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Fairhavens II


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Fairhavens II

My last article was an overview of Fairhavens, my first dedicated observatory, along with its untimely demise.  It is now five years later and I am ready to try again.  As is revealed in my first article, the wife and I had to move back into town (Tucson) as a result of a medical problem (Kidney transplant) that required she be closer to a hospital, and a legion of doctors.  She is much better now and, other than a wheelchair, is destined for a normal life, albeit in the aforementioned town.

I have downsized my new astrophotography gear to a Celestron AVX mount with an Orion 8” Ritchey Chretien telescope.  Because of my own problems (I am really old and bent) I needed to find a way to permanently mount my gear outside.  BTW, my favorite quote is by Keith Richards (You old guys remember him) when he said, “If I’d a known I was gonna’ live this long I woulda’ taken better care of my body!”.  So, the search began.  The ground in the backyard of my rented home was not a typical hard-baked smooth adobe typical of Arizona surface, but rather a mix of gravel, rocks, weeds, and bugs.

Being a rental home I could not build a permanent structure (I couldn’t afford one anyway).  So, I started looking for a temporary structure that would protect my gear from the elements and still leave room to move about.  First place I always go is Cloudy Nights classifieds and looked under Observatories.  Of course, anything I could have used was already sold.  I then went to Amazon and found this gem.

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SpaceAstronomy.com

It became a candidate when I found the price to be less than $300.  Planning began in earnest and I bought it sight-unseen.  My planning was no different than pretty much all of my previous projects, the key word being ADAPT!

As is typical of unimproved Arizona dirt there was the attendant population of “Goatheads”.  For those not initiated, a goathead is a disgusting little weed seed that consisted of a tiny ball populated by an abundance of spikes sticking out.  They gleefully stick to the soles of your shoes only to be easily dislodged in your carpet.  The simplest (cheapest) way to form a barrier is “Pea gravel”.

I decided to dig a foundation to contain the gravel during our Monsoon rains here in Arizona and started the digging.  The depth of the walkway was determined by the hardness of the dirt.

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The tent dome was eight feet in diameter and had four entry doors.  For a few consecutive nights I stood in the backyard like a Do-Do bird at night with my eyes about telescope level to locate the center of the eight-foot diameter tent and drove a spike into the ground to mark the center.

I then marked a three-foot walkway from the back patio to the edge of the eight- foot scribed tent footprint and began digging.

 

In case I had not mentioned previously, I was a Psych Major so had little or no math background.  That, by the way, was a bit of a hindrance. During my years working in the Mirror Lab at Steward Observatory I gained the rudiments.  I took my two-dimensional sketches to the local landscape yard and had them calculate how much gravel I would need at three inched deep.  It worked out to be about one and a half tons.  Seemed like a lot to me but I figured if it were too much I could find somewhere else to use it.

I thought that digging the walkway and eight-foot circle was a big enough problem until a large dump-truck showed up and vomited a stack of pea gravel on my driveway.  Umm, how do I get it to the back yard?  Ace Hardware is only a few blocks distant, so I ran down there and bought a flat-nosed shovel and the cheapest wheelbarrow they had.  At that point it still had not occurred to me exactly who was going to pilot the wheelbarrow.  At that moment the light went on over my head and I remembered that my thirty-five year-old son was living with me temporarily!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is a great asset in many ways.  But having spent a substantial amount of time in Iraq as a Light Infantryman, his back was not in great shape.  So, between the both of us, it took a few hours to move and level the gravel.

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I was beginning to smell victory at this point.  Actually it was just Tylenol.  The work ended long before the day and we retired to the den with ice water, a ceiling fan, a couple of Tylenol and a wide-screen TV.

DAY II

It was time now to start assembling the observatory tent.  The floor of the tent was heavy fabric but still needed to be protected from the pointed feet of the mount.  Back to ACE where I bought three concrete fence caps to use for protecting the mount feet from puncturing the tent floor by sinking into the pea gravel.

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I took my AVX mount outside and positioned it facing magnetic north using my cell phone.  After getting it positioned, I slid the blocks under the legs and removed the mount.   I scribed the position of each block and dug the pea gravel down to the hard earth and replaced the blocks while smoothing the pea gravel back to the edge of the blocks.  I was now ready to install the tent.  Since the tent has four access openings it was easy to orient the floor.

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As you can see, I marked the position of each foundation block with yellow duct tape before placing the AVX mount inside the tent.  From this view we are looking south with east to the left.  Since east is my target area, I placed the tent facing this direction.  As I mentioned previously, the stakes that came with the tent are the usual short aluminum sort that will work on wet lawn, but certainly not on desert dirt so I went back to Ace Hardware and bought a box of 12-inch-long heavy nails which worked perfectly.  It was now time to start populating the tent.

 

 

 

 

 

As is evident, there is plenty of room for both the mount and the RC telescope.  This structure will easily fit an 8 -inch f/4 reflector as well.  The small table in the background supports my laptop, Ipad, and cases to store cameras in when not in use.

The Orion 8-inch RC height is adjusted to clear the edges of the tent walls so I have access to the east from nearly the horizon to the north and to the south.

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The roof of the tent is a cap that is held in place by both velcro and nylon straps.  It takes about five minutes to remove or replace the roof.  Two days after finishing the project we had a late Monsoon storm roll through.  There were high winds, lightening, and horizontal rain.  The structure held up perfectly with no leaks or damage of any kind.

The total cost for the whole project was $450 and about a gallon of sweat (Arizona heat; it’s a dry heat)


  • nightowl, Bob Campbell, JMP and 34 others like this


37 Comments

spaceastronomy.com is showing up as a URL for sale, the name under your photo.

Great article and fun to read. I have one question, What is the name of the tent that you bought?

    • CRAZYeye29325 likes this

 You could also build a cheap wooden and block structure, circular and use and old fiberglass satellite dish as a dome. I have a 10.5 ft dome on my observatory spinning around on cheap stainless steel bearing from Amazon. I have photos in one of the (show me a pic of your observatory) forums.

    • kongqk likes this
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fn_asptgp24105
Nov 01 2021 08:09 PM

This article came at some great timing. I've been spending the past couple of days trying to find something like this to have my scope "permanently" outside but also avoiding the direct sunlight (even with the cover, that doesn't help much). As asked above, where did you grab this? I can't seem to find it on Amazon.

 

Also - did it come with the floor tarp or did you buy that separately? 

    • Bob Campbell and ChrisCharlesJax like this

i believe is http://store.smartastronomy.com/

 

spaceastronomy.com is showing up as a URL for sale, the name under your photo.

    • BFaucett and DaleEh like this
Explore scientific telescope tent. Available at amazon

ebay has this tent: 299

Awesome

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the_chemist
Nov 02 2021 12:12 PM

any idea how it will hold up in the sun? 

    • Bob Bunge likes this

The tent is a ClearView Observatory Tent

I gotta ask, what does the landlord think of the 1/2 ton of gravel in his backyard?

Great article and fun to read. I have one question, What is the name of the tent that you bought?

The name is listed under the first picture.

 You could also build a cheap wooden and block structure, circular and use and old fiberglass satellite dish as a dome. I have a 10.5 ft dome on my observatory spinning around on cheap stainless steel bearing from Amazon. I have photos in one of the (show me a pic of your observatory) forums.

At 75 my construction days are over!

This article came at some great timing. I've been spending the past couple of days trying to find something like this to have my scope "permanently" outside but also avoiding the direct sunlight (even with the cover, that doesn't help much). As asked above, where did you grab this? I can't seem to find it on Amazon.

 

Also - did it come with the floor tarp or did you buy that separately? 

Comes with  a floor but it is advertised as a temporary structure.  My yard is so protected I thought I'd take a chance.

    • fn_asptgp24105 likes this

any idea how it will hold up in the sun? 

Better than the wind.

    • JMP likes this

I gotta ask, what does the landlord think of the 1/2 ton of gravel in his backyard?

I've lived here for two years and have had no support from the Landlord.  I doubt that some pea gravel on top of desert dirt and rocks will make much difference.

    • Mike McShan and Dupree like this

Great little read.  I like the first-person-suffering dialog.  I could really relate to the part where you "stood in the backyard like a Do-Do bird at night with my eyes about telescope level."  This was me too, on more than a few occasions.  In my case, I was looking to center my SkyShed POD, but I can certainly relate to your situation.  Luckily, we don't have goat-heads in the part of Southern Ontario where I live. Hope your new observatory gives you hours pleasing views of the night sky.

    • CRAZYeye29325 likes this
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Travelmonkey
Nov 02 2021 07:00 PM

I have this tent anyone want it ??  $250 shipped brand new! i set it up 1 time

    • sabersix likes this
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gustavo_sanchez
Nov 03 2021 09:03 AM

It was a very fun read. Thanks for sharing.

Great article and fun to read. I have one question, What is the name of the tent that you bought?

Search for "ClearView Portable Observatory" The name is not under the first picture.

I believe the tent comes in many names depending on your region. In the US it's ClearView Portable Observatory. It's been sale for as long as I've seen it on smart astronomy.com. The European rendition of the tent is called Omegon Tent Observatory from Omegon.eu. And in Japan Tomita used to sell their version too as Hoshimaku.

I think they're all basically the same OEMed. I think this seems fine for small scope imaging, and mid sized scopes for visual but maybe less suited for mid sized scope for imaging as it's not tall enough for sheltering from the wind.

Kudos to the op for the effort to build and share here!

All the best for your significant other.

 

Andy W.

    • Bob Campbell likes this
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rocketman266
Nov 04 2021 06:51 PM

Great article. I think most of the southwest has those obnoxious weeds. I walked to a dark site in my flip flops on nite (105° f) air temp when I felt these pains like little needles in my foot soles. At first i couldn't figure it out however upon closer inspection revealed about 10 goat head in each sandal.

Just to add,  thank your son for his service, and clear skies ahead.

No you you have me thinking what could I set up that would fit a zero gravity chair.

 

Andy W.

How is the durability of the floor regarding tripod legs and exam chair legs?

 

40+ pound mount and tripod with 15-20 pounds of scope on it.

 

155 pound person sitting on the chair.

 

I have the Explore Scientific one and is has no floor at all which I really like but it is a little small and would consider this larger tent.



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