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Cosmic Acres!

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#26 tim53

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 04:10 PM

Yep, we're in good shape equity-wise. I usually don't believe zillow's estimates, but they were within 100K of the appraisal we got for our HELOC to buy the property in Josh. In the month since the appraisal, Zillow's estimate jumped another 100K. Our house is a LA City Monument and on the national register of historic places (built by Judge Hatch in 1887). We would like to hang onto it, maybe even let our kids have it after we're gone (if they can maintain it and want to), but it's nice to know that we've got enough equity in it to live large in a place like Joshua Tree or Milford, if we have to.

-Tim.
PS. I just got an email that escrow closed and we own the lot!

#27 tim53

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 01:56 PM

Hokay, so now it's ours (along with the responsibilities!).

Here's the aerial view of the lot, screen grabbed from Zillow.

Does anybody here use sketchup or some other freeware application for designing their observatories? I'd like to get started!

-Tim

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#28 tim53

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 06:38 PM

So, outlines of a couple of 10x12 rolloff roof footprints. Gotta be cheaper if you build two, right?

We spent the night out there last night. The neighbor, Rick, brought over his C 9.25 Edge HD on a CGEM mount, and we gee-whizzed some of the brighter DSOs (since the moon is at first quarter).

-Tim.

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#29 tim53

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 10:11 PM

We've got a number of small Joshua Trees on our lot, but only a few that are very tall, and none that are really big. This is one of the bigger ones, on the coner.

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#30 tim53

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 10:16 PM

This is as "permanent" a setup I've had so far! A table and 2 chairs, on the actual ground outside the van! On the table is a pair of outstanding Selsi 7x50 wide field binoculars (my current favorites) and my Panasonic Lumix GF3 camera (in the case). I didn't bring a scope with, since it was first quarter moon. But our neighbor, Rick, brought over his C 9.25 (noted above).

-Tim.

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#31 Skyshooter

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:02 AM

Hey Tim, really enjoyed your posts as they brought back a lot of memories. I live in Cedar City now but used to live in San Diego growing up. We would go to Joshua tree and I'd take my 10" Cave newtonian. It was in the mid 70's and we'd have the place all to ourselves. I'm glad to hear that JT is still a good bet for observing down there in CA. I'm happy to be here in Cedar though. It's a hop skip and a jump to some really dark skies for me. I've also got some property in Paragonah that I may use for an OB when I can hopefully retire someday! Best wishes for your new site... Enyoy while you can brother...

Ed

#32 csa/montana

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:01 AM

on the actual ground


But it's your ground! How exciting for you to start realizing your dream!

#33 tim53

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:03 AM

Hi Ed:

I love Cedar City. We go through there on our way to our Milford property about 3 or 4 times a year. I was going to build an observatory outside Milford, but since I don't get there very often, I figured something within a couple hours would make more sense, at least until I'm fully retired. Milford skies are a lot darker than Joshua Tree's, but they're still pretty nice in Josh. One thing I noticed on this trip, though, is that the regional east-west airline routes do run across the sky to the south of the zenith, so astrophotography is probably going to include the not-so-infrequent "boeing meteor" trail. All the more reason for short subs, huh?

-Tim.

#34 tim53

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:12 AM

We've got a number of small Joshua Trees on our lot, but only a few that are very tall, and none that are really big. This is one of the bigger ones, on the coner.


I forgot to mention: This picture was one of the first I've ever taken with my Panasonic Lumix GF3, with an adapter to fit my old Konica lenses, and a 50mm f/1.7 Hexanon lens on it. That's not a big deal to a lot of people, perhaps, but it is to me - since the early 1970s, I had accumulated a few interesting lenses for my Konica film SLR (Autoreflex TC), and I was really bummed when the winding mechanism stripped it's teeth in the early 1990s, because I loved those lenses. Now, I not only can use the Konica lenses again, but my Exakta lenses as well, since I bought an adapter for those too.

Anyway, this image was taken with the Konica 50mm lens, wide open, to narrow the depth of field around the Joshua Tree and throw the rest of the scene out of focus.

My only complaint about this camera (well, there are others, but this is the biggest), is that it doesn't have an electronic viewfinder, just the LCD screen. And so I have to hold the camera far from my 60 year old eyes to focus. I didn't pay a lot for the camera, though, so I may add one that does have an EVF.

I do have a Canon T1i as well, but I'm not impressed with the Canon zoom lenses, and the body is too deep to take an adapter.

-Tim.

#35 tim53

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:19 AM

Another cool thing about spending the night out there, including a few hours of observing:

We're on the NE corner of an intersection between two dirt roads, right? Well, we're near the north end of Larkspur (only two houses up the hill from us to the north, and one of them is currently vacant most of the year). While we were there, maybe 4 cars came and went. 1 of them was Rick's wife going out on an errand and then returning, and another was the neighbor to the east coming home. The other was the neighbor to the SE, and he drove with his parking lights on (I doubt he did it out of a courtesy, because he didn't know we were there and he's kind of an "unusual" sort, to be polite). Well, the edge of the dirt pad blocks headlights from a ways down the road, and especially while people are making the turn onto Wagon Wheel, even from the middle of the pad. So headlights were even less of an issue than I thought they'd be.

There are lights out in the valley, of course, but they're not obnoxious. At least I don't find them so. And when we do build a cabin, it'll be between the observatory(ies) and the valley, so will block the lights even more.

-Tim.

#36 tim53

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 10:52 AM

Okay, folks!

It's time for me to get started building something. It's getting hot out there in the desert, so I'm considering either building something in sections in my yard at home so I can dismantle it and haul it out in my pickup. Or, buy a shed and modify it or have an observatory built for me out there so I can start using the site while I line up the other necessities: Power and water hookups, septic system, and a garage/workshop. Cabin is down the list a ways, I think.

I've been downloading pics of rolloffs (mostly) and a few domes (but I like the idea of seeing the whole sky from inside the observatory), but only just looking into costs.

I'd really like to be able to do this on the relative cheap, since there are other things that need my limited funds.

Thoughts on how much I should expect to pay to build a 10x12 myself (plans or modify a shed) versus other options?

-Tim

#37 Calypte

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 11:10 AM

As I think I've mentioned, my roll-off was built by Backyard Observatories. I ordered the fold-down south wall, because I imagined that I'd like to see Canopus and Omega Centauri from inside the observatory. I used the fold-down wall very little during the winter (just step outside to see Canopus), but lately it's been useful for ventilation and air exchange, to speed the cool down early in the evening. I'd think this would be important in Joshua Tree.

Edited to add: Dome vs. roll-off is a tough call. A friend with a dome in Temecula is convinced he made the right choice. It's sheltered from wind & much less susceptible to dewing. Dewing may not be a problem in Joshua Tree, but here in Anza, when the "marine layer" gets deep, it can be a nuisance, especially when the other gear in the observatory dews up. If it doesn't actually turn to fog, such nights can be gorgeous. Wind hasn't been much of a problem. The walls are 6 ft, and that blocks the gusts. Very strong winds from the northeast bring terrible seeing.

#38 Escher

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 01:56 PM

Tim,

This is your best and cheapest bet - even if you have to rent a truck and haul it..
http://www.cloudynig...5841764/page...

He's al but giving it away at that price. If I was within 5-6 hours Id buy it myself.

#39 tim53

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 03:03 PM

Saw the ad, but it's TOO SMALL. I do have scopes I could put in a pod, but I was really hoping to move this scope out there:

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:grin:

-Tim.

#40 tim53

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 03:17 PM

I'll think about it, though. Maybe build the ROR for the Cave later.

-Tim

#41 Escher

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 03:47 PM

I wonder if you could just use a course of concrete blocks to raise it up enough to fit the big Cave in there?

#42 tim53

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 04:41 PM

Trouble is that the cave tube is about 8 feet long, which is bigger than the ID of the pod.

Tim

#43 neotesla

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 06:28 PM

Skyshed has a 12.5' Pod Max that is in preproduction right now... It's listed on their website menu.

#44 roscoe

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 09:29 PM

Tim,
The one bad thing about a dome is that it 'looks' like a telescope lives there.....and in a remote place, I'd be concerned about that....
A roll-off just looks like a shed, and everybody in rural places has them, so they don't draw attention to themselves.
Russ

#45 tim53

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 10:33 PM

Yep. I'm still leaning toward some sort of rolloff roof building. 10x12 (or 11x11, I suppose, though that's a square foot too big!).

So, in So Cal, particularly on the Inland Empire Craigslist (that covers part of San Berdoo County, which contains Joshua Tree), there are a number of guys advertising sheds and "portable buildings" on skids. They look well built - like a Tuff Shed or something similar - and they're reasonably priced (about half a Tuff Shed or less at Home Despot). How hard would it be to modify something to a rolloff roof? Or is something like a BYO or Skyshed really worth about double the price due to the mods required?

-Tim.

#46 roscoe

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 12:03 AM

The folks around here who build those 'portable-shed' type buildings often build-to-order..... so if you could order one with a double top plate (the horizontal 2x4 that frames the top of the wall and provides a place to nail the roof rafters to) instead of the single that is often used in shed construction (houses use doubles around here) and ask them to screw them together from the bottom, you could unscrew the roof after the shed is set up and leveled, jack it up and add your rails and rollers, and there you'd be......

There's a guy down in the valley who specializes in 6x8 garden sheds and playhouses, delivers them on a trailer like landscapers use to move mowers, etc, and sells them for about 10% over what the materials would cost me.
I think he gets his stock from a sawmill, and planes it himself, and saves enough there to make a profit. I bet he sells 6 for every one Home Desperate sells.... So a guy like that might well be worth talking to, for your obs and your garage, too.
R

#47 Calypte

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 12:17 AM

Yep. I'm still leaning toward some sort of rolloff roof building. 10x12 (or 11x11, I suppose, though that's a square foot too big!).

So, in So Cal, particularly on the Inland Empire Craigslist (that covers part of San Berdoo County, which contains Joshua Tree), there are a number of guys advertising sheds and "portable buildings" on skids. They look well built - like a Tuff Shed or something similar - and they're reasonably priced (about half a Tuff Shed or less at Home Despot). How hard would it be to modify something to a rolloff roof? Or is something like a BYO or Skyshed really worth about double the price due to the mods required?

-Tim.

I know nothing about Tuff Sheds beyond what I see walking past them at Home Depot or whomever carries them. However, a neighbor's steel storage shed was lifted by a dust devil and dumped on our property, narrowly missing my observatory. Worse, it could've hit the house. Who knows what it would have done to a scope, if one had been inside. I'm betting you get some excellent dust devils in Joshua Tree. I'd be reluctant to choose something too light or flimsy, and "cheaper" implies both of these negative attributes to me. You're welcome to come and see my BYO and see if it's something you want to do. I could also probably get you a visit to see a genuine ExploraDome. Contact me privately if interested.

#48 tim53

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 10:12 AM

I share your trepidation with the light-duty steel sheds. My dad had one at his home in orange county. IT didn't get blown around, but corrosion and dents made it hard to get the doors open after a few years.

The ones I've been curious about are like this guy's ad in Hesperia: http://inlandempire....3810808695.html

Like Russ suggested, I'd want to ask the guy about doubling up the top plates so the roof could be removed and put on tracks. I'd also want to affix the foundation to concrete piers so it could be leveled and stay that way.

-Tim.
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#49 roscoe

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 11:19 AM

I'm thinking that if you have the time available to put one together, that you can get the supplies to build one way cheaper than $2200.....and you could, as you mentioned above, pre-fab - or at least pre-cut, much of it at home....
maybe get the ply and roofing delivered, and work up the tricky frame parts, like the roof components, in the comfort of your driveway....
Also, if you're thinking of a garage, you could perhaps have the concrete for the floor pad, the scope pier, and the building piers, all delivered at the same time, saving both the hassle of hand-mixing, and the small-delivery surcharge of doing just the obs.....
R

#50 tim53

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 11:43 AM

One of the advantages I'll have with Joshua Tree is that there is a Home Despot in Yucca Valley about 15 minutes away. I could use them as a source for heavy stuff like concrete. My truck has a huge bed (5.5x8.5 ft), so bulky panels aren't a big problem. Weight is, since it's only powered by a 1.6 litre stock VW engine:
Posted Image

-Tim.
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