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New observatory - looking for feedback

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#1 jshortt

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 10:04 AM

Hello, I'm in the process of planning a new RoR observatory project to begin next spring. My choice of RoR is largely because the aesthetics of a dome don't really fit well with the cottage. Without a permit I can build a 12x10. I've been socializing the plan with neighbours and they're looking forward to seeing it.

 

I've bought the SkyShed plans and will use them as the basis but I do want to do a few things differently.  I'm interested in feedback on these things and anything else. My property is in a Bortle ~3 zone, near a small lake and in a northern climate (north of Ottawa).

 

Here's the changes I'm contemplating:

1) Concrete pad for the base rather than patio stones. More expensive but more stable. 4-6" deep

2) Aluminum siding rather than pine exterior walls. More or less mandated by the CFO. Will require 4x8 sheeting for structural integrity. Probably cost neutral

3) No windows or planter boxes. Also mandated by the CFO. No windows means more security

4) The big one for me. 2 piers. One for astrophotography one for visual/EAA. The scopes I have today will fit (9.25" SCT, 4" refractor) but of course that should change....

 

Please let me know what you think

 

John


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#2 MJB87

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 10:19 AM

John,

 

I think you are going to have a great observatory! 

 

Specifically, I fully endorse your decision to have to piers.  My biggest regret is that I put only a single pier in my observatory.  In the end, I'll use two very different setups (refractor / wide-field vs. Cassegrain / planetary) and it would be nice to keep both up and running year-round.

 

Congrats on your decision and best wishes.

 

Marty



#3 OleCuss

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 10:31 AM

Personally, I'd make provision for piers.  It's relatively easy to put in a pier's base before you put down the concrete pad.  Just bring the concrete pier top to the same level as you'll make the concrete pad.  Don't put in any bolts and such.

 

Fill in the gap between the pier and the concrete pad using something like steel wool and put caulking in at the top.

 

If you do this (and maybe put in 2-3) if you later decide you need a pier you can simply remove the caulking, drill into the pier bases, and epoxy the bolts/studs into it for either a steel or an aluminum pier - and you are set!



#4 aaube

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 11:18 AM

John,

 

I have a projet very similar to yours. I'm also contemplating a 2 piers observatory with

a C11 and C8/100 refractor.  A warm corner would be nice but that might requires

to go slightly larger. The main interrogation for me is the positioning of the piers.

 

I was thinking that using telescopic piers might allow to setup somewhat closer to a corner

in order to save on space (but not on money...) and still get a good angle above walls when

in the upper position.  Will have to figure this one out.  There does not seems to be many

small observatory with 2 piers.  Good luck with yours!

 

Regards,

 

Alain



#5 Real14

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 02:42 PM

Hi,

 

Reading your message I measured the inner size of my Observatory and it is 11.5' by 9'. So half foot missing in length and 1 foot missing in width undecided.gif

 

Below the plans of my Observatory in regard to pier placement in that size of Observatory. Perhaps it helps you a bit.

 

Look specially in the middle where you can read NIVEL DE ENTREPISO

 

Rainer

 

 

Pisos-01.jpg

 


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#6 macdonjh

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 09:28 AM

jshortt,

 

 1) Concrete pad for the base rather than patio stones. More expensive but more stable. 4-6" deep  Definitely a slab over patio stones.  More work initially, but as you said, more stable for the years you will be using your observatory.
2) Aluminum siding rather than pine exterior walls. More or less mandated by the CFO. Will require 4x8 sheeting for structural integrity. Probably cost neutral
3) No windows or planter boxes. Also mandated by the CFO. No windows means more security  I didn't put windows or planter boxes in/ on my observatory, either.  I don't regret it.  When I am using my observatory, there's a huge window when I roll the roof back.
4) The big one for me. 2 piers. One for astrophotography one for visual/EAA. The scopes I have today will fit (9.25" SCT, 4" refractor) but of course that should change....  Another option: a single pier for your photography gear and a Dobsonian you can roll out and use while you are collecting data.  I'm not advocating, just pointing out...

 

Some other considerations (some already brought up):

  • Size: if you're going to be doing visual observation in your observatory, leave quite a bit of room around that pier for walking around and sitting and changing eye pieces, etc.
  • Warm room or not...
  • Electrical requirements: count the number of amps you need.  Do you want an air conditioner or heater?  Do you want a coffee pot inside?  Do you want lights for daytime, fixed dim lights for nighttime?  Will you motorize your roof?  How many computers will be have in there?  Your astronomy gear will actually require very little power, but add it up anyway.
  • Foundation: you might want to check with a building inspector or contractor about slab on grade construction in Ontario.  Frost heave may be problematic.  Also, keeping your piers stable over the years will require some design effort.
  • Snow removal: it will be hard to move your roof if it's covered with snow.


#7 jshortt

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 10:14 AM

Thanks everyone for your great feedback. It's very helpful. So in summary and one more question below:

 

- 2 piers is a go! Rainer thanks for your plan it really helps. Two piers doesn't preclude a Dob in my future ;-)

- Yes to the concrete pad. My friends who are really experienced in this assure me that frost heave won't be a problem especially compared to deck blocks or patio stones

- Siding, windows, planters are more or less cosmetic and not material to the quality of operation

- Warm room isn't necessary since the cottage, with all the necessary facilities, is 10 meters from the observatory. The downside will be the need to train my family to not turn lights on when the observatory is in operation. There's a trade-off: I've chosen the only location on the property that doesn't require lots of trees to be cut down.

- Electrical (and network) service: good point about the coffee pot! I also want a very neat cabling solution that I'll plan out carefully

 

I will definitely want to motorize the roof. Do you think doing that as a second phase after the observatory is up and running is ok or is it something that only can be done during the initial build?

 

Thanks all!

John



#8 Real14

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 10:28 AM

Hi John,

 

Why not build a warm room under the place where the Roof will be rolling ? It is anyhow dead space.

 

Your cabling will be easier. BTW in regard to cabling. I made a mistake and did not think about the work which is needed when changing something in the cabling. The easiest and friendliest cabling can be done using channels and then covering them with a plate ... IMHO

 

Rainer



#9 Real14

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 11:04 AM

 

I will definitely want to motorize the roof. Do you think doing that as a second phase after the observatory is up and running is ok or is it something that only can be done during the initial build?

 

 

Hi John,

 

Motorizing your roof while building it will be easier and cheaper then later adding on something ... IMHO

 

Rainer


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#10 roscoe

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 08:36 PM

...or at least picking out your motor system and building to accommodate it, so it'll be a bolt-on mod when the time comes....

 

If you're putting in concrete, do be sure to think about installing plastic conduit to your pier locations, and perhaps even arranged to be encased in the pier(s)when they are poured....and separate conduits for power and data lines is a few dollars well-spent.

 

One thing about concrete, it's hard to add stuff later.....



#11 MJB87

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 08:37 AM

Several people have commented on how they do not want windows in the observatory building.  I might offer a countervailing perspective.

 

Some of us use observatories only at night with the roof open.  However, I find that I spend a fair amount of time in the observatory during the day as well, with the roof closed.  This time is spent in general setup and maintenance of equipment, updating software, running darks, etc.  So I wanted my observatory to be a confortable place to work during the day.  For that reason, I have a window (on the north facing wall so it gets no direct sun, with a black-out shade when needed) and an air conditioner (to keep it tolerable during hot summer days).

 

Just a thought to consider. YMMV.

 

On other potenti thing to consider.  My south will folds down. This allows me to see through the telescope to some distant trees while in the "Park 4" position. I find this helpful for aligning and focusing guidescopes, finderscopes, etc.  I also will use it for collimation as soon as I can figure out how to mount my artificial star on the right tree branch.  Just another thing to consider.

 

MJB


Edited by MJB87, 05 November 2018 - 08:40 AM.

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#12 jshortt

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 09:58 AM

Hi Rainer, if I do this then I'll need a building permit (because of the size of the building) and therefore will need to engage the local bureaucracy. I'd rather avoid this and given that the warm cottage is 10 steps away I don't think it's needed.

 

Good point about the cabling. My first thought is that I don't want a cable mess and your method will accomplish that plus allow for maintenance

 

John.

 

Hi John,

 

Why not build a warm room under the place where the Roof will be rolling ? It is anyhow dead space.

 

Your cabling will be easier. BTW in regard to cabling. I made a mistake and did not think about the work which is needed when changing something in the cabling. The easiest and friendliest cabling can be done using channels and then covering them with a plate ... IMHO

 

Rainer


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#13 jshortt

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 10:08 AM

Yes, if I don't pick the motor system beforehand it will increase the likelihood of a difficult installation. I have some research to do...

 

I'd already decided to run conduit to the pier and perhaps in them. I hadn't thought through the implications of 2 channels - one for data, one for electric

 

John

...or at least picking out your motor system and building to accommodate it, so it'll be a bolt-on mod when the time comes....

 

If you're putting in concrete, do be sure to think about installing plastic conduit to your pier locations, and perhaps even arranged to be encased in the pier(s)when they are poured....and separate conduits for power and data lines is a few dollars well-spent.

 

One thing about concrete, it's hard to add stuff later.....



#14 jshortt

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Posted 05 November 2018 - 10:21 AM

Yes, I was thinking to have a small desk to work at and will definitely need light.

 

About the air conditioner: the penny is just dropping for me on the fact that all observatories bake in the sun in the summer because they're, by definition, in a location that gets the sun all day. I'm going with light grey siding and I'm in a moderate climate but it can get hot especially in July here. I can open the roof and door for air flow but there will be days when the heat will be very uncomfortable. I wasn't expecting to run enough power for an air conditioner and in fact I might not have that power available. This is a tough one I need to think about. I am leaning towards remoting into the observatory from inside the air conditioned cottage.

 

One thing I didn't mention is that my horizon varies from 20-30 degrees altitude. Not perfect but the location has many other benefits that outweigh this. Including there's trees all around me at distance of 100+ meters. 

 

John

Several people have commented on how they do not want windows in the observatory building.  I might offer a countervailing perspective.

 

Some of us use observatories only at night with the roof open.  However, I find that I spend a fair amount of time in the observatory during the day as well, with the roof closed.  This time is spent in general setup and maintenance of equipment, updating software, running darks, etc.  So I wanted my observatory to be a confortable place to work during the day.  For that reason, I have a window (on the north facing wall so it gets no direct sun, with a black-out shade when needed) and an air conditioner (to keep it tolerable during hot summer days).

 

Just a thought to consider. YMMV.

 

On other potenti thing to consider.  My south will folds down. This allows me to see through the telescope to some distant trees while in the "Park 4" position. I find this helpful for aligning and focusing guidescopes, finderscopes, etc.  I also will use it for collimation as soon as I can figure out how to mount my artificial star on the right tree branch.  Just another thing to consider.

 

MJB



#15 Phil Sherman

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Posted 06 November 2018 - 11:38 AM

If your local building codes have a 120 sq ft limit before requiring a permit, I'd also look at an 8x15 structure. With that size, you can divide the interior into a control room (8'x8') and an 8'x6'observing room. Even if you normally run the equipment from inside the cottage, it's nice to have an area inside the building for storage of all of the little things that you have to support the scope. A long table in the control room also provides a much needed work surface in the building. Another advantage of this type of construction is that only half of the roof will be behind the building when it's open over the observing room. If you decide to do this, don't forget to run conduit from the pier into the control room. I'd run at least 3" conduit because 2" gets tight if you're trying to pull serial cables through it.

 

If you do this and drop the ceiling of the control room, you can have a single roof structure that covers both rooms and the dead space above the control room becomes an ideal location to mount a roof opener, keeping all of the hardware under the roof.

 

The piers in my observatory were installed after the floor was poured. Framing for the piers left the holes in the floor which were dug out after the concrete floor had hardened.

 

Don't forget that USB2 cables have a maximum length of 5m. Any longer and you need to use active amplifiers in the cable. An alternative is USB over ethernet which has at least a 165' limit. USB3 has different length restrictions.



#16 roscoe

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Posted 06 November 2018 - 05:08 PM

with a light-colored roof with a bit of insulation under it, and light-colored walls, it won't heat up too bad, and if you added a filtered inlet vent and an exhaust fan you could further keep the inside tolerable with very little power useage.....small fans don't use much power.....  also try to avoid things around it that would tend to heat up -- concrete or brick pads or walkways, for instance.... so its exterior microclimate is cool as possible.



#17 Mel M

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 03:00 AM

Don't know why you would want 6" of concrete. Five inches with solid ground is plenty. On paper, four inches is enough but the rebar can get too close to the surface of the slab if a lot of care isn't taken.



#18 Mel M

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 03:19 AM

with a light-colored roof with a bit of insulation under it, and light-colored walls, it won't heat up too bad, and if you added a filtered inlet vent and an exhaust fan you could further keep the inside tolerable with very little power useage.....small fans don't use much power.....  also try to avoid things around it that would tend to heat up -- concrete or brick pads or walkways, for instance.... so its exterior microclimate is cool as possible.

"tend to heat up"

A wood floor a few feet off the ground could retain less heat, but it would be a lot more effort for me, a retired concrete guy.



#19 RaulTheRat

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 03:31 AM

Sounds very similar to the (early pre-stage) plans I have. I wonder, since you have a size cap to avoid planning regulations, if you can get away with offsetting the imaging pier a bit towards one end to leave more room around the visual pier. I am thinking that over myself as imaging scopes tend to be shorter tubes and there's no need to leave room for a big meaty camera unit behind the focuser.

#20 jshortt

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 11:05 AM

Phil, thanks for your ideas. Good point about the USB cables. I don't have any experience with USB over Ethernet. I haven't gotten to the point of planning out the wiring at this level of detail but your post reminds me of how important that is

 

As for the dimensions of the structure, although I like the idea of 8x15 with attached work area, I'm concerned that I don't have a set of base plans for that size/design. I'm not really capable of producing them and I'm uncomfortable with trying. A case of knowing my own limitations

 

I'm not sure I understand "Another advantage of this type of construction is that only half of the roof will be behind the building when it's open over the observing room." Can you elaborate?

 

Thanks,

John



#21 roscoe

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Posted 11 November 2018 - 06:55 AM

modifying a 10 x 12 into an 8 x 15 is pretty simple.... all you need to remember is that your framework wants to be centered every 16", so it works with 4' x 8' plywood, and 8 x 15 is easy because it's one sheet wide and a foot under two sheets long....

 

and to work out your roof, just draw one out full-size on a sheet of plywood, with the wall tops and center height all marked on the sheet, and remember that all the rafters are identical, so make one (actually two to be sure your numbers work), and use one of them as a pattern to mark the rest.




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