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Dark Arts Observatory

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#1 Midnight Dan

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:05 PM

Since my observatory will be mostly used for Astrophotography (Art) and in the dark (duh!) I decided to call it the "Dark Arts Observatory". I have a 5-bay SkyShed Pod on order which should be here in a month or so. I started putting in the deck and pier today so I thought it was time to start posting some pictures.

First is an aerial shot of our land and the observatory location. It will be at the red square marked "A" in this photo. It's a good location because it's far enough away from obstacles to get a clear view in all directions.
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Here are views to the North, East, South, and West, in that order. The tree to the right in the first photo is the tallest obstruction and occupies about 12° in altitude, so it's not really a problem at all.
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-Dan

#2 Midnight Dan

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:19 PM

Here's the first day's work, putting in the holes for the deck posts and making the pier.

First shot is an internal view of the pier sonotube with conduit installed for wiring runs:
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Weapon of choice for drilling 2-foot diameter holes .. a Bobcat mounted auger:
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And of course, the very first hole had a large rock in it that stopped the auger in it's tracks!
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Plan B - the excavator. Made short work of the rock, but left a MUCH larger hole for me to fill in afterwards. :p The rest of the holes went well with the auger - no further rocks!
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Here's the pier hole with a couple of pieces of rebar and a pad of concrete poured in the bottom. The holes had to be 4 feet deep to get below the frostline in our area. The pad at the bottom is a foot thick and has reinforcing screen in it.
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After giving the pier pad a couple hours to set up, we put the sonotube in place, leveled it, and braced it to keep it steady during the pour. We backfilled around the sonotube before pouring.
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Here's the pier bolt plate I made of plywood to keep the bolts straight and aligned during installation in the top of the concrete pier. The bolts are a 3/4 inch j-bolt kit from Dan's Pier Plates online.
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This pictures shows the guys pouring the concrete in the pier. Having a mixer mounted on a Bobcat is VERY handy for getting it up high.
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And finally, the pier bolts and alignment plate installed. Once set up, the wood parts will be removed and the aluminum pier plate installed and leveled.
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That's it for now. Will probably be a few days before I get back to this.
-Dan

#3 TheSheriff

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:20 PM

Off topic, but I have to ask what is marked "B"?

#4 Midnight Dan

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:24 PM

It was another potential location for the observatory, but I decided against it. The one thing it had going for it was that it was closer to the house and would be plowed along with the driveway so it would have easy winter access. But it was too close to the road and had too many visual obstacles so I went with A. It might be a bit harder to get to in the winter, but the views will be worth it!
-Dan

#5 csa/montana

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:45 PM

Hi Dan; you had some nice equipment to help this project along! :bow: Looks like you will have great skies there, we'll love following along with your build!

so I went with B



Do you mean A? :grin:

#6 munchmeister

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 10:25 PM

Subscribed !! Anxious to watch this build !

#7 Dr Morbius

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:30 PM

You made the correct choice with "A" instead of "B" as the location.

#8 AstroTatDad

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:31 PM

Nice Dan, looks like fun. =)

#9 Tel

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 12:21 AM

Good luck with the build, Dan ! :waytogo:

I'm certainly very envious of your sky range ! Beautiful !

Are you setting up to "go" with your EQ mount or continue with Alt./Az. ? (Maybe interchangeably both) ?

Have fun and I hope all goes easily.

Best regards,
Tel

#10 Peter9

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 03:03 AM

Great location Dan. I will be following your build with interest. Hope all goes well. :fingerscrossed:

Regards. Peter.

#11 Midnight Dan

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 05:57 AM

so I went with B



Do you mean A? :grin:


Ooops! Yes. I went back and changed my post.
-Dan

#12 Midnight Dan

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 06:03 AM

Are you setting up to "go" with your EQ mount or continue with Alt./Az. ? (Maybe interchangeably both) ?


Since it's primarily for AP, I'm planning on using the iEQ45 mount, and I've designed a pier plate to work with that mount. The design has an interchangeable top plate so I could use other mounts if desired, but I don't really think I'll be doing that on a regular basis.

The 8SE's alt/az mount's strong point is portability so I'll be keeping it and using it for that purpose. I may keep it out at the observatory though so I can set up a scope to peek at the sky visually while long imaging sessions are under way.

-Dan

#13 MRNUTTY

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 06:06 AM

"Dark Arts"I love that name!

I have Dan's pier plate stuff too. Great choice! I wish I had horizons like yours.

#14 Starman27

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:16 AM

Great start! My POD is at a dark site too. You will love it.

#15 MHamburg

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:52 AM

Great start!! I sure envy your Bobcat. Can it make the clouds go away?
Michael

#16 Midnight Dan

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 08:27 AM

Actually, the bobcat and excavator are not mine. I hired a friend of mine who has an excavating business to do the digging and concrete pours. He and his helper are the people in the photos.

I have a Kubota farm tractor and a 3-point hitch mounted auger, but it's light duty and would not have handled a 2-foot bit. Plus, I really needed the ability to pour concrete into the top of that pier tube, which would have been difficult without the Bobcat. So I thought it made sense to hire out this part of the work.

-Dan

#17 corpusse

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 08:52 AM

Looks great Dan. I love the name. I also love the wood holding the pier bolts.

#18 cpl43uk

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 02:47 PM

This is going to be a very interesting set of posts! However your space, skies and now pod will make me ponder as I lugout the system I have into the back garden each time. All I need to do is cut down a few trees, level some of the neighbours houses and persuade my wife that the pier she will see in the garden is really a new washing line post.. Now THAT would be a project!!

#19 ben2112

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 10:58 PM

That is so cool Dan. I can't wait to see when it's finished. Wish I could have an observatory, but my HOA would have a cow.. :lol: :roflmao:

#20 audioaficionado

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 11:28 PM

Subscribed:

This pier looks like the kind I'd like to build eventually.

Did you polar align the bolts?

#21 Midnight Dan

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 06:21 AM

Did you polar align the bolts?


Yes I did. A couple nights before this work I went out with my mount on it's tripod and polar aligned it. Then I drove two pins into the ground on either side of the construction site, with a string from one pin to the other, running under the mount and aligned with it's orientation. That way I could remove the string for construction, but put it back in place to check things if needed. I sprayed the pins with day-glo orange paint for visibility.

On the wooden bolt alignment plate, I drew a line from the North bolt to halfway between the other two bolts. When I placed it in the concrete, it was easy to sight along that line and aim it at the pin in the ground on the North side.

The bolt holes in the aluminum pier plate are over-sized so I can rotate it a small amount for adjustment. And of course, the mount head itself has it's own azimuth adjustment bolts so there's some room there to take up any error in alignment. Haven't tried it yet, but hopefully I got it right! :fingerscrossed:

-Dan

#22 audioaficionado

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 09:53 AM

Thanx for the explanation. Seems very doable the way you did it.

BTW, can you tell by my clear sky chart that I have a telescope arriving at my house today :cloudy:

#23 Midnight Dan

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 12:54 PM

Yep, looks almost as bad as mine! :p I wonder how many days of clouds come with an observatory? :smirk:

Actually, cloudy weather around these parts is par for the course. In fact, the weather around here is so bad so often that I initially thought it would not be worth getting an observatory. But over time I began to realize that when those brief windows of opportunity occurred, I couldn't take advantage of many of them because it took so long to set up ... especially for AP. With an observatory, I can hopefully be ready to go in 10 minutes or so and will be able to make use of it even on weeknights after work if the night is clear.

-Dan

#24 Skip

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Posted 23 May 2013 - 12:57 PM

Way to go Dan! I like it! :waytogo:

#25 Midnight Dan

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 06:53 PM

Made some progress this weekend, but not as much as I hoped. Lots of holiday activities got in the way. I think I made some decent headway though for a 61 year old working solo. Did have a little help from time to time from Mrs. Midnight when I had to lift some of the heavier pieces like the 12 foot 2x12s soaked with pressure treated juice. Thanks, Maureen!

Over the previous few days, I placed the 6x6 posts in the holes and backfilled them. That was LOT more work than expected. The dirt here is clay, and it had been spread around the site by the Bobcat, mashed thin by driving over it, and then rained on to make it a nice hard consistency when dry. Digging up a thin layer of compacted clay to fill in the holes was not easy!

Today, the first step was to cut the 6x6 posts to the right height. Also removed the sonotube from the pier:
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Next up, cut the notches in the 6x6 posts to receive the doubled-up 2x12 beam:
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... and here's the 2x12 beams installed and bolted to the posts:
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Spent the rest of the day adding the 2x8 joists on top of the beams. Still have to add the last joist where the pier is. It will not extend all the way across so I need to add some cross-pieces for it to end at. Also need to add the stairs.
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One thing I should mention - I had thought about perhaps using a 10" sonotube, but I'm VERY glad I went with the 12". The pier is sticking out of the ground about 5 1/2 feet, and you might think a 12" concrete pier of that length would be really solid. Well it is, but not quite as solid as I expected. If I put my left hand on the left side of the pier top and whack it on the other side with my right hand, I can feel a low frequency vibration for a short time. It's less than a half second, and it takes a good whack so I'm not too concerned, but I was surprised that it vibrated at all. Maybe the concrete needs to cure more or the ground needs to settle around it. We'll see.

-Dan






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