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The Little Owl Micro Observatory (on a balcony)

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#1 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 12:48 AM

Hi everybody, I think it's time to open an observatory topic on the build of my balcony observatory, so I can finally leave my gear setup and also have much beter views of the sky from east/south/west and missing only the northern skies, which are also the worst as that's where most of the city is situated with its accompanying light polution. I have made a 3D sketch in Google Sketchup outlining how my equipment will be sheltered. It will be a very minimalistic observatory, with the only goal to shelter my stuff from weather when it's not clear. My warm room will be inside the house, although I am considering including the control PC into the structure. One of the problems is that I can't fix my pier into the balcony deck, as it is covered with bitumen roofing, and I don't want to risk any leakage issues along the road. So that's way I have opted to secure the pier into the side wall of the balcony in a similar way as 2 Spanish astrophotographers have done here: Balcony pier #1 and Balcony pier #2. The structure will be 120 cm x 60 cm and something like 165 cm tall. Sketches of my situation and some images to illustrate my place. (The critical viewer will spot my mistake in the sketches, that is that my mount is point South rather then North, :foreheadslap:)

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#2 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 12:52 AM

Sketch #2

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#3 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 12:55 AM

Image of balcony from the backyard, with imaging rig setup for testing.

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#4 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 12:59 AM

Side view of the imaging rig on the balcony.

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#5 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:17 AM

As our house is part of a HOA (I read the other thread about HOAs in the USA, and luckily our HOA is nothing like that, whereas I'm am on the board aswell), I applied for permission to build this little observatory and to anchor it to the side wall of the balcony during our annual owners meeting last Spring and was granted permission. So first job to do was to remove the tiles from the West side of the balcony where LOMO will be situated and clean up the roofing. A dirty job done on a hot and sunny Saturday.

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#6 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:25 AM

As my budget is limited, I opted to save some money by not buying a commercial pier adapter for my NEQ6 mount, but to fabricate one myself from an old and used brake disk. It had to slightly modified as the central hole was a little narrow, and had this done at a local agricultural enginering firm and now fits the mount perfectly. Drilled mounting holes and a hol and thread for the AZ pin. Just needs to be finished with some hammerite paint.

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#7 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:34 AM

Another image with the mount on top.

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#8 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:39 AM

The pier and observatory will stand on an aluminium frame to distribute the weight over a large (1,80 square meters) area, and also add stability to the pier.

I visited a local metal company to buy me the Aluminium for the frame. The frame will be made from 1,50 m and 1,20 m sides (60x40x3 mm) and will have 2 support beams along the long side at 1/3 and 2/3 of the frame made up of 80x40x3 mm beams, which will also be fabricated into a mounting place for the pier.

The dad of a friend of mine has a co-worker that is able to weld aluminium and he fabricated the frame for me, and in return, he and his two sons will come and visit me when he observatory is finished to do some stargazing together.

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#9 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:40 AM

Frame welded up and test fitting the pier, which I got second hand from a local marketing sales site here in The Netherlands.

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#10 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:52 AM

Yesterday the real construction started, with placing the frame and pier. This proved a little problematic, as the frame wouldn't fit our staircase, so me and my dad had to pull it up to the second floor from the outside, luckily aluminium is very light and this wasn't such a hard job to do. Getting the pier up was, with its 55 kg weight. The pier has been adapted for side mounting by a good astro buddy of mine who welded the side extentions and fixings in place. Thanks again Gerard.

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#11 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:53 AM

Another image showing the mount fixed in place and to the side wall of the balcony. And I have to say,it feels rock solid, so mission completed on the stability, without the need/risk of getting nasty leakages due to fixing it to the balcony floor.

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#12 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:56 AM

Me and my dad also visited a local wood supplier and got all the beams and shiplap we needed and started construction of the wooden base frame and also the bottom half of the observatory frame.

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#13 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:58 AM

And with the lower part of the observatory frame fitted in place.

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#14 astrovirus

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 03:08 AM

I also grabbed a quick panoramic view of my skies from the balcony.

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#15 roscoe

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 06:18 AM

Astro,
Excellent use of your balcony! I like a lot your method of attaching your pier to the side wall to stabilize it, and I especially like your idea of a brake disc as a mount adapter!! I'll be borrowing that idea!
R
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#16 srosenfraz

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 05:10 PM

Looking really good, Tim - it sure will be nice to see you putting out some beautiful astrophotos soon!



#17 astrovirus

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 12:09 AM

Thanks Scott,

 

Hope our weather here will permit me to continue the build over the weekend, although sunday for now looks like a really wet day. I hope to put up the top frame (which is already standing assembled on our top floor) and roof, and maybe make a start on applying the shiplap. When it's all done, I will still need to create some light shield for the street light, as it still shines up to the balcony, so that will further improve my situation. I'm thinking of making a pvc pipe frame with some foil used to create pounds, which I'll probably will also use as a moisture barrier to keep moisture from entering the observatory from below the observatory, as the rain the fall on the balcony has to pass under the observatory to the drain pipe.



#18 MAURITS

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 01:29 PM

Very nice idea Tim :)



#19 astrovirus

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:35 AM

Thanks Maurits,

 

There has been some good progress this week, however photos will have to follow later on, when weather permits. The top frame has been constructed and moved from the backyard to the second floor, which proved quite the problem as it was too wide for our staircases. So we pulled it up by rope from the balcony. Yesterday, the frame was placed and the hinges installed, so the top can now flip open. I also installed the roof and I'm now ready to start applying the shiplap to the rest of the structure, which is something I can hopefully do in some dry hours in the evenings this week. The roof also need some finishings to be taken care off, and the back wall panel has to be constructed, but I will probably do that last. Electricity will then have to be installed, and after painting some of the remaining parts of the pier and pier adapter, my equipment can be placed. All looking very good at the moment.



#20 astrovirus

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 03:58 AM

So just managed to take some shots before Bertha's remains arrive with lots of rainfall forecasted.

 

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Edited by astrovirus, 10 August 2014 - 03:59 AM.


#21 astrovirus

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 03:59 AM

And some more, ready for Bertha now.

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#22 Starman27

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 08:05 AM

Really clever design and implementation. Can't wait for your first use report.

#23 hm insulators

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 10:31 AM

That really is a narrow little lanai or balcony! Makes the one outside my apartment look enormous. I sometimes like to put a black shirt over the light outside my apartment and get in a few minutes of stargazing with the binoculars. Great little set-up you have there.



#24 astrovirus

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 11:49 AM

So, more and more it is starting to look like an observatory (although a very small one).

 

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Made some small brackets to guide the top frame.

 

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Open view

 

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Shiplap nearly finished en attached a handle for opening, also constructed a foldable stand for when the observatory is opened.

 

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Finished the roof.


Edited by astrovirus, 16 August 2014 - 11:49 AM.


#25 MAURITS

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Posted 17 August 2014 - 05:53 AM

Tim, this is a very clever solution, congrats ...    :)








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