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Equipment Discussions >> Observatories

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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

Loc: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Brainstorming dream obs which will become real!
      #5597482 - 12/31/12 07:42 AM

First some background. I have a 6x8 roll off observatory I built myself via skyshed plans. It's not the greatest construction wise but certainly works and has for the past 2 years. I live in the suburban white zone. I have been imaging for a little over 3 years and in this time I've seen the milkyway just a handful of times and imaged for a dark site maybe 3 times.

Well my parents just purchased a second home on st joesph's island in northern ontario. About 100km away from sault ste marie, which itself only has a population of 75k. There are 2k on the island and 4k during the summer. According to the light pollution map the house is actually in the GREY zone! bordered by blue. I just came from visiting the island today and while it was clear during the day 100% cloud cover at night but it was the first time in forever I've seen dark clouds not orange ones like here. Getting back to the observatory there is a workshop on the property which is quite big and already has electricity. It's 2 stories tall which helps with tall trees, but it's also near a lot of trees. They have no intention of using it and have granted me permission to do what I want with it. It's probably not in the ideal location but the extra height might help. They are also not opposed to a small pod type observatory on the property if that works better.

I'm looking at either constructing it this summer or next summer depending on cost. I'm actually thinking I will take a second job as I'm currently working afternoons since I'm sure this is going to cost more then I think. 2 jobs one of which happens at night so I can image at night, I must be crazy..

Now the problems. This is a 7.5hr drive from my home. Only 1hr flight + 1hr drive which I can certainly do several times a year. My Dad will be basically going there every weekend so he can check on things and bring back any data. The only internet options are satellite internet which is a 1 megabit download and 128kbps up. Basically a little better then dial up. Would this work for automation? I'd have to have the sky cam send a picture every minute or so to minimize bandwidth. The alternative would be an AT&T 4g data stick. I'm not sure if they will sell to me in Canada but MI is just across the water and in the house we roam to AT&T. 2-3 bars so a data stick certainly would work it's just a matter of if they allow it to be used in Canada via US tower.

Alternatively faster internet by a Canadian ISP is tentatively available in august 2014. They are supposed to build another tower then. If remote is impossible before better internet I could just get everything ready for then and save up the funds.

Here is the "workshop" North is the direction of the trees behind it. The house itself faces south.



Somewhere in front of the house is where I could put a small pod. Facing the house from where the picture is taken is north. Where I'm standing when I took this pic is a cove that leads to lake huron. The house is on 3 acres! No street lights, no industry on the island nothing. Venus is probably the second greatest source of light pollution! From my current observatory I can read a newspaper without light.







So what do the experts think? I should be going back there in a month or 2 and hope to bring with me a mount to do some trial imaging. Earliest I expect to start on this is in the summer maybe june or july, I won't be digging my own pier again it was hell here, I can only imagine there where the houses don't even have basement because of the rocky ground. thanks and happy new year!


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Midnight Dan
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5597621 - 12/31/12 09:51 AM

Wow! Looks like a fabulous site!

You don't specifically say, but with your talk of internet access, is your goal to have a remote controlled observatory so you don't have to travel there to do your observing and AP?

Also, you mention putting a pod in front of the house. Have you considered putting it on top of the workshop? You could build a small deck on the roof and put the pod on that. That would get you higher in relation to the tree-tops.

-Dan


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roscoe
curmudgeon
*****

Reged: 02/04/09

Loc: NW Mass, inches from VT
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5597724 - 12/31/12 10:57 AM

Nice spot, you're lucky!

I'd vote for a pod-type obs......with that open view, you've got plenty of sky available, and the logistics of putting in a pier, and keeping gear nearer the ground, are much simpler than building a 2-story pier in the workshop - though there is an old thread about a fella who did just that, and has a quite-nice opening roof in the top of his garage, and a concrete-block pier that holds his scope.

As far as internet access, if you can use a phone without a problem, then you might as well try data....if the powers that be don't like it, they'll let you know, but if you ask first, they might say no to start with. as long as you're paying for access, what side of the pond you're on shouldn't matter......
Russ


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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: roscoe]
      #5597731 - 12/31/12 11:02 AM

Quote:

I'd vote for a pod-type obs......with that open view, you've got plenty of sky available, and the logistics of putting in a pier, and keeping gear nearer the ground, are much simpler than building a 2-story pier in the workshop




+1. Hard to say what problems one would run into trying to renovate an old building into an observatory. Problems = money.


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1965healy
The Snarkster
*****

Reged: 06/23/07

Loc: San Antonio, TX
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5597754 - 12/31/12 11:18 AM

BYO built my Woodlawn Lake Observatory by punching a hole in my garage and building me a 10x10 ROR. You can find the thread by clicking on my profile. They are pros at this so it went pretty quick, 3 days. Old building, nothing plumb or square was no problem for them. We designed the whole project via emails. CN posts and a couple of phone calls. While I appreciate the thought that a pro builder may mean a bit more money than going DIY in the long run the fact that it is done quickly, done correctly and they've been there and done that more than once more than makes up for the cost. They can set you up with everything from plans/parts to DIY or to a complete turn key remote controlled observatory.

You've got a GREAT site to work with BTW, lucky dog!


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StarWrangler
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 09/03/04

Loc: Three Rivers, MI U.S.A>
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5597985 - 12/31/12 01:33 PM

Wow,

Whish I had a site like that,

Check out the link below my name for a
wide variety of designs, and soultions.

Alan O.


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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

Loc: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: StarWrangler]
      #5598444 - 12/31/12 05:43 PM

thanks for the initial ideas. As this is a long term project I will continue to update.

The workshop is near some tall trees and they may or may not obscure polaris. Hopefully not and it will remain an option. Further down the property there is plenty of open space for a mostly open sky.

If there was so much as a cashier job I'd move there myself. There really is no industry at all. Some seasonal maple syrup collection a few mom and pop restaurants and a general store. It's very scenic with wild turkeys and deer. Apparently there are bears but the real estate agent who lives on the island has seen 4 in 6 years and they were all from a distance.

He told me he just sold one house but it's conditional on the buyer getting to try the "high speed" internet for a day first. I do want to be able to do remote operation but in person use will be fine at first as long as it's easily upgradable in the future. I currently own a CGEM and a CGE. I know neither are exactly a high end robotic mount but I will bring one of them up there on my next trip, likely the CGEM since I don't have a tripod for my CGE. Eventually I can just do planetary imaging from here and everything else from there. I may even get into observing. I bust out my plossols for a view of Jupiter and Saturn about twice a year and maybe Uranus once. There really isn't much point observing here.

Another interesting fact is the war of 1812 started just a few km from the house! It's also the second largest freshwater island in the world.


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StarWrangler
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 09/03/04

Loc: Three Rivers, MI U.S.A>
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5598636 - 12/31/12 07:41 PM

Wow " war of 1812 " that's really cool,


Alan O.


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1965healy
The Snarkster
*****

Reged: 06/23/07

Loc: San Antonio, TX
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: StarWrangler]
      #5598711 - 12/31/12 08:33 PM

The great thing about Polaris is that it pretty much stays put. When we built my Obs I had a clear view of it for alignment of the CPC 800 scope/wedge on the pier. Since then the neighbors 75' pecan tree obscures it most of the year. I check the alignment when the leaves fall off it, nothings moved in over 5 years. The CG5-GT/refractor/newt/DSLR mount hasn't budged either. I read somewhere about a guy who mounted a "fake Polaris" on a pipe when a building was being constructed to the north of his Obs. Sounded silly but apparently it worked out for him.
You're at the dream/imagine phase so enjoy exploring all of your options. That workshop looks like it's handled the climate well for a number of years, if it has power it may just be a good place to start.


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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

Loc: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: 1965healy]
      #5688689 - 02/19/13 11:20 AM

I've now been to the site twice. Once during a new moon where I saw more stars then I ever have. Seeing M42 naked eye ect. Just a few clear hours but it was great.

This past weekend was 1st quarter moon and even with the moon it was darker then it ever gets here. M42 in binoculars was great. Did some imaging got alright pictures. It was -25c so didn't do too much adjusting as far as gain / offset and I think I had the offset too high. Still happy with results as it is a learning experience.

Anyway I have been setting up near the workshop for the simple reason there is about 2 feet of snow everywhere that wasn't plowed. There were some obstructions but overall it's a pretty good spot. Getting up to the second floor and then some in the workshop would eliminate a lot of those obstructions. I wouldn't have to drill into the ground for the pier too. Just make a large base on the concrete floor. It would be a super tall pier but I have seen others do them here.

A pod type building on the other side of the property may still be an option but just thinking about how hard it will be to get to in winter has me thinking this is the way to go. I probably will wait 1 year to begin construction but I want to plan this perfectly. Who knows maybe in the fall or summer I will end up starting.

Here are some pics of the building in it's current state. It needs some work obviously but anyone care to guestimate how much it would cost to cut a hole in the roof and put an exploradome type dome on top (excluding dome cost). I would like to try and figure out a ballpark number before I get contractors involved to avoid sticker shock. I'm thinking with the roof being triangular I'd have to build it up a few feet, which would then increase the height above the trees then place the dome on top.





The upstairs in it's current condition





uh oh



The stairs are very scary and likely need to be replaced going up and down is tricky...



downstairs



I could also setup my refractor and take telephoto pics of these guys



Sorry about the fish eye pics, I did not have a wide enough lens to take pictures of the inside other then the fish eye.

Here is one of the house with M42, Jupiter, M45, the 1st quarter moon among others over top



So what do you think it would cost to cut a hole in the roof and do something like this

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/attachments/1282050-Gene-Tetzlaff%27s-...

Once the observatory is complete I could continue to renovate the building.


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JJK
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 04/28/08

Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5689017 - 02/19/13 02:38 PM

I'd suggest either doing a double ROR at the top of the workshop, or better yet, make a new freestanding ROR observatory (perhaps 10'x10') roughly near the workshop).

Is the electricity run to the workshop rated to handle the new load?


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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5689103 - 02/19/13 03:34 PM

Perhaps get some quotes from someone in the area?

BTW; that night photo would make a fantastic Christmas card!


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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

Loc: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5689172 - 02/19/13 04:07 PM

There is no one in the area I think there are one or 2 contractors on the island for example. The plumber we hired is also the electrican on the island and the fire chief!

The point of building onto this building is its higher then a new building. I have a 6x8 at home and it was hell to build but functional.

The workshop has its own circuit it should be more then fine for a camera mount and computer plus a few other minor things. After Allan's power tools plus a large stereo were previously used. Even if it has to be upgraded that's cheaper then starting from scratch.


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JJK
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 04/28/08

Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5689973 - 02/19/13 11:33 PM

Quote:

There is no one in the area I think there are one or 2 contractors on the island for example. The plumber we hired is also the electrican on the island and the fire chief!

The point of building onto this building is its higher then a new building. I have a 6x8 at home and it was hell to build but functional.

The workshop has its own circuit it should be more then fine for a camera mount and computer plus a few other minor things. After Allan's power tools plus a large stereo were previously used. Even if it has to be upgraded that's cheaper then starting from scratch.





I would guess that marrying new construction to old (and fixing the old construction) would take more skill (and more thought) than building a rectangular ROR building (I've done the latter). Also, a much shorter pier would be more stable.

Finally, if your folks ever sold the place, it'd likely be easier to do so with a simple outbuilding that could be construed as a shed, instead of a dome atop a workshop.

Just my 2 cents.


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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5689977 - 02/19/13 11:39 PM

Quote:

So what do you think it would cost to cut a hole in the roof and do something like this




Problem is, there's no way of knowing what a contractor would charge you, until they see the building, so it's almost impossible to even give a ballpark figure. Materials, etc., varies in pricing from location to location, also.


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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

Loc: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5690008 - 02/20/13 12:07 AM

I have built the skyshed. I have a 6x8 roll off now. I found it very difficult as I had no experience. I certainly would do a better job the next time, but the building at ground level would face a lot more obstructions and the cost of building a comfortably sized one say 10x10 or even bigger would likely be more then cutting a hole in the roof and adding that small addition. When factoring in the dome I think that would be the only thing that could push it over.

Not even a ballpark figure? $500? $5000? more? I do know labor there is cheap the plumber charged just $40 an hour for labor you'd never find one anywhere near that cheap here. I can do a lot of the other fixing up. I just want a professional to cut the roof and build the little add on. I probably will have to wait until spring / summer to get a quote. Most people there don't even use the internet so it's not like I can email them pics..

As far as worrying about resale factor that's not even a consideration. They will never sell the place and even if they did I would be first in line to make an offer. It also would not put a serious dent in the resale value. The waterfront property on 3 acres with a nice 3 bedroom house that needs relatively little work cost less then a 1 bedroom condo that you'd be lucky to get a 4x6 balcony of outdoor space would cost here.


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1965healy
The Snarkster
*****

Reged: 06/23/07

Loc: San Antonio, TX
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5690071 - 02/20/13 12:58 AM

Having had a ROR roof top Obs built I can tell you that it's not as simple as just cutting a hole in the roof and putting on a dome or roll off, especially in your case where you have snow. I used BYO to build mine.

You can use your SkyShed ROR plans to generate a bill of materials and then figure out prices as far as lumber etc. The pier will be the number of 4 block courses you'll need to reach the finished floor height plus the cost of cement and the steel pier at the top. The cost of the dome and ring vary by size and mfg.

Contact BYO, they can steer you to what you need to do this properly. I'm pretty sure Scott has, or can modify, plans that will accomplish your goal.


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JJK
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 04/28/08

Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: corpusse]
      #5690205 - 02/20/13 05:22 AM

Quote:

I have built the skyshed. I have a 6x8 roll off now. I found it very difficult as I had no experience. I certainly would do a better job the next time, but the building at ground level would face a lot more obstructions and the cost of building a comfortably sized one say 10x10 or even bigger would likely be more then cutting a hole in the roof and adding that small addition. When factoring in the dome I think that would be the only thing that could push it over.

Not even a ballpark figure? $500? $5000? more? I do know labor there is cheap the plumber charged just $40 an hour for labor you'd never find one anywhere near that cheap here. I can do a lot of the other fixing up. I just want a professional to cut the roof and build the little add on. I probably will have to wait until spring / summer to get a quote. Most people there don't even use the internet so it's not like I can email them pics..

As far as worrying about resale factor that's not even a consideration. They will never sell the place and even if they did I would be first in line to make an offer. It also would not put a serious dent in the resale value. The waterfront property on 3 acres with a nice 3 bedroom house that needs relatively little work cost less then a 1 bedroom condo that you'd be lucky to get a 4x6 balcony of outdoor space would cost here.





Given that you don't have sufficient design and carpentry skills to either build a new ROR observatory from scratch you likely aren't up to designing and constructing a modification to the existing workshop at your parents' place. Thus, you'll need to hire a professional for the job. As there are very few professional contractors in that part of the world, will they accept such a small job? Since we don't know the real cost of labor there, the cost of materials there, and the true scope of the work (fixing an old building takes longer than one imagines), it's hard to guess what the project would cost.

However, some of the real cost drivers include: the kind of pier you will use (can you get away with a tripod on the second level floor, do you need a 2-story concrete pier and if so, do you need a 4'+ deep foundation for it), how large an opening you need, whether a ROR or Dome will be added (a commercially made dome would likely be more expensive), whether the roof trusses can take the extra load of a dome, whether the opening provides the views you want (determined by the pitch of the existing roof; the height of the walls and the distance between them and the telescope/mount center), etc.

Part of the problem with putting the observatory in the workshop's 2nd floor is marrying new construction to old. That kind of carpentry takes time, which generally translates into money (at least near Washington, DC).

Without going too far out on a limb, I would guess that $500 would be insufficient. However, if you really want a quick and dirty solution, and can live with a very low tech modification to the existing structure that would be relatively inconvenient to use (and that might not be weathertight), you might get by with that cost. After having skimped on building a ROR observatory, I wouldn't recommend doing that.

If it were my project, I'd want make the entire second floor span the width and length of the building (it looks like that's currently not the case). I'd also refurbish part of the workshop to function as a warm room. Those would add to the cost of the project.

If you want it done right, it might take half a day to reframe/brace the roof trusses near where the cuts are to be made, a day to cut the metal roof, a day to frame/trim the opening, and several days to a week to make the ROR structure. Then there's the time to make a concrete block pier (about a week). Thus, my guesstimate for labor would be 2 to 3 weeks (80 to 120 hours). At $10/hour that's $800 to $1200. At $20/hour, well, you get the idea. Also, do the local contractors charge for the time they spend getting materials to the job site? Getting material up two flights adds time to the job.

Assuming no disasters are lurking in the workshop's attic (i.e., the existing construction is sound), the cost of lumber might be under $500, roof sheet metal might be a few hundred dollars. Miscellaneous screws and other hardware latches), perhaps $50. You can look up the cost of concrete in that area.

If I was up there, I'd help you. Please keep us informed of the cost estimates and the progress of the job!

Edited by JJK (02/20/13 05:40 AM)


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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

Loc: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! new [Re: JJK]
      #5690500 - 02/20/13 09:52 AM

Thanks guys. Now I'm starting to get an idea, which was my initial hope. Since I am not on site and it is the dead of winter I can't really get real estimates but I'd like to have an idea of what I am getting into and don't want to rush into anything. The planning I'm doing now and suggestions I get here will go a long way to a successful observatory that will be in use for many decades to come.

I can't imagine concrete being much more there then here. There is actually about 4 or 5 bags left behind by the previous owners in the workshop already not that that would even make a dent in making a 2 story pier. The city of sault ste marie is about an hour to an hour and a half away and they have home depot and all the other hardware stores there. There is one lumber store on the island.

As far as a contractor not wanting to take on this job, I don't think it's that small also with a population of around 2,000 their job options are quite limited. Again the only example I have thus far is the work we had with plumber but he did quite a bit and only charged 4hrs labor and his parts charges were cheaper then when we priced out buying the items ourselves. It's well water there and we were having a problem with sulfur smell coming from the water..

Personally I really like the exploradome option. I know the dome and future automation will add several thousand dollars to the cost but imo this is nicer and perhaps more practical then roll off. It's too bad I can't find the build thread for the observatory pictured in the link above. Automation would likely be at least 2 years away due to the fact the only internet option right now is a signal booster to get 3g from nearby michigan. Eventually there will be a Canadian cell tower there but it's current estimated completion is august 2014. It's funny if I want to send a text in the house I type it first on airplane mode turn on the service and I get my carrier and 0 bars for about 10 seconds then it roams to AT&T at 3-4 bars.

I would imagine making the entire top floor a roll off which be a much larger expense and a much larger project. I don't have the exact floor size but it's larger then a standard 2 car garage. As nice as something of that size would be I'm not sure I require that. 1 Pier, computer and a few misc equipment. Of course with a larger roll off I could add more mounts even if they were on tripods but I can always bring out another mount if I am imaging on more then one setup anyway.

As far as the warm room and other things I am confident I can do at least some of that work myself even if I have to invite people up there and surprise them with a labor camp when they arrive Right now still planning but leaning very heavily to the dome in the roof just want to figure out what it's going to cost in the ballpark.

I will be going back for the march new moon and will hopefully pick up a shopvac and get rid of those yellow jacket nests before they come out of hibernation and clean up the misc junk up there. There is no garbage pickup at the house but instead you have to bring the garbage yourself to the dump. It's a completely different world. A perfect world for observing / imaging less the cold cold winters.


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JJK
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 04/28/08

Re: Brainstorming dream obs which will become real! [Re: corpusse]
      #5690647 - 02/20/13 11:12 AM

My note about expanding the attic was a concern that the scope might not be usable from certain angles.

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