?

As for the wind, my yard is very sheltered by trees and hedges to the northwest, west and southwest and the house to the east. (My sky is a strip running north to south - I'll be doing all my observing within +/- 30 degrees of the meridian due to these obstacles.

And, a cool anecdote. Months ago I went to the city by-law officer for my area of Toronto to get some answers about my project and, to make a long conversation short, he refused to answer any of my questions until I gave him my address! (They want their pound of flesh and control from the get-go!) I ended up looking up the bylaws myself on line. Where I found that if I had any permanent electrical hookup to an outbuilding it must be installed by a licensed electrician and inspected and a building permit is required. This would run me well north of $500 so I will make do with extension cords across my lawn (taken up only for mowing...)

Thanks for listening.

#7 astrodog73

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 04:50 PM

I used a caravan/trailer power inlet socket on the wall of my obs for power. I just plug in an extension cord and power is delivered to standard wall sockets inside.... easy/neat....
Something similar to these....
http://www.vintagetr...t_p/vts-523.htm

#8 BluewaterObserva

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 12:37 PM

My obs is called Bluewater Observatory....

If we teamed up we would be Black and Blue. :)

I am pathetically still just running an extension cord up to mine. Hopefully as the weather continues to warm up I will get many many little things completed on mine.

#9 Starman27

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 09:44 PM

Dave sounds like an interesting POD implementation. I have one in Iowa. Can't wait to see your progress.

#10 Cotts

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 05:13 PM

A bit of progress today. First, a view of the site, looking north.

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#11 Cotts

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 05:16 PM

Staking out the 9' x 9' square within which everything goes.

Trivia: The Hypotenuse/ diagonal for 9' sides is 12' 8 3/4 "

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#12 Cotts

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 05:28 PM

A bit of digging. The near right (SE) corner is the highest and the far left (NW) is the lowest. The E and W sides going away from the camera are very nearly level in themselves but the West one is about 4" lower. So the sod had to be dug out the most on the East. No sod will be dug from the West side (until later*). The North and South sides had the sod removed more at the East end and none at all at the West end.

* Having dug the above I will next install the 4x4 'frame', carefully level it and spike it in place. The inside dimensions of the frame will be 8' x 8'. Then I can dig out the middle down to about 6" below the (level) plane of the top of the frame. Next will be 4" of screening gravel, levelled and compacted followed by 2" thick 2'x2' concrete patio stones which will bring things up to the level of the frame.

The lumber and other materials are being delivered on Sat., Apr 13.

Dave

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#13 csa/montana

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 07:24 PM

Dave, very exciting for you to begin your observatory! We'll love following the build with your photos.

BTW; I also run a cord to my observatory.

#14 Raginar

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Posted 06 April 2013 - 08:40 PM

I'll one up ya'll: I run a cord AND ethernet to my shed :). No reason to suffer through WIFI for controlling my baby.

#15 Cotts

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 06:58 PM

Some progress today after a week of rain. I have installed and levelled the 4x4's, spiking down only the east one as a reference edge. I will rake out the loose soil inside and then tamp down the dirt in preparation for the limestone screening gravel.

If you look carefully you will see that the building inspector is on the job....

Dave

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#16 Agatha

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:08 PM

Dave,

Yay!! My first Robin sighting. :grin: Haven't seen any here yet.

Your plan is looking good. I'll be watching your progress, as I hopefully will have my own POD in the coming year or so.

Thanks for photos.

Best, Linda B.

#17 Cotts

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 05:44 PM

More progress today. Here is a close up of the plinth (not screwed together yet. Just to show.

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#18 Cotts

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 05:45 PM

Another view of the plinth.

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#19 Cotts

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 05:53 PM

And the 'assembled' plinth resting on the ground. This will be screwed to the patio stones inside the frame work with TapCons. The 'top' 2x6's will then be screwed onto the plinth and the SkyShedPod screwed to the plinth.

Next step: Limestone screenings inside the frame to within 2" of the top. Level and compact and then install the patio stones. I'm working Tuesday to Friday so Saturday will be the next step.....

Dave

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#20 csa/montana

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 08:49 AM

Did the inspector find any worms? :lol:

Looking good Dave!

#21 Cotts

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 02:55 PM

Did he ever!!! that freshly turned soil was chock-a-block with grubs and worms. The pair of Robins were in seventh heaven!

As for progress - a little at a time. The Pod arrives next week.... I have to have the site prepared by then.

Dave

#22 Cotts

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 04:05 PM

Lots of progress, folks! The gravel is in, ready for spreading, levelling and tamping.

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#23 Cotts

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 04:06 PM

Spread, levelled and tamped, indeed!

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#24 Cotts

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 04:10 PM

Getting the patio stones in. They were supposed to be 24" x 24" but they were actually 24" x 24 1/4" so my frame had to be adjusted. When have you ever bought building materials and their actual dimension was larger than advertised?

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#25 Cotts

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 04:12 PM

Patio stones in place. Plinth underway after measuring a 45 1/4" circle from the center of the structure.

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