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Equipment Discussions >> Observatories

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Midnight Dan
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Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Dark Arts Observatory
      #5877031 - 05/21/13 10:05 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.


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.








-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5877050 - 05/21/13 10:19 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:


Weapon of choice for drilling 2-foot diameter holes .. a Bobcat mounted auger:


And of course, the very first hole had a large rock in it that stopped the auger in it's tracks!


Plan B - the excavator. Made short work of the rock, but left a MUCH larger hole for me to fill in afterwards. The rest of the holes went well with the auger - no further rocks!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


That's it for now. Will probably be a few days before I get back to this.
-Dan


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TheSheriff
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Reged: 07/15/07

Loc: Yellow n Green, Duck Country
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5877054 - 05/21/13 10:20 PM

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

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: TheSheriff]
      #5877064 - 05/21/13 10:24 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

Edited by Midnight Dan (05/22/13 06:55 AM)


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csa/montana
Den Mama
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Loc: montana
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5877096 - 05/21/13 10:45 PM

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

Quote:

so I went with B




Do you mean A?


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munchmeister
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Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5877152 - 05/21/13 11:25 PM

Subscribed !! Anxious to watch this build !

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Dr Morbius
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Loc: ManorvilleNY-but not for long
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5877226 - 05/22/13 12:30 AM

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

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AstroTatDad
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Reged: 04/22/13

Loc: Los Angeles - San Diego
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5877228 - 05/22/13 12:31 AM

Nice Dan, looks like fun. =)

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Tel
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: AstroTatDad]
      #5877285 - 05/22/13 01:21 AM

Good luck with the build, Dan !

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


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Tel]
      #5877411 - 05/22/13 04:03 AM

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

Regards. Peter.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5877449 - 05/22/13 06:57 AM

Quote:

Quote:

so I went with B




Do you mean A?




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


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Tel]
      #5877452 - 05/22/13 07:03 AM

Quote:

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


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MRNUTTY
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5877456 - 05/22/13 07:06 AM

"Dark Arts"I love that name!

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

Edited by MRNUTTY (05/22/13 07:10 AM)


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Starman27
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: MRNUTTY]
      #5877502 - 05/22/13 08:16 AM

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

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MHamburg
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Reged: 06/21/06

Loc: Brooklyn, NY/Berkshires, MA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Starman27]
      #5877559 - 05/22/13 08:52 AM

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


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: MHamburg]
      #5877608 - 05/22/13 09:27 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


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corpusse
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: AstroTatDad]
      #5877656 - 05/22/13 09:52 AM

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

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cpl43uk
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: corpusse]
      #5878417 - 05/22/13 03:47 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!!

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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: cpl43uk]
      #5879355 - 05/22/13 11:58 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..

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audioaficionado
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 05/24/12

Loc: Medford, Orygun, USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #5879398 - 05/23/13 12:28 AM

Subscribed:

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

Did you polar align the bolts?


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5879650 - 05/23/13 07:21 AM

Quote:

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!

-Dan


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audioaficionado
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Reged: 05/24/12

Loc: Medford, Orygun, USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5879975 - 05/23/13 10:53 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


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5880307 - 05/23/13 01:54 PM

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

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


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Skip
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5880318 - 05/23/13 01:57 PM

Way to go Dan! I like it!

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Skip]
      #5887776 - 05/27/13 07:53 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:


Next up, cut the notches in the 6x6 posts to receive the doubled-up 2x12 beam:


... and here's the 2x12 beams installed and bolted to the posts:


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.


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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audioaficionado
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 05/24/12

Loc: Medford, Orygun, USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5887784 - 05/27/13 07:58 PM

Are you going to put some skirting around the deck? If so, consider a good ground vapor barrier. Floor insulation with critter and vapor barrier if left open.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5887797 - 05/27/13 08:05 PM

Hi Steve:

Wasn't planning on skirting. I'm going to use composite decking (Trex or equivalent), and I was going to put some kind of screening under the observatory to keep critters out. In the observatory, I was thinking about putting those interlocking foam rubber tiles on top of the screening.

Sounds like maybe you've had some experience with this? Will the foam tile be enough of a vapor barrier or do you think I should add some plastic film under it? Also, what do you recommend for a critter barrier?

-Dan


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audioaficionado
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 05/24/12

Loc: Medford, Orygun, USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5887838 - 05/27/13 08:16 PM

Seeing that you're in NY, I'd definitely recommend a good R value insulation between the joists if you keep any part of the area warm. If you keep it at ambient then foam rubber tiles are good enough. Any kind of heavy wire cloth or mesh should keep mammals from burrowing in and nesting under the floor. Kept open then the only critters to bother with would be hornets or wasps in the summer.

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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5889102 - 05/28/13 02:41 PM

Dan,

Congratulations on the start of your new observatory. It looks like you have things well planned out. I look forward to following this thread. I'm hoping that a POD is in my future. Thanks for the great pictures.

Best,


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HunterofPhotons
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5889254 - 05/28/13 03:52 PM

Quote:

.... I'm going to use composite decking (Trex or equivalent).....
-Dan




Plywood would be the first choice for a professional builder.
The joists on either side of the pier are traditionally doubled, as is the associated headers.
Most builders put these in before the other joists or leave out the adjoining joists so as to have room to swing a hammer when doubling, etc.

dan k.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: HunterofPhotons]
      #5889272 - 05/28/13 04:05 PM

Hi Hunter:

The joists on either side of the pier are already doubled. Hard to see in the photo above, but there are two 2x8's on either side.

Not sure what you mean about the plywood. I've never seen a deck with a plywood surface. They all use 5/4 x 6" wood or composite like Trex. Since the deck is exposed to the elements, you don't want water pooling on the surface. Can you explain further? Thanks!

-Dan


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HunterofPhotons
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5889307 - 05/28/13 04:28 PM

Never mind. <g>
I went back to the start of this thread and I see that you are going to put a Pod on that deck. I thought you were doing a roll-off.

dan k.


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wormstar
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: HunterofPhotons]
      #5889558 - 05/28/13 07:01 PM

Dan- I suspect any movement of the pier when whacked is due to the disturbed dirt that you back filled the hole with.( it appears that this was done?) you could try compacting the dirt some more, or just dont wack the pier when imaging:)
We have a tendency to over think this stuff, think how much better off you are than using a tripod, and tons of people take great pics off a tripod.
Keith .


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: wormstar]
      #5889739 - 05/28/13 09:07 PM

>> We have a tendency to over think this stuff, think how much better off you are than using a tripod ...

Absolutely! That's why I said I'm not too concerned about. It just surprised me that a concrete pier 12" in diameter is not "rock" solid.

>> ... or just dont wack the pier when imaging:)

Now that sounds like good advice!
-Dan


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audioaficionado
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 05/24/12

Loc: Medford, Orygun, USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5889783 - 05/28/13 09:28 PM

It will cure for a month. Then it should be more rigid.

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hopskipson
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5895020 - 05/31/13 08:54 PM

Congrats on your project Dan and great choice of location! Good luck with the project. At least I can dream!

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: hopskipson]
      #5898465 - 06/02/13 08:40 PM

Lots of rain over the last week put the brakes on construction. I was able to get some work in yesterday and finished up the framing. I added the last joist and headers around the pier. Also put blocking in between the joists to stiffen the floor.

Finally, added the stair stringers. Took a LONG time to measure and cut them all. Now I have to get an appointment for the inspector to check it out before adding the decking. That should be pretty straightforward and take less than a day. Then It's just a matter of waiting for the Pod to arrive.



-Dan


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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5898480 - 06/02/13 08:55 PM

Looking good Dan.

The only place for an observatory for me would be my front yard, but I think my neighbors would have a problem with it. LOL


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Aquarist
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #5900249 - 06/03/13 05:50 PM

Looks really good Dan! I will look forward to additional pictures.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Aquarist]
      #5907551 - 06/07/13 09:24 AM

Nothing but torrential rains the last few days. But, the building inspector did come out yesterday in the middle of the rain and did the inspection. Thumbs up! Hopefully I'll get some more work done this weekend if the weather cooperates.
-Dan


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5908080 - 06/07/13 02:36 PM

Congrats on the successful inspection Dan. Hope the weather plays ball for you.

Regards. Peter.


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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #5908227 - 06/07/13 03:59 PM

Glad the inspector didn't find anything, Dan.. I can't wait for this to be finished.

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mikey cee
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #5908854 - 06/07/13 09:50 PM

Looks good Dan. Can't tell for sure but did you guys remove the extra 1-1/2" from your bottom step riser?? Most don't and end up with a larger first step which is always fun in the dark by the way. Mike

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: mikey cee]
      #5910470 - 06/08/13 09:36 PM

Hi Mikey:

I did compensate for the first step, but only by 1/2". I used 2x lumber for the bottom riser for stability. The other the risers will have 5/4 decking boards on their face so the difference between the two is 1/2".

-Dan


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tim57064
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Reged: 08/23/12

Loc: Southeast South Dakota,USA
Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5911066 - 06/09/13 09:55 AM

Dan, looking good. Hopefully the weather is cooperating better where you are than it is here.We have had Over 9 inches of rain here in the past week and the clouds have been unrelenting. Great for drought relief, terrible for astronomy. Clear skies to You.

Edited by tim57064 (06/09/13 09:56 AM)


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #5911138 - 06/09/13 10:59 AM

Hi Tim:

Yeah, can't believe how bad it's been! Rain through yesterday (Saturday), but looks like I'll have a break to get a bit of work done today, then rain predicted again for the next few days. Everything's soaking wet and even working today, I'll be slogging around in the mud.

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5912093 - 06/09/13 09:35 PM

Got most of the decking done today. Put the stairs and risers on and installed the posts for the handrail for the stair. Building code says it needs a handrail if there's 4 risers or more on the stairs.



Still need to put the last few pieces of decking in. These are the ones that need to get cut out to fit the pier. As I was looking at the area around the pier, it seemed like there was a bit too much space around it to properly support the composite decking, especially since there will be some thin pieces once I cut out the pier circle. So I added some extra bracing around the hole to better support the deck boards:



So far this has been fun, but other than the pier it's pretty much "Deck Building 101". Can't wait to get the POD and get into the actual observatory part!

Next step after finishing the decking is to get the final inspection. Yes, here in the great, over-regulated, state of New York, we need *three* separate inspections for a simple 12' x 12' square deck! No wonder our taxes are so high!

-Dan


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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5912126 - 06/09/13 09:53 PM

Looking really good, Dan. But that is crazy about the inspections. I would think that as long as it's not used for a living space, you wouldn't need an inspection.

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corpusse
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #5912764 - 06/10/13 10:39 AM

Quote:

Looking really good, Dan. But that is crazy about the inspections. I would think that as long as it's not used for a living space, you wouldn't need an inspection.




I'm shocked you needed it inspected to, or was it just for your own piece of mind?


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: corpusse]
      #5912852 - 06/10/13 11:32 AM

No, I've had enough experience building things to not need peace of mind inspections for such a straightforward project.

All decks are required to have inspections according to NY state building codes. They inspected the depth of the holes before the concrete was poured, then the framing, and a final inspection when it's complete.

Just seems nuts to me! The thing is out in the middle of a field and not anywhere near an occupied structure!
-Dan


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Skip
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5913051 - 06/10/13 01:06 PM

Quote:

All decks are required to have inspections according to NY state building codes. They inspected the depth of the holes before the concrete was poured, then the framing, and a final inspection when it's complete.

Just seems nuts to me! The thing is out in the middle of a field and not anywhere near an occupied structure!




Hi Dan,

You would understand if the deck was attached to a house. The state would have a legitimate need to ensure that a domicile which may be sold to someone else meets code. But, as you say, a deck out in the middle of a field???? Where is the state's legitimate interest in that? Talk about government overreach! Oops! Gotta be careful here that I don't get on a soapbox and violate the TOS!

Deck looks good and the observatory is going to be great! Good work, Dan!


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munchmeister
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5918965 - 06/13/13 03:11 PM

Quote:

Lots of rain over the last week put the brakes on construction. I was able to get some work in yesterday and finished up the framing. I added the last joist and headers around the pier. Also put blocking in between the joists to stiffen the floor.

Finally, added the stair stringers. Took a LONG time to measure and cut them all. Now I have to get an appointment for the inspector to check it out before adding the decking. That should be pretty straightforward and take less than a day. Then It's just a matter of waiting for the Pod to arrive.



-Dan




As a former framer, I just love a nice photo of a good sub floor with joists on 16". To me it is a thing of beauty and this looks super. The Trek decking is a nice touch, hope you'll keep us updated on how this works out in NY winters. Color me green !


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5919029 - 06/13/13 03:46 PM

Thanks, Doug!

The joists are actually 12" OC. Composite decking boards aren't as stiff as wood and they can feel a little spongey at 16" OC. Years ago, when Trex was the only brand around, they specified that it had to be laid down on 12" OC joists. Now it appears to be rated for 16", but I still think it feels a lot better on 12" centers. I probably could have gotten away with 2x6 joists at this spacing, but I decided to stick with 2x8's for the same reason - I wanted a good solid feel to the floor.

-Dan


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audioaficionado
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5919141 - 06/13/13 04:54 PM

What kind of lumber are the joists made of?

How weather resistant does it have to be?


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AstroTatDad
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5919492 - 06/13/13 08:29 PM

looking good Dan.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5919510 - 06/13/13 08:41 PM

Quote:

What kind of lumber are the joists made of? How weather resistant does it have to be?




All the lumber is pressure treated, although surprisingly it doesn't look like it! This stuff was green when I bought it, but after a few rains it it looks like regular lumber now!

I'm guessing that, when they outlawed the green chromated copper arsenate solution for pressure treating, the new stuff is not green. They probably added green dye or something as a marketing ploy so that it appears pressure treated in the store. It seems like the green color washes off pretty easily.

-Dan


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audioaficionado
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5919806 - 06/14/13 12:11 AM

As long as they don't poison the soil or rot it's all good.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5921124 - 06/14/13 07:30 PM

Installed the last boards on the deck and put some trim boards around the sides. Also added the handrail for the stairs because the code requires it.



Here's my pier plate. I designed this to use with my iEQ45, and had a local machine shop fabricate it. It's aluminum plate, with stainless bolts and pins. To save a little money on anodizing I painted it black myself.

Note that it's sitting on my 16 year old deck up at the house, which has a floor made from the original Trex brand material. No wood-grain look in those days. This stuff has really held up well, and no maintenance!



-Dan


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munchmeister
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5923048 - 06/15/13 11:39 PM

Beautiful !!!

Man I wish I had gone with Trex when I built my deck on the house. Maintenance is a PAIN.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5924193 - 06/16/13 06:07 PM

OK, I couldn't wait. Had to get the mount and a scope out there just to see what it looks like. This is my smallest scope, the EON 72mm refractor.







Now it's just a matter of waiting. I Have to get the final inspection for the deck, and wait for the Pod to arrive.

-Dan


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AstroTatDad
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5926361 - 06/17/13 09:12 PM

Cool Dan, you had to tease yourself huh!?

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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: AstroTatDad]
      #5926364 - 06/17/13 09:15 PM

Dan - Does the pier seem more solid since it has setup some?

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #5926647 - 06/17/13 11:57 PM

Yes it does. I can still feel a wee bit of vibration if I whack it, but it takes some serious whacking and I have to really pay attention to detect the vibration.

-Dan


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Qwickdraw
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5926913 - 06/18/13 07:20 AM

You know how funny that scope looks on the mount right?

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Qwickdraw]
      #5927051 - 06/18/13 08:54 AM



Yes indeed! BUT ... I will be using that scope on this mount from time to time. Although it will likely be along side another scope on a side-by-side setup.

Since I don't have the observatory yet, I had to carry everything out and back just to take these photos. I went with my smallest scope so I could get everything in one trip. You'll also notice there are no counterweights, no power, etc. Although I may not have needed counterweights with that scope!

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5927090 - 06/18/13 09:29 AM

Dan I do not recall, are you planning on a 12 volt system to power everything with a solar panel for recharging or will you be running 110 volt underground to the observatory? Guess I am to lazy to go back and read the entire post again.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #5927445 - 06/18/13 12:33 PM

I'm planning on 12V solar to start with. It's a pretty good distance from the nearest power so I don't plan on running AC any time soon, but I may change my mind down the road.

The idea is to run everything off of 12V and then if I decide to go with AC later on, I'll just get a hefty, well-regulated 12V power supply.

-Dan


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scopefreak
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5928231 - 06/18/13 08:41 PM

Hi Dan, that's really going to be a nice setup. I wish I had those horizons where my OBS is located!!

I really like the pier top where your mount attaches. You said you had that custom made? If you don't mind my asking, about how much did it cost you? I have an EQG on a Kens pier and with the C11, I am getting some vibration when slewing the scope, and it is also not very tight from the bolt having to be left a little loose when I originally put it together several years ago(due to having to adjust in AZ for PA).

Is that the iOptron mount? What is its load capacity?

You are doing a great job in building your "Dark Arts Observatory". Can't wait to see the finished product!!


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: scopefreak]
      #5928260 - 06/18/13 09:05 PM

Hi Kevin:

The pier plate cost me a little under $300 to have made. I was also looking at Dan's Pier Plates online:
http://www.pierplates.com
They make a pretty nice plate and it costs about the same as what I paid. I think mine's a bit heavier material, plus I used solid rectangular plates to connect the top and bottom parts, instead of bolts. I think mine might be a touch more solid, but I think Dan's Pier Plates would work just as well. Plus no messing around with designing your own, doing mechanical drawings, etc.

I did end up getting the 3/4" stainless steel J-bolt kit from Dan's Pier Plates. Those are the bolts sticking out of the top of the concrete. You'd think that concrete anchor bolts are pretty boring, basic pieces of gear. But I have to say I was rather surprised when I got them. They're very heavy duty and look like pieces of precision machining. Very impressive!

For the mount, I've got the iOptron iEQ45 with a 45 pound capacity. Of course, for mounts in this class the rating is for visual, not AP. Its a good idea to only load it up to 1/2 to 2/3 of the rated capacity for imaging. I'm going to try to keep it under a 30 pound load.

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5928264 - 06/18/13 09:09 PM Attachment (55 downloads)

In case anyone's interested, I've attached the drawings I provided to the machine shop for the iEQ45 pier plate.

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5928428 - 06/18/13 11:27 PM

The deck passed final inspection today! Woohoo!

To celebrate, Maureen & I just spent the last hour down at the observatory deck. Took a bottle of wine and the Megrez 90mm scope on the DSV-1 alt/az mount. Spent time sipping wine, gazing at the sky, and checking out the moon through the scope. Beautiful night, good company, good wine, and good views of the sky. Doesn't get much better than that!

-Dan


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corpusse
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 04/11/10

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5928444 - 06/18/13 11:36 PM

Sounds like a fun night. I thought you were going to say you smashed the bottle against the pier That would have been fun to clean up.

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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: corpusse]
      #5928724 - 06/19/13 06:56 AM

SWEET!! Glad it passed inspection. And glad you had a good night with the better half enjoying your new deck and viewing the heavens. Can't wait to see the pod sitting there.

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csa/montana
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5928864 - 06/19/13 09:42 AM

Dan, congratulations! Yep, it sure doesn't get any better than that!

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scopefreak
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #5928874 - 06/19/13 09:52 AM

Dan, thanks for the link. I'll check it out once I get back to my PC. I do most of my posting on my iPad 4 as its more mobile then my laptop. Go figure that one, right?

Anyway, I've managed to use the C11 on the Atlas at pretty high power with no vibration. Up to 315X using a moto focus on both the main focus and the EVH precision focuser. I estimate my load at about 32 pounds. Do you think this is too much for decent AP?

Glad to hear about the inspection going in your favour! Also your night sounds similar to mine as yesterday my wife of 25 years and I spent a quiet evening watching thunderstorms roll thru the area! The lightning was so bright at times you could almost read the paper!

How long till that pod gets there?


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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: scopefreak]
      #5929034 - 06/19/13 11:22 AM

Yes indeed, I'm waiting for the pod too.

Can't wait to see it on that beautiful deck.

Best,


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hm insulators
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Reged: 01/22/07

Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Agatha]
      #5929226 - 06/19/13 01:25 PM

Congratulations on passing inspection!

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: scopefreak]
      #5929292 - 06/19/13 01:45 PM

Hi Kevin:

I'm no expert on AP loads on the Atlas. But I would think that 32 pounds coupled with the long focal length of a C11 puts it a little on the edge. Keep in mind that there's no hard limit for the load, just what *your* tolerance is for frustration, non-round stars, etc.

A lot depends on how you use it. If you're using it at native focal length for planetary imaging, or with a focal reducer on long exposure imaging, its probably ok. It would be happier on a larger mount, but I think there are many who image with that combination.

The POD is supposed to be shipped late in June. However, depending on when it gets here and what else I have on my plate at the time, I may not be able to get it set up until several weeks later. I have a two-week trip coming up in mid-July and a lot I need to get done before hand.

-Dan


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audioaficionado
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5929379 - 06/19/13 02:17 PM

I'm surprised they didn't try and make you put up railing around your deck. At least they have some good sense considering your POD will take up most of the room on top of it and will act as the railing while you're inside.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5929597 - 06/19/13 04:08 PM

The rule on railings here in NY is that if the deck is more than 30" off the ground you need a railing. Originally, I wanted to go 3 or 4 feet up to get a little better height above the mists that can sometimes settle into that field. But when I found out about the railing requirement, I decided it wasn't worth the extra expense and time, so I stayed a few inches under the 30" limit.

-Dan


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audioaficionado
scholastic sledgehammer


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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5929649 - 06/19/13 04:39 PM

Well I would have taken the cheap railing off once the POD was installed LOL.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #5937167 - 06/23/13 09:35 PM

Since I'm waiting for the observatory, it seemed like a good time to install some fence posts. This is, after all, a horse pasture so I'll need something to keep the horses out. I've found that, no matter how much I plead with them, they just don't treat my equipment the way I'd like.

That's my tractor and post hole digger. As mentioned in the earlier photos, It's not real heavy duty and is fine for fence post holes, but would not have handled the 2-foot auger needed for the concrete holes.



-Dan


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Skip
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5938021 - 06/24/13 01:19 PM

Hey Dan,

Didn't know you were such a wimp! I always dug my fence post holes with a hand operated auger. Even dug a well with one once. Much younger then though. Probably couldn't get more than a few inches into the dirt nowadays!

That platform looks great. Can't wait to see it with the pod installed.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Skip]
      #5938084 - 06/24/13 02:02 PM

Quote:

Didn't know you were such a wimp! I always dug my fence post holes with a hand operated auger. Even dug a well with one once. Much younger then though. Probably couldn't get more than a few inches into the dirt nowadays!




It's amazing how the wimp factor increase with age! BUT ... As I get older I've found that heavy equipment is the answer to many of life's little problems!

-Dan


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Magellan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5939763 - 06/25/13 01:08 PM

nice job. I didn't get the same decking for mine. I was told to avoid it as it soaks up the heat of the day so I went with pressure treated. I too hired someone, but I helped where I could. I went with 4000PSI and had to be delivered by truck, just did it yesterday. It was nearly set in an hour! thickest concrete I have ever seen! The Pier was almost too hot to touch while it was curing! I just hope it stays put when I remove the braces tonight.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Magellan]
      #5940336 - 06/25/13 07:24 PM

Quote:

I was told to avoid it as it soaks up the heat of the day so I went with pressure treated.




The composite decking is much more dense than wood, and most of it is darker colored, so it will absorb the heat more. I went with the lightest color they had. Would have gone with white, but that was special order and MUCH more expensive.

But, even with the lighter color it heats up more than wood. On the other hand, from what I've seen in the past few days of 90+ degrees here, it seems to cool off pretty quickly too when the sun gets low. Everything's a tradeoff and I decided to give up a little in the heat-retention department in favor of no maintenance. We'll see how it works out.

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5952613 - 07/03/13 07:22 AM

Well, I didn't get the POD yet so the "end of June" estimate obviously didn't pan out. I'm leaving for a two week vacation soon, so I'm expecting it will now be end of July before the POD arrives.

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5953660 - 07/03/13 07:17 PM

What the frack? Do they build them as they are ordered or are they just so popular that they are behind in orders?I for one would be pulling my hair out.What little I have left.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #5953671 - 07/03/13 07:26 PM

Not a big deal. I've had this on order since December. The Skyshed folks let people know that the prices would go up first of the year (very nice of them!) so I and many others placed orders in December. But ... I knew I wouldn't be ready for it till mid summer so I told them to go ahead and fill other orders ahead of mine if that was convenient.

It appears that they have lots of orders and the factory, which also makes other products for other clients, batches them up to make a bunch which are then delivered. I let Skyshed know I was ready with my deck, but I think they probably already had enough in the pipeline that they didn't get to mine in the end-of-june batch.

Anyway, I've got enough on my plate that it won't kill me to take a break from working on this till it arrives.

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5953752 - 07/03/13 08:21 PM

Well you have been pretty busy the past month and have done a great job so far on what you have. Hope you can be up and running before too long.If you get any imaging done,will be nice to see what you post.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #5956096 - 07/05/13 01:20 PM

No observatory yet, and sooooo much rain here in upstate NY. Getting tired of no astronomy so I set up my mount today with my new ADM side-by-side plate, threw a bunch of equipment on it and practiced balancing the rig:



-Dan


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Raginar
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5957249 - 07/06/13 09:34 AM

I like the side by side plate.

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munchmeister
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Raginar]
      #5957718 - 07/06/13 03:10 PM

Dan, what is the item between the camera and that nice focuser? Looks like some kind of off axis guider but it looks like you have an autoguider mounted upper left on the RC. Just curious.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: munchmeister]
      #5958290 - 07/06/13 11:20 PM

Hi Munch:

Yep, it's a Taurus Tracker III off axis guider. And yes, that's also an Orion Miniguider mounted in the finder shoe. You caught me!

I was just throwing a bunch of equipment on the mount to play around with balancing with a heavy load. I wouldn't actually use it in this configuration. In fact, I'm not sure I'd actually even put the SV110 refractor and ATRC6 on the mount together. Between the two of them, the side by side hardware, cameras, guider, etc. it weighs in at about 35 pounds. That's an AP load that's pushing it a bit for a mount that's rated at 45 pounds for visual.

I may try it someday, but I'm more likely to use the EON72 or Megrez 90 for a guide scope alongside the ATRC6. The OAG is mostly for use with the C8 to help deal with mirror shift, although I have used with with the ATRC6 as well.

-Dan


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MHamburg
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5960243 - 07/08/13 09:54 AM

Dan,
Once you get the viewing guide focused to be parfocal with your imager (I found to be harder than it sounds), the TIII is a great OAG. Too bad Ron seems to have disappeared from the radar.
Michael


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corpusse
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: MHamburg]
      #5960333 - 07/08/13 11:02 AM

I'm surprised you are still using the stock focuser on the AT RC 6 don't you find it slips too easily?

The only way you'll know if your mount can carry everything in the picture is to try of course you probably don't need an OAG and a mini guider at the same time unless it's for balance.


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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: corpusse]
      #5960548 - 07/08/13 01:27 PM

Nice thing about the TTIII is that you can use one of the ports to slide in a diagonal mirror, for aiming purposes.

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: seryddwr]
      #5960692 - 07/08/13 02:54 PM

The TTIII is a great piece of kit and it's a shame that Ron's site has evaporated.

To be honest though, I've only used the ATRC6 a few times, and the same goes for the TTIII. One of the reasons for the observatory is that life has taken a turn towards the busy and the hour or so setup time plus tear-down time at the end has made it it very difficult for me to find the time to do much. The Observatory should help a lot with that!

I haven't had a problem with the focuser slipping, but I don't think I was imaging too close to zenith, plus I don't think my focuser load is all that heavy. The camera and TTIII weigh about 2.5 pounds together. I'm not using filter wheels or autofocusers or other accessories that add weight. Good to know that it's something to watch out for though!

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6065788 - 09/06/13 09:38 AM

Well, I finally got the email I've been waiting for. The Skyshed POD shipped! Hopefully that means I should receive it in a week or so. Hard to say though. People on the Skyshed POD Yahoo forum were saying that the last shipment got delayed at the US/Canadian border and some people didn't get their PODs for several weeks after the ship date. But at least I know it's on the way!

-Dan


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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6066008 - 09/06/13 12:10 PM

Thats great news Dan. I'll keep my fingers crossed its sooner rather than later.

Regards. Peter.


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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6068529 - 09/07/13 09:02 PM

Cool Dan!!! Can't wait to see it all setup..

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scopefreak
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6068987 - 09/08/13 07:55 AM

Good luck on receiving your pod. You've got a great site for it.

Edited by scopefreak (09/08/13 07:56 AM)


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: scopefreak]
      #6076560 - 09/12/13 09:04 AM

Just got a call from the trucking company that my POD has arrived in town! Woohoo! I scheduled an appoint for tomorrow morning to take delivery. Hopefully I can get it set up over the weekend. Can't wait!

-Dan


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csa/montana
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6076593 - 09/12/13 09:21 AM

Dan, how exciting!! We will be looking forward to pictures of it arriving and setup!

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: csa/montana]
      #6077179 - 09/12/13 02:34 PM

That's great news Dan. Hope all goes well with the installation.

Regards. Peter.


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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6078044 - 09/13/13 12:01 AM

Very excited for you Dan. Can't wait to see it.

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Agatha]
      #6078533 - 09/13/13 11:07 AM

Observatory arrived! An 18-wheeler showed up with the 4 huge boxes on 3 pallets:



Got the boxes stashed in the barn for now. Opened the one with the hardware in it. Boxes are clearly marked as to what's inside. The hardware box also includes the assembly "manual" which is a very detailed DVD video with assembly instructions plus tips.



And of course, the obligatory bad weather escaped from the box as soon as I opened it. I checked 3 different weather sites with radar maps and they all agree - there is NO RAIN within 50 miles of here. Guess they can't detect the observatory-induced curse!



You can find me indoors watching the video.

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6078549 - 09/13/13 11:18 AM

Congrats Dan.If it were me,I would be going nuts and say the heck with the rain and attempt to put together anyway.

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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6078883 - 09/13/13 02:57 PM

Congrats Dan!! But you know there is going to be a constant cloud over your place for about 2 or 3 months.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #6079931 - 09/14/13 08:07 AM

Well it rained all day yesterday off and on. Ground is saturated and there's mud everywhere. And the observatory deck is a good 100 yards of mud away from where the observatory is stored in my barn!

I had planned to load it, and tools, into my pickup bed and drive it out to the deck, but that's out of the question now. Carrying it out would be a two person job, piece by piece, with me and my wife as the two people. It's too far, too heavy, and my back is too bad for that to be viable.

The weather today and tomorrow is predicted to be cloudy and a high in the low 60's - not the kind of weather to dry things out quickly. I don't think there's any way I can get the observatory out there today. Just have to keep my fingers crossed and hope things dry up enough by tomorrow.

VERY frustrating!

-Dan


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Toml08
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6080062 - 09/14/13 09:48 AM

Dan, congrats on the new pod. All the wait will be worth it.

CS,
Tom.


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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6080107 - 09/14/13 10:22 AM

Aw, darn that rain.

Have a piece of pie. It'll make you feel better.



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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Agatha]
      #6082856 - 09/15/13 09:35 PM

Well, bit of a disappointing weekend. My back went out yesterday so on top of the wet ground, I couldn't work on anything let alone assembly the observatory.

After a visit to the Chiropractor, the back started to improve so I was able to get some work done today. My son stopped by this afternoon and lent a hand, but in the end progress was too slow to get the thing done.

At least the ground had dried up enough so we could get the pieces out to the deck. Only took a few photos. Most of the work was just assembling small parts on to the big parts. By the time we got the big parts out to the deck, it was dark and we were working with flashlights. The walls are up but the dome halves are sitting on the ground.

Supposed to rain more tonight and tomorrow. But since it's out there, at least when the rain quits I'll be able to get to work and finish it off. Won't have to worry about mud puddles any more!

Here's the horses wondering why this weird thing is in the middle of their pasture.



Before installing the POD walls, I stapled some window screen to the deck where the POD will be. That should help keep critters from getting in through the gaps in the deck floor.



After the screen, I added a ring of sill-plate sealing foam to keep moisture from migrating under the walls of the POD.



And here's a picture of my son helping me assemble the dome.



When the rain lets up, I'll try to get out there in the daylight and get some more photos of the installed walls.

-Dan


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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6083039 - 09/15/13 11:33 PM

Well, you have a great start. Deck looks beautiful as well as the prep work. Hope your back is better and dry weather comes your way soon.

It's fun watching your progress.

Best,


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Agatha]
      #6083339 - 09/16/13 07:04 AM

Pleased you were able to make a start Dan. Now that your back is improving, take it steady. Better it takes a little longer rather than you ending up crooked.

Regards. Peter.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6086974 - 09/17/13 10:37 PM

Got the dome installed tonight, mostly. Still need to do the final steps on the gaskets to seal it up against the weather. Also need to put in the floor tiles. And I'll have to get some solar power going in the days to come.

I thought about putting up pictures of the assembly. But the fact is, it's a kit observatory and one assembly is exactly the same as the next. In fact, the skyshed pod website has a 9 part set of detailed videos showing the whole thing. I didn't do anything different so if you're interested in how it goes together, click on the video link at the left of this page and scroll down to the assembly videos:
http://www.skyshedpod.com

Here's the POD installed on the deck:


And a view of the moon rising in the East from within the POD:


I'll post more photos as I get it outfitted, powered up, etc.

So far, I'm impressed with how well made it seems to be. Very solid and heavy duty, yet easy to open, close and rotate the dome. My guess is it will outlast me! Can't wait to finish the installation and get my gear set up!
-Dan


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Raginar
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6086983 - 09/17/13 10:43 PM

Awesome. Somehow do we automate it?

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Raginar]
      #6087001 - 09/17/13 10:49 PM

I haven't seen anyone come up with a way to automate opening and closing the dome. The rotation could be automated, but since it's a clamshell style (as opposed to a slit), you don't really need to move it much because it exposes half of the sky at a time.

-Dan


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T1R2
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6087310 - 09/18/13 03:50 AM

that is neat, so the little bump outs on the side, are those for storage, will foldup chairs fit in those fully opened and then can be pulled out to sit or pushed back in to walk around the scope and such?

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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6087312 - 09/18/13 03:56 AM

Looks beautiful Dan. You have a beautiful site.

Just curious...are those dents in the larger dome half and if so, do you know what caused them. Or maybe it's just the way the light is hitting.
Regardless, I love your POD and hope to have one someday.

Best,


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: T1R2]
      #6087426 - 09/18/13 07:46 AM

Quote:

that is neat, so the little bump outs on the side, are those for storage, will foldup chairs fit in those fully opened and then can be pulled out to sit or pushed back in to walk around the scope and such?




The POD can be ordered as a plain circular building consisting of 6 curved panels, one of which is the door panel. When you order it, you can order 1 to 5 POD bays, those bump outs, in place of the 5 non-door panels. I ordered all 5.

The circular part of the building is about 7 feet in diameter inside. That's plenty of room for the scope and a couple of people to move around in. But anything else tends to get in the way unless you have the extra storage space that the bays provide.

Each bay interior is about 40" tall, 30" wide, and 28" deep. So, if a chair fits in those dimensions, then yes you could certainly use a bay to store a chair. I'll be using a rolling stool so it should easily fit into a bay if I wanted to put it there.

I plan to use one bay as a laptop/power station. It will have a slide-out shelf with the laptop on on it, and batteries underneath. I'll use one for eyepieces and storing accessories and odds-and-ends, and one will be for storing the various OTAs I plan to use for astrophotography. That leaves me a couple of bays for the inevitable "other stuff" that will accumulate.

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Agatha]
      #6087429 - 09/18/13 07:49 AM

Quote:

Looks beautiful Dan. You have a beautiful site.

Just curious...are those dents in the larger dome half and if so, do you know what caused them. Or maybe it's just the way the light is hitting.
Regardless, I love your POD and hope to have one someday.

Best,




Hi Agatha:

The POD is made from a roto-molding process that does end up with imperfections. However, the light is hitting it at just the right angle here to make it look MUCH worse than it looks normally. Kind of like how the craters on the moon stand out at the terminator. Those aren't dents though, they are places where the dome is not perfectly round, and I think those are actually slight protrusions outward.

-Dan


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scopefreak
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6087437 - 09/18/13 07:57 AM

Well done Dan. You are really going to enjoy that. I almost went the same way but decided that a ROR best fit my needs. I don't have a lot of sky due to trees and my house so the whole roof off was a better fit. With those open skies of yours.......

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Starman27
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: scopefreak]
      #6087450 - 09/18/13 08:08 AM

Nice installation Dan. I like your raised deck. Looks like you have a great horizon, Enjoy.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Starman27]
      #6087568 - 09/18/13 09:25 AM

Since I didn't post pictures of the assembly, I just wanted to mention how easy it was. It took me a lot longer than expected but that was because of my back problems which caused me to work VERY slowly, take lots of breaks, and stop when it started hurting too much.

In general, it's very simple and straightforward to assemble. The dome comes in 4 quadrants which are bolted together into the two halves you see in the photo above. The larger one, the primary dome, has a metal plate along the bottom so that it rolls smoothly on top of the wall wheels. That plate (actually 4 plate segments) has lots of little screws that take a while to install. Then there's a rubber gasket called the L-gasket that's attached to the edge of the larger dome with metal plates, and creates the seal between the two dome halves. That also takes a little while to put all the screws in. And you need to add sealant to the joint between the two quadrants in each half-dome to keep rain from infiltrating.

So the dome is assembly takes the most time to complete, but it's simple stuff. Putting the walls up is very fast and easy. The 6 segments have interlocking pins and holes along the bottom edge that lets you just snap them together like legos. Then you add a couple of bolts at each wall joint, put the wheels along the top, and you're done. There are holes along the inside bottom of the walls that let you lag screw it to a deck, or stake it to the ground if you want to.

Once the walls are up, you just set the two dome halves on the walls, put the pivot bolts in, add a few wheel-brackets to hold the dome on, and you've got an observatory! Couldn't be much easier! Everything is pre-drilled with threaded inserts where needed. Building the deck and pier took way, way longer than building the observatory. You do need a helper because the pieces are large and unwieldy, but anyone with basic tool skills (and a functional spine! ) should be able to do the whole thing in an afternoon.

-Dan


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Agatha
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6087577 - 09/18/13 09:28 AM

Hi Dan,

Yes, slight protrusions is a better word. I'm glad that it's not damage.

I didn't realize that you have the 5 bay. It's always hard to tell unless one is taking a picture from above. How do/did you decide which direction to face the door? Does it matter at all and where is yours pointing?

Congratulations on a wonderful new POD.

I will have to join the Yahoo POD group too for many more questions.

It will be fun to watch the inside take shape. Have fun.

Best,


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csa/montana
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6087601 - 09/18/13 09:44 AM

Dan, Congratulations! You have a beautiful observatory, on a great looking deck! Oh, did I mention awesome skies!

Can't wait to hear about your first light report!


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Agatha]
      #6087767 - 09/18/13 11:13 AM

Quote:

I didn't realize that you have the 5 bay. It's always hard to tell unless one is taking a picture from above. How do/did you decide which direction to face the door? Does it matter at all and where is yours pointing?

... I will have to join the Yahoo POD group too for many more questions.




The prevailing winds in our area are from the west, so I positioned the door to the east. I just thought it would help in the winter time to keep driving snow from working it's way into POD around the door seal. Not sure if that's an issue, but that was my reasoning. The downside of facing east is that snow drifts build up on the downwind side of objects - right where the door is! So I may have more snow shoveling to deal with to get into the POD in the winter.

The Yahoo Skyshed POD group has lots of great information so if you're considering a POD, it's an excellent resource. But I'm also happy to answer any questions I can here, so fire away!

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: csa/montana]
      #6087792 - 09/18/13 11:22 AM

Quote:

Dan, Congratulations! You have a beautiful observatory, on a great looking deck! Oh, did I mention awesome skies!




Hi Carol:

Thanks for the good words! But I should mention that the "awesome skies" are an illusion It seems like most of the times when I've been taking photos of this, the skies have looked pretty good. While I do have an awesome view of the horizon in all directions, that horizon is normally filled with clouds. The number of clear nights in these parts is embarrassingly low .

The problem I've faced in the past is that life is busy, and clouds are frequent, and when a good night does come along, I don't have time to take advantage of it - especially if I want to do any AP. I'm hoping the observatory will help with that problem because setup and teardown times will be pretty much eliminated! But I'll still have the clouds to deal with.

-Dan


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6087870 - 09/18/13 12:06 PM

Hi Dan,
Your POD looks great. Well done. If you enjoy using it half as much as I enjoy using mine, then your on a winner.
I have prevailing westerlies most of the year ( Some North to North East in winter). For this reason I park my POD with the non opening dome facing West so that it takes the brunt of the bad weather. Seems to work as I have not had a single drop of water leak into the dome in over two years of owning it.

Good luck and enjoy.

Regards. Peter.


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munchmeister
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6088338 - 09/18/13 04:01 PM

Way cool !! Looks great and looks like you'll be having lotsa fun.

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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: munchmeister]
      #6088729 - 09/18/13 07:40 PM

That looks so cool. I am so jealous. Can't wait for you to give us a first lights report.

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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #6119803 - 10/05/13 11:17 PM

Dan, Hello, I've been wondering how you have been coming along with your new OBS? Have you placed your scope in it permanently yet? Has the weather co-operated enough to use it? Are you completely finished the installation? Just curious as I see you haven't had any additional posts for a while. Tim

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6120931 - 10/06/13 04:40 PM

Hi Tim:

Life got complicated! My division at my company got sold to another company. That means I officially retired from the old place (whether I wanted to or not), and got hired to the new company. My wife also lost her job which means she's "retired" and looking for another job. Seems like it's been a whirlwind of filling out forms, going to meetings, investigating options, doing financial planning, dealing with health care - just a TON going on!

I did get a scope set up in the observatory (my C8), but for the moment all I've had time to do is a few nights of visual. I have to say, it's REALLY nice to just go out there when the mood strikes (and when time allows), and just fire it up and go. And at the end of the night, I don't have to dread tearing everything down and dragging it all back in the house. IT ... IS ... WONDERFUL!

I thought I'd have a lot more done on it by now but as I said, things got busy. I bought a deep cycle battery and I installed the solar cells (a Harbor Freight special), but I haven't had time to wire things up. I've just been using a little NiMH battery pack to power the mount. I also got the floor installed.





Still LOTS to do. Need to get the solar panels wired, install some LED lighting, put some shelves in the bays ... it will take time.

Right now, I'm dealing with a leak at one of the pivot points. This is a common occurrence with new PODs and it usually just takes a little fiddling with the seals. So far, I haven't been successful so I have a post in to the POD Yahoo group to see if I can get some help.

I'll keep posting when I have time.

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6121352 - 10/06/13 09:30 PM

Dan ,Sorry to hear everything that is going on with the loss of jobs by both you and your wife.It is a good thing that you were able to continue working with your new employer though. Wishing the best of luck to you both especially your wife in her job search.

The Pod floor looks great and the solar panels also are a nice addition. I believe those total 45 watts do they not,15 watts each right?
I am sure you will figure out the leaking problem.

Again,best of luck to you both. Tim


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6131986 - 10/11/13 09:09 PM

Went out to the observatory tonight for a short visual session. Sky was cloud free and Clear Sky Chart looked good. Turned out to be pretty weak though. The moon was ok, but the seeing was pretty bad and everything was swimming. Plus there was a ground level mist that the moon was illuminating which pretty much washed everything else out.

I parked the mount and turned it off, closed the dome, and then ... something went horribly wrong. I looked around and realized ... there was nothing more to do! I kept thinking - there has to be more to it. But no. I could just walk up to the house and be done! Can it really be this easy? So this is what everyone means when they say that an observatory was the best accessory they ever bought. Unbelievable! Even a lousy night of observing is soooo easy, it's still fun - not frustrating!

OK, now I get it!

-Dan


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audioaficionado
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6132008 - 10/11/13 09:26 PM

Sweet!

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ben2112
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #6132139 - 10/11/13 10:28 PM

Very nice, Dan. Did you ever get the wiring done for the solar panels?

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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6132151 - 10/11/13 10:35 PM

Quote:

Went out to the observatory tonight for a short visual session. Sky was cloud free and Clear Sky Chart looked good. Turned out to be pretty weak though. The moon was ok, but the seeing was pretty bad and everything was swimming. Plus there was a ground level mist that the moon was illuminating which pretty much washed everything else out.

I parked the mount and turned it off, closed the dome, and then ... something went horribly wrong. I looked around and realized ... there was nothing more to do! I kept thinking - there has to be more to it. But no. I could just walk up to the house and be done! Can it really be this easy? So this is what everyone means when they say that an observatory was the best accessory they ever bought. Unbelievable! Even a lousy night of observing is soooo easy, it's still fun - not frustrating!

OK, now I get it!

-Dan



Dan, I cannot wait for my first encounter with the same feeling. Sooo excited and not too long from now.Maybe by the next new moon.
Congrats.

Edited by tim57064 (10/11/13 10:50 PM)


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: ben2112]
      #6132220 - 10/11/13 11:23 PM

Quote:

Very nice, Dan. Did you ever get the wiring done for the solar panels?




Not yet. That'll be tomorrow morning.

-Dan


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Bob Griffiths
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6132771 - 10/12/13 10:42 AM

Only thing I can add Dan is that you must be one heck of a SLOW LEARNER !!!!

Lack of both set up time as well as shut down time should be a no brainier...
rotflmao !!!!!
Bob G


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Bob Griffiths]
      #6132972 - 10/12/13 12:21 PM

Quote:

Only thing I can add Dan is that you must be one heck of a SLOW LEARNER !!!!




Well, you and my wife are now in complete agreement!

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6150065 - 10/21/13 03:31 PM

Since leaks are a somewhat common occurrence with new PODs, I wanted to post an update on my experiences with my particular installation. Note that the POD is a roto-molded plastic building, which means that there are large tolerances and quite a bit of variability from part to part. These are taken into account in the design, and the gasket system works pretty well to divert water to where it should be - outside the building. But there is a certain amount of fine tuning that is needed to ensure the best seal under all conditions. Many users report some degree of leaks initially, but with enthusiastic help from Wayne (company owner) and the folks on the POD Yahoo group, people usually resolve the leaks in short order.

In my case, I started with the "standard" assembly and application of gaskets and sealant. After some heavy rains, I did notice some leaks. This first photo just shows the overall area where leaks occurred, viewed from the inside of the pod. The dome pivot is at the top, and there was evidence of some water in two areas below that.



These next two show the leaks close up.




The first thing I did was to try and see where the water was coming in. My wife stood outside with a garden hose and I watched for leaks inside. It seemed like the water was coming in from the pivot area, where the two halves of the dome came together. Here's a photo of the original gasket installation, which was done per the instruction video.



There were a couple of issues I noticed. First, the gap between the halves was a lot larger on this side than the opposite side where no leak was occurring. Because of this, the gasket did not fully bridge the gap, especially on the rear side where it was open to water entering from that direction.




To address this issue, I used a leftover piece of the L-gasket material to add a gasket piece on the non-pivoting half of the dome. I also added a short piece where the vertical gasket piece met the conner. I figured I had cut the original one a bit too short.




While these extra gasket pieces don't make a perfectly water-tight seal, they did eliminate a large open access point. The second issue was what happened to the water that did get by the gaskets. There is a black foam seal applied to the edge of the dome hales that is supposed to angle downward towards the outside beneath the L-gasket. This should direct any drops of water that get by the gasket toward the outside.

However, after installing per the instructions, it seemed like there wasn't much of a downward angle on these pieces. In addition, when the two halves of the dome compressed the foam, parts of it bulged upward which provided spots where the slope was actually slightly towards the interior. To fix this, I removed the foam pieces and replaced them at a steeper angle:



After doing this, we had another heavy rainstorm. Much to my dismay, I had a lot MORE water in the same bay where I originally noticed water. In fact, when I used a turkey baster and sponge to pull the water out, it was nearly a half gallon!



Luckily, with a bit of sleuthing, the cause was found and easily fixed. Again, the garden hose came out. Now that other sources of potential leaks had been dealt with, it was easier to see the source of this one. As mentioned, tolerances on the parts can be large. The joint between the door section and bay section had a noticeable gap - larger than other wall joints. In addition, there is a "tab" sticking out from the bay wall section, which goes under the door wall section. This tab was sticking out a bit from the edge of the door wall, which provided a ledge for water to collect on and run into the gap.



This tab also has a socket molded into it, which receives the pin from the door section when the two are assembled together. Because of the molding process, these molded sockets are at the far reaches of where the plastic has to flow, so it sometimes ends up thin, or can even have a hole in the side. This is what happened here. With the gap in the wall, the ledge on the tab, and a hole in the pin socket, it provided a route for the water to get into the floor of the bay IF there was a storm with rain coming in at the right angle. Here's a photo looking down the edge of the bay, into the hollow area in the wall, and showing the pin socket. You can't see the hole because it's probably on the rear of the socket. But when water was sprayed against the wall joint with a garden hose, it appeared right there at the bottom of the pin socket.



The solution was simple - a bead of Lexel sealant along the outside of the wall joint.

I've had several more episodes of heavy rain since these fixes have been applied, and everything is now perfectly dry! Just want to thank Wayne and others on the Yahoo group for their help and suggestions for improving the water tightness of the POD!

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6150519 - 10/21/13 08:12 PM

Dan,It is good to hear that you were able to take care of the water troubles you were having. I hope that in the future they will not return for you.
I was wondering,if during the times of leaking,was your scope mounted on the pier,or anything in the bay that had the water? Hope nothing had any kind of damage.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6150610 - 10/21/13 09:12 PM

Hi Tim:

Initially, I didn't have anything on the pier. I had read enough on the forums to know that I needed to see how well it was sealed up before installing gear.

After the initial shake-down, I did install the scope and other gear in the bays where I knew there were no leaks. I've never really heard of anyone having leak problems in the center where the scope goes. The secondary dome has a ridge on it underneath where it goes inside of the primary dome, so any water that might get by the gasket on the main curve across the top of the dome gets channeled down to the pivot points. The pivot points are where most of the problems show up. The scope location is actually quite safe. But ... I still cover it with a cloth just to keep off dust and debris and anything else that might come its way when I'm not there.

As for the bay where the main leak was, I had a few items in there, but only things that would not get hurt by water, like a plastic step stool. No damage to anything at all from water.

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6156508 - 10/24/13 10:38 PM

Very glad to hear that nothing was harmed and that you are working out the minor kinks.

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6179048 - 11/06/13 11:34 AM

Update on the leak fixes:

Had lots of bad weather recently. Multiple, lengthy, rain storms, some with high winds, knocking down branches etc. Inside the POD - perfectly dry! Not a drip, not a drop, not a splatter! Success!

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6179057 - 11/06/13 11:39 AM

Also, I've started doing some mods to the POD. Pod-mods?

Anywho, first picture here is just one of the solar system installed and wired up. Not too exciting, just a single deep cycle battery and the solar controller that came with the Harbor Freight 45 watt solar panel kit. Very easy to install, and seems to work well:



The system also comes with two 12V compact fluorescent bulbs that plug into the 1/4" jacks at the lower right of the controller. For the POD, they provide plenty of light for those non-observing nights when you have other work to do in the observatory.

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6179098 - 11/06/13 11:59 AM

Next is my new "eyepiece case". As I began using the POD, I realized that there were some unique circumstances that required re-thinking of the eyepiece case ... and other equipment cases for that matter.

First, the POD bays are about 38" high, give or take depending on where you measure them. Initially, I had a small table in one of them with my eyepiece case on top. I found that I couldn't fully open the lid because it would bump into the ceiling of the bay. It became clear that a drawer system would work better than something with a lid because it wouldn't require any space above it to use it so it would make better use of the space in a bay.

I have several equipment cases with lids that could be replaced by a single drawer unit. Looking around, I found that a tool chest sold by Home Depot would be the best bang for the buck. These are sold by others online at around $200 or more for the exact same item with different branding. Home Depot had them for $129 - a steal in my opinion:
http://tinyurl.com/kejdff4

I bought this along with some rubberized tool shelf lining material and put it in the bay without the wheels or side handle:


When I installed it, I noticed a couple of things. First, I had placed it on a couple of 1x4 strips to span the ridges at the bottom of the bay. When installed that way, it tended to slide around a bit. In addition, it was several inches less in depth than the bay, so anything falling off the back would be nearly impossible to retrieve once the thing was full of equipment.

So, on the bottom, I bolted it to a piece of plywood that I cut to the shape of the bay. That stopped it from sliding around. I also screwed a piece of luan plywood to the back of it at the top, to act as a backstop to keep things from falling off the back. Here's a photo of the backstop:


One last thing I was concerned about regarding use of this case for eyepieces - humidity. My old EP case had a desiccant packet in it, but this tool chest had lots of holes in various places as well as gaps between the drawers and around their edges. I caulked the holes using silicon caulk, and used foam weatherstripping around the edges and on the bottom front edge of each drawer. I wasn't expecting an air tight seal, but if I could cut the air exchange down to a minimum, a large desiccant canister should keep the humidity under control. Here's some pictures of the weatherstripping:







More mods to come.

-Dan


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audioaficionado
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6179197 - 11/06/13 12:51 PM

Very nice pod mods. Especially the sealing mods of your storage cabinet.

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KenK
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: audioaficionado]
      #6179371 - 11/06/13 02:20 PM

When i first started reading this, I was like WOW he has a "Solar System" inside of his POD!!!

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: KenK]
      #6179475 - 11/06/13 03:16 PM



-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6180074 - 11/06/13 10:05 PM

Dan,It's good to hear of your continued success in sealing the pod.
As for your re assignment of a tool cabinet,Great idea.
I too liked your "solar system" pun.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6183095 - 11/08/13 02:39 PM

Couple more photos of the tool chest. I was going to build dividers or cut some foam to make the best use of the space, but decided that for the moment I'll just take the foam out of my old cases and put it in the drawers. Later on I'll reorganize. Should be a lot more usable space, especially because these drawers are deep enough to store most of the items, like the eyepieces, vertically instead of laying down.

But, you can see how much more space there will be. The foam piece here was in a Harbor Freight Tool case like this one:
http://www.harborfreight.com/18-x-13-x-6-aluminum-case-69315.html
It's not quite as wide as the original case. I had left a few inches on one side to store other small loose items. Here's the foam in the new tool chest:


I had another case, exact same size, where I stored my AP accessories. I tossed the foam from it in another one of the drawers in my new tool chest. To the right you can see the desiccant canister I'm using for the tool chest. I has perforations all around the sides, and a clear window on top to see what color it is. When it changes color, it can be put in an oven for a couple hours to recharge it. Here's where I got the desiccant:
http://www.amazon.com/Silica-Gel-Gram-Unit-Hydrosorbent/dp/B000MRCRNE/ref=sr_...



-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6183129 - 11/08/13 02:56 PM

Couple of minor door-mods.

If you look at the following photo, you'll see that the door's lock-bar goes through a hole in the plastic near the top of the door. That hole is quite large and is the only thing that keeps the lock bar in place. That allows the bar to flop back and forth within the hole and, if it has flopped towards the door itself (away from the interior of the observatory), then it bumps into the top of the door opening and you can't turn the door handle to close it. A simple solution to this is to put a piece of black, adhesive-backed foam, sold as weatherstripping, on the door itself behind the lock bar. That keeps the lock bar as far away from the door surface as possible at all times and makes it easy to latch the door shut.

The other minor issue I had is that the interior door handle is just a short, flat piece of metal. Being short, it takes some pressure to move it, and being flat whith hard edges means it digs into your hand when you put that pressure on it. I cut a 2" long piece of garden hose and slipped it over the handle. MUCH more comfortable to use now.

Both of these are shown in the following photo:


-Dan


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MHamburg
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6183286 - 11/08/13 04:57 PM

Dan,is that a Taurus Tracker III in your equipment box?
Michael


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: MHamburg]
      #6183444 - 11/08/13 06:33 PM

Yes it is.
-Dan


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csa/montana
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6183850 - 11/08/13 11:29 PM

Dan, Congratulations on the many clever "fixes" you made to your POD! I love your eyepiece "case"! Very well thought out, using the inserts from your old cases. Also all the weatherstripping you did to it!

You are giving me ideas about getting one of those tool boxes for my observatory, for my eyepieces and lights, etc. I could have everything in one place.


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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: csa/montana]
      #6184155 - 11/09/13 07:26 AM Attachment (10 downloads)

Hi Dan,,
Thanks for a wonderful thread. Your Pod-Mods will be a source of help for many owners, old and new, for years to come.

I also used foam backed sealing tape to keep the door rod in place. I needed to have the rod on the other side of the housing, so to speak, so I placed the tape on the "near" side. It has been in place now for 18 months or more with no issues.
As for the door handle, I first flattened one end of a small diameter length of pipe and pushed it onto the original. It has the effect of extending the handle and making it round, for comfort, at the business end. Like you, I finished it off with a piece of garden hose.
The stripped tape is an aid to locating the handle in the dark.

Regards. Peter.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6184299 - 11/09/13 09:46 AM

Hi Peter:

Clearly, great minds think alike!

I like your idea of extending the handle with the flattened pipe and I may do that with mine as well. Did you secure it to the original handle somehow? Or is it a press fit?

Also, what's the clip for at the top of the door with the string attached to it?

-Dan


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6184372 - 11/09/13 10:20 AM

Hi Dan,

The extended handle is a press fit with a little glue added "just in case". I found that to be the easiest way.

The clip over the top of the door is used to hold the door open. It's a flat piece of sheet alloy bent to shape. The "string" is in fact, elastic. It is just strong enough to hold the door fully open without putting any stain on the door hinge. The other end of the elastic is secured to a nearby shed. Securing it to a stake or fence post would serve just as well.

Regards. Peter.


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Mary B
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6184818 - 11/09/13 02:45 PM

Keep an eye on that charge controller, I had 3 of them go up in smoke.

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Mary B]
      #6185201 - 11/09/13 06:13 PM

Thanks, Mary! Good to know. Was there any particular circumstance related to their demise? Or did they just randomly decide to release smoke?

If it's just poor quality (hey, it is Harbor Freight), then if it goes I'll replace it with something from a reputable solar manufacturer.
-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6187445 - 11/10/13 08:05 PM

Added some shelving to the POD bays. On the SkyShed POD website, they sell a sliding shelf kit which is a lot nicer than what I threw together. But it costs more, especially including shipping, so I decided to DIY it.

A sliding shelf is very handy in a POD because of space constraints. It's nice to have something to put a computer on that you can slide out a bit so that it's easier to access when you're sitting down. But, you want to be able to push it back out of the way when you're not using it to allow freedom of movement in the POD if you're swapping scopes, working on the mount, or doing visual observation.

The main challenge with sliding shelves is that the bays taper to the rear. You can't just attach drawer slides to the sides of the bay because they're not parallel. The solution is to make wedge shaped supports to attach to the walls of the bay.

I cut these on a table saw and they were a pain in the neck to get right. I did a second sliding shelf and decided to use a flat piece of wood with a small block attached to one end to simulate a wedge. I don't have any pictures of the second attempt, so here's one of the wedges attached to the bay wall:



I attached the wedge by drilling through the wall of the bay, and using a stainless steel screw from the outside into the wood wedge. I used rubber washers under the heads of the screws to seal the openings against water infiltration.

After installing the wedges, I attached the slides and added a second piece of wood on the inside part of the slide for the shelf support. This piece is the one that the shelf will be screwed to. I made sure that the shelf support piece was about 1/8" higher than the wedge so that the sliding shelf would not rub on the wedge when moving in and out.



I cut a piece of 1/2" plywood I had laying around to the shape needed for the bay, and put a small 45 cut at the front corners so that when it's pulled out, I wouldn't have to worry about bumping into sharp corners. I painted the shelf white for better visibility at night. Here's a photo with the sliding shelf pulled partially out



And there you have it! In the bay at the left you can see two more shelves. The top one is a sliding shelf and the bottom one is not.

-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6187575 - 11/10/13 09:23 PM

Dan,What a great way to make use of what you have available for space.Excellent job.

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Starman27
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6188175 - 11/11/13 08:54 AM

Nice work on those shelves. Gives me something to think about for my POD.

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Mary B
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Starman27]
      #6188929 - 11/11/13 04:04 PM

No warning, smelled burnt electronics and no charge to the battery which is bad. Poor design on the Harbor Freight controllers. Morningstar makes fairly low cost charge controllers, if you can afford it MPPT will gain you 15-20% more charge per day.

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Mary B]
      #6188946 - 11/11/13 04:12 PM

Thanks for the tip! Good to know about a brand that you've had good experience with. I'll be sure and look at those if (when?) mine goes belly up. Harbor Freight is pretty low-end stuff so it wouldn't surprise me that, if you went through 3 of them, mine won't likely last long either. We'll see what happens!

-Dan


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6189350 - 11/11/13 08:07 PM

Rope light installation:

After getting feedback from another thread, I decided to install red LED rope lights to illuminate the POD during an observation session. I wanted something that would provide even lighting, illuminate from above so that I could see into eyepiece cases, drawers, etc. and be adjustable to provide very dim lighting when needed.

Red LED rope lights seemed to fill the bill along with a cheap PWM (pulse width modulation) dimmer that I got from Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/nxdx9j4

The main problem with rope lights is that the illumination is from individual LED which is essentially a string of point sources that are very bright, even though the overall illumination produced is dim and diffuse. I wanted to mount them in such a way that they would cast light without blinding me with the point sources.

My POD model has 5 bays and one door panel, which is actually very helpful in doing what I want. The bays have a channel at the top that I could put the rope lights into so that they are behind the edge of the wall above the bay. To get the rope lights from one bay to the next, I drilled holes in the wall cavity where the two bays met. Here's a photo looking up into the channel from below. You can see the rope light going off into the distance and going through a hole into the next bay:



I used plastic cable clamps to attach the rope light to the interior of the channel with a nut and bolt. Here's a photo of the outside of a bay, showing the three bolt heads just above the bay opening. Otherwise, you cannot see the rope lights at all:


The only place where this approach didn't work was for the door panel. This panel has no access to the space between the inner and outer wall layers, so I had to run the rope across the interior face of the panel just above the door. I drilled some holes in the face of the adjacent bay panels to route the rope through them to the face of the door panel. I thought this might be ok, but when I powered up the lights I found that I REALLY didn't like the glaring points of light from the exposed rope.


Taking a trip to Home Depot, I found a piece of plastic plumbing pipe that would fit over the rope lights. I used my table saw to cut a strip off the bottom, leaving a little more than 50% of the diameter of the pipe in place. I slipped this over the rope lights as a shield, and used larger plastic cable clamps to attach it to the face of the door section. I had cut it longer than the door section so it would completely cover the rope lights where they went into the adjacent bay panels.


Voila! This worked well! I was able to shield my eyes from the direct glare of the LEDs, while still allowing most of the light to indirectly illuminate the door area. Here's a photo of the illuminated bays, and the door section:



Note: for these photos, I had the LEDs turned up to full brightness. During actual use, it will be a lot more subdued.
-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6189425 - 11/11/13 08:41 PM

Wow what a great post.Love the lights and what you did to install them.
Makes me want to get mine put up.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6191790 - 11/12/13 10:40 PM

By the way, I purchased the rope lights here:
http://www.atlanticmarineinc.com/products/LED-Rope-Lighting.html

Several things I liked about this particular brand. First, they're 3/8" diameter instead of the more common 1/2". That made them more flexible, and easier to install in tight locations. Using a 1/2" drill for the holes and 1/2" I.D. pipe for the shield provided plenty of clearance for the rope.

Also, they're sold by the foot so I could get just the right size for the POD. I ordered 22 feet. And they sell the sealed end cap and connector cap/cable for the two ends of the rope. That makes the ends water-tight and keeps out humidity and moisture. Should make for a longer life and higher reliability.

But, of course the downside of all this was that they ended up quite a bit more expensive than your average rope lights.

-Dan


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BYoesle
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6197184 - 11/15/13 08:56 PM

Very nice Dan, I'm considering this lighting route as well, as opposed to the multicolor LED tapes -- but no final dicision yet...

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: BYoesle]
      #6197232 - 11/15/13 09:24 PM

Hi Bob:

I've been following your build. Gorgeous!

Since you have straight walls, I'd consider Carol's installation of rope lights where she used a wooden moulding to cover the lights and direct the light downward. I think hers is near the floor, which is great if you just want to illuminate the floor and make sure you don't bump into things. I prefer the lights to be higher up so they cast light on charts, drawers, etc., but you could still use the moulding idea.

-Dan


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BYoesle
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6197850 - 11/16/13 09:45 AM

Thanks Dan,

I've already installed some traditional light fixtures in the warm room for both red and white CF's, but feel the ropes would be a good addition both there and in the observatory proper.

I really like your implementations for lighting, storage, and especially that you're off grid for power!


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csa/montana
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: BYoesle]
      #6197915 - 11/16/13 10:33 AM

Bob, great job on the rope lights! Really looks very nice!

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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: csa/montana]
      #6322308 - 01/19/14 02:15 PM

Been waiting for this one last piece of the observatory. A sign for the door! I designed this and sent it in to an online provider to get it laser-etched into a stainless steel plaque. Now it's an official observatory!



-Dan


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tim57064
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6322435 - 01/19/14 03:23 PM

Very Nice Dan. What company did you use?

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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: tim57064]
      #6322469 - 01/19/14 03:38 PM

Thanks, Tim. I used this website:
http://www.plaquemaker.com/Metal_Plaques.html

Turned out to be a bit more expensive than I thought. The plaque is 8" x 2 1/2" in size, on 11 gauge stainless. Those notched corners cost an additional $15! I probably should have left those off. I did want it on relatively thin-gauge metal though because the outside of the POD is curved and the plaque would need to flex to match. Anyway, cost shipped was $69. Seems like a lot for what it is.

But, they do a good job. They can make one from your text specification with your selection from their font list, or you can provide your own artwork. If you provide artwork, then of course you can use whatever fonts, sizes, styles, etc. that you want and just include that as part of the "image". That's what I did.

-Dan


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6324023 - 01/20/14 12:16 PM Attachment (8 downloads)

Thats a really nice looking name plate Dan. The cost matters not if you are pleased with the result.

I made my own. Total cost 3 ($5) I'm a poor man you see.

Regards. Peter.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6324226 - 01/20/14 01:45 PM

That's an excellent sign, Peter! Did you make that? Whoever did has a lot more talent than I do!

-Dan


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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6324377 - 01/20/14 03:16 PM

Shucks..I bet you say that to all the boys.

How are you liking your P.O.D Dan? I hope its meeting all your expectations. Have you tried out your Zenith table yet?

The weather continues to prevent any night-time observing here in the U.K (over a month now) so my P.O.D stands idol.
Hope things are better in your neck of the woods.

Regards. Peter.


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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6324404 - 01/20/14 03:29 PM

We're in the winter doldrums over here too. In my neck of the woods, mid November through Mid February tends to be one big sea of clouds. We do get an occasional break which invariably lines up with a night that already has a social engagement scheduled, or when the winds are 40mph, or the temperature is below 0F.

So, I've had nearly no use of it so far. There have been a couple of nights where I got an unexpected break for an hour or two and was able to take a peek. It still amazes me how easy it is now to take advantage of those short windows of opportunity! As for the PZT, the only time I've used it so far is to demo it to a friend.

But most of the time that I have available I've spent working on outfitting the observatory since there's no view of the sky. I've been wiring up the power and USB, hooking up surge protectors, installing an inverter so I can have a wee bit of AC power, installing AC outlets and PowerPole outlets for the 12V wiring, etc. And of course ... mounting the sign on the door! Lot's to do, but it's coming to an end now and I'm itching to actually use the thing!

-Dan


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ZR1
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6324704 - 01/20/14 06:06 PM

Very nice observatory. You have really customized it throughout. Makes me want to look into this.

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Peter9
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6325604 - 01/21/14 07:30 AM

Hi Dan,

Seems like we are suffering your "winter doldrums" over here too. I agree with you on the quick viewing option an observatory gives. My viewing time has increased greatly with "quickies" being a large part of it. ( could be letting myself in for it here)

I have been doing a bit of winter maintainance, it helps to pass the time. I've oiled all the rotation wheel along with the door hinge and the door lock. Also washed the dome and walls inside and out and swept and mopped the rubberised flooring.
The telescope didn't miss out either, tripod cleaned and oiled where appropriate along with the mount. Optics checked but no action was needed in that department. So I'm all ready to go come the clear skies.

Good luck with the rest of your preparation Dan and May your skies clear soon (an early Feb)

Regards. Peter.


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Midnight Dan
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Peter9]
      #6336919 - 01/26/14 03:27 PM

One more post I had to add to this thread. People often ask me how my wife lets me get away with spending so much on my hobby. The answer is illustrated quite clearly in the photo below, as well as is the key to a happy marriage:




-Dan


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JJK
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6337525 - 01/26/14 08:29 PM

Quote:

One more post I had to add to this thread. People often ask me how my wife lets me get away with spending so much on my hobby. The answer is illustrated quite clearly in the photo below, as well as is the key to a happy marriage:


-Dan




That looks about right. For decades, my CFO got the exclusive use of the master bedroom closets. I hung my sparse clothes collection on the closet doorknobs (I am not kidding).


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Joe Bergeron
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Re: Dark Arts Observatory new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #6339303 - 01/27/14 06:00 PM

Considering the equipment they have to buy and maintain, and the setup time, $69 seems quite reasonable to me.

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