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Dark Matter Observatory Construction log

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#1 nimitz69

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 07:53 PM

Ok, so the CEO gave final go ahead to begin construction and so I've started initial planning ....

 

First order of business is site selection so I can maximize my sky viewing area while adhering to the subdivisions' rule that no structure can be visible above our fence line from the street and we also have a 15' easement from our subdivision fence border that I have to stay away from.  Givens those restrictions I surveyed and roughly staked out a 10' x 10' footprint, making an allowance for the roll off roof.  I also put out a measuring stake & determined that I can go as high as 7' above ground at the site location & not be visible from the street.  North is also over the top of my roof so I needed to ensure i could still see Polaris from inside the proposed footprint and I plan to house both my imaging refractor on a permanent concrete pier plus my 14" Dob.

 

If I were not going to include the Dob I could have gotten away with a smaller structure since when just imaging I control everything from inside my house via remotePC.  the attached pics show the rough initial layout including a  pier location.  Before finalizing this I need to do one more Polaris check from where my pier will be located just to convince myself I was really looking at Polaris last night ... lol.

 

The roll off roof will be towards the back fence in the image since this is the easement & just wasted space.  While I haven't finalized all the wall & roof details yet I want to get the pier completed and the wood deck floor finished as soon as possible.  The rest can then be designed around this base.  I don't have a lot of visibility near any horizon so the walls may be able to be 4' tall even with the Dob but we'll have to see.  i could probably come up with some kind of partly fold down walls for teh Dob if needed but I'd prefer not to unless its really necessary - we'll see.

 

 

I'm going with a concrete pier with a double steel plate design. One plate bolted to the top of the pier via bolts embedded in the concrete and then another raised plate bolted to that one where my mount mounting attachment plate will go.  this design will not only make it a snap to bolt on my mount but if I decide to ever upgrade in the future I can easily swap out & mount another one.  the other big advantage is that because I'm bolting on the mount's mounting plate I do not need to worry about the orientation of the pier, just ensure it is level and I'm done.

 

There is a company that makes a mounting plate for the EQ6-R that allows it to mount on the top of any pier.  It costs about $90 but the other thing i could do is just take apart the EQ6-R tripod & use the OEM mounting plate since it is flat on the bottom & simply bolt it to the top pier plate.  Since I still have the opportunity to do some imaging once a month between Oct -May at a IDS I'm not sure I want to disassemble & reassemble the tripod constantly.  If I can buy just the tripod and its not too costly that is a way better solution.  Of course, this means dissembling the rig to go each time which I'm also not thrilled about so we'll ahve to see about that whole plan .... maybe I need to buy another imaging setup ... lol.

 

I'm pretty much making this up as I go plus a lot of on-line research so feel free to ask questions or make suggestions since I'm sure I'll eventually come up with some things that don't make a lot of sense or have 'hidden gotchas'.  I've built several wooden decks before so I'm fairly confident with those skills & have had a custom wood shop for over 20 years building large aquarium cabinets & canopies so teher shouldn't be too much I can't construct if it makes sense ...

 

Not sure how long this will take since I can only work on it on weekends but I'd like it to be ready for the winter season if possible

....

obs.jpg

obs1.jpg

obs2.jpg

 


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#2 Raginar

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 08:04 PM

Built my skyshed in two weekends. Take the partslist to the local store and have them deliver it to your doorstep. Build the walls in your garage. Once you get the deck down you can install them pretty easy.

You’re gonna love it.

Btw where did you get the handles on your dob? Those are cool.
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#3 Richard O'Neill

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 09:04 PM

"I'd like it to be ready for the winter season if possible."

 

 Better make that before hurricane season. flowerred.gif



#4 nimitz69

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 09:36 PM

"I'd like it to be ready for the winter season if possible."

 

 Better make that before hurricane season. flowerred.gif

Hurricanes?  nah, I dont worry about them ...



#5 nimitz69

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 09:41 PM


Btw where did you get the handles on your dob? Those are cool.

 

 


I bought the steel tubing that  made the wheel axle & frame & handles from a local H/W store & then took the pipes to a hurricane shuttle place & they had a machine to bend them.  I just supplied a drawing for what they angles were;  a little bit of bicycle handle bar wrap as a finishing touch ...



#6 macdonjh

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Posted 29 June 2019 - 08:28 AM

nimitz69,

 

Good luck with your observatory.  You will love having one.  There is a ton of good information in the Observatories forum here.  CloudyNights member speedster has written a couple of good threads about observatory design, perhaps look for those.   I posted a thread of my project (I started it on Astromart, so the thread here picks up in the middle).  You can find it by searching for "poorly lit place".  You can also do an internet search for "private observatories".  

 

One thing to consider is a concrete slab next to your observatory for observing with your Dobsonian.  That way you only need to allow room under the roof for storing that scope, not using it.


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#7 nimitz69

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Posted 29 June 2019 - 11:22 AM

thx, I'll get those references.  yeah I was actually considering that as well.  besides being able to make the observatory smaller I wouldn't have to worry about any wall height 'issues' or complicated partially hinged designs to accommodate the dob, etc.  i think you've just convinced me to do version 1.1 of the preliminary design !



#8 macdonjh

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Posted 29 June 2019 - 03:20 PM

Glad to be of help.  Some other big issues to consider:

 

As you know: how big?  If you're going to use your observatory for visual observing you'll want more room inside, especially if you want your wife to come in as a guest to observe with you.  You need more room to sit at the eye piece than a camera does.

 

Pier and beam or slab construction?

 

Warm room or not?  Air conditioning/ heat or not?  Related to that, how much power do you need?  Storage for seldom-used astronomy stuff and non-astronomy stuff (probably not a big deal for you since your observatory will be in your back yard)?  Data capabilities and wifi or hard-wired?  Et cetera, et cetera.

 

Again, good luck. It's good project with highs and lows but it's definitely worth doing.



#9 nimitz69

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 07:15 PM

yeah, I roughed out a lot of those decisions already ...

 

originally I was going to do visual with my 14" inside as well but then someone pointed out I could just locate a small concrete pad next to the observatory & roll out the Dob to observe.  this way I only needed enough room to store the Dob & it would eliminate all the 'wall height' issues I'd need to deal with for using it inside the observatory.  So i decided to make it 8 x 8 vice 10 x 10.

 

It's going to be an isolated concrete pier & deck, definitely air conditioned since I live in Florida + dehumidifier if needed.  My wifi extends to the location which is good since I don't plan to work from inside the observatory for imaging.  I've got remotePC already up and running which allows me to sit in A/C or heated comfort if I don't plan to do any visual at the same time.



#10 nimitz69

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Posted 30 June 2019 - 07:32 PM

Ok, I officially broke ground today on the project but forget to invite the mayor over with his 10' stainless steel shovel to take pictures .... all I did was cut out a small square of grass where the pier will be.  Until I can get a clear night to double check I can actually see Polaris from teh selected location I can't get to far in digging up the grass.  I did take the opportunity to trim back some branches which have been irrelevant at my current imaging location but for teh Observatory will open up another 60 deg of sky.  While I wait for the weather I decided to do some pier design and discovered a few things ....

 

Pier diameter:  I know many go with a 12" diameter pier because they have large instruments and/or want to plan for upgrade.  that seemed the simplest approach until I started to think about my current EQ6-R pro & the counterweight & my planned design of a steel mounting plate on top of the pier and then a steel plate attached to that & my mount (more on that design later).  Because the 2 steel plates will need to be bolted to each other I need an additional 2" of diameter over whatever the pier will be.  A 12" requires a 14" plate which seemed way to big so I started with a 12" plate for a 10" pier.

 

As you can see from the below pics with a 12" steel plate mu counter weight will clear it but an unexpected issue was my altitude knob which will be hitting the plate.  I'm assuming I can probably just get a smaller length threaded bolt & i realize that unless I move somewhere this doesn't need to be changed & it might work as is.

 

The easier solution is to go to a 8" diameter pier which will use a 10" diameter plate there will be no clearance issues.  Now all I need to do is understand what the trade off is for going to a 8" vice a 10" pier.  Should be no issue for my current setup but if I end up going bigger what will I be limited to?

 

pier.jpg

pier1.jpg


Edited by nimitz69, 30 June 2019 - 07:35 PM.


#11 nimitz69

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 03:00 PM

a few sketches including  how I'm currently thinking to allow for both a 10" pier and address my interference issues .... comments welcome ...

 

deck.jpg

mount atachment overview.jpg

mount to pier plate side view.jpg

pier plate side view.jpg

mount to pier plate.jpg

pier plate.jpg

 



#12 nimitz69

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 06:30 PM

noticed some errors in my sketches .... I need to have a recess in the bottom of the 'mount to pier' plate center hole so that this plate will sit flush against the pier plate.  Like many mounts the EQ6R-Pro has a central bolt that comes up from the bottom to hold the mount onto the tripod and I plan to use the same arrangement but in order for the plates to be flush I need a recess. 

 

The three bolts that will be embedded into the concrete for mounting the pier plate also stick up and so recesses need to be made in the bottom of the mount plate to accommodate them as well.

 

i think making this 'flange style' mount plate will allow me to both avoid the dreaded birdcage design and provide clearance for my Alt bolt without the need for a spacer ...

 

feel free to speak up if I'm being too clever here ...

 

probably time to head into my custom wood shop & make a mockup to ensure I'm not being too clever for my own good ...


Edited by nimitz69, 01 July 2019 - 06:32 PM.


#13 nimitz69

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 07:38 AM

a friend of mine knows how to make CAD drawings so he's in the process of transforming my sketches for me so I can contact a few online CNC machine shops for pricing.  Anyone see any reason theses cant be made from aircraft grade aluminum vice steel?

 

my next question concerns pouring the concrete pier.

 

from what I’d read so far you should be having a concrete footer of about 3’ x 3’ in the ground that the actual pier “sits on” but you don’t want to excavate out a bunch of soil that you backfill in since this will not be able to be compacted and make the pier susceptible to vibration,  shifting, etc, but exactly how does one dig a footer where they base is wider  than the pier?  Think an upside down “T” in the ground?


Edited by nimitz69, 03 July 2019 - 07:41 AM.


#14 nimitz69

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 03:44 PM

Below is the 1st crude mockup to ensure the design will work.  Looks like I could shorten the height of the small section by 3/4" & then just have a small semicircle routed out of the edge where the Alt handle is which will give me the necessary clearance.  It actually works as is but I'm thinking making the plate lower profile is probably better overall ...

 

A friend a work is turning my Power Point drawings in to CAD files that I can send to one of those on-line CNC milling shops to make ...

 

There appears to be no reason a 12" diameter pier won't work with this dual plate arrangement so I might as well do that to ensure I don't limit myself just in case I want to get a larger system in the future.

 

I plan to have the mount to pier plate made from aircraft grade aluminum.  Is there any issue with having teh pier cap plate also out of aluminum or would steel be better & if so do I have dissimilar metal issue I need to work about? (my engineering materials classes were oh so long ago ....)

 

mount to pier plate mockup.jpg

mount to pier plate1.jpg

 

 

 



#15 nimitz69

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Posted 04 July 2019 - 05:16 PM

Ok, a little more engineering analysis and consulting with some other engineer friends and I've been able to simply the mount-to-pier adapter again and it will work regardless of whether I use a 10" or 12" diameter pier.  basically I was able to eliminate the pier plate that the mount-to-pier plate would bolt to.

My original idea was to have a permanent pier plate on which i could bolt whatever custom mount plate I needed if i changed mounts in the future.  While that would still work its unnecessary since I can simply bolt the mount plate to the mount from the underside and then bolt that assembly directly to the pier via the 1/2" J-bolts I've permanently sunk into the concrete.

 

The below pic is a mockup for a 10" pier. The holes for bolting onto the pier need to be moved inwards a bit to get them 2" from the pier edge but a combination of shrinking the inner pillar slightly (since its actually larger than the mount diameter) should provide enough room and if not I can have a slight curve cutout where the bolts will be to accommodate the nuts.

 

If I ever change mounts I'll need to make a new custom plate adapter anyway and I'll just include holes to accommodate the permanent pier bolts & I'm good.

 

this design avoids the dreaded birdcage arrangement you see on a lot of home made piers which unfortunately renders the concrete pier no better than a tripod since there is now an 'air gap' in which the 3 bolts are now taking all the vibrational loads vice the entire pier and it avoids an extra plate.

mount to pier plate latest.jpg


Edited by nimitz69, 04 July 2019 - 05:18 PM.


#16 nimitz69

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 11:37 AM

on theory that its always easier to critique than create, I decided to purchase a set of the SkyShed RORO roof observatory plans.  While I’ve built several decks, so I’m very familiar with constructing concrete footings & producing a nice square, level deck and I’ve even done some home construction with Habitat For Humanity, the roll off roof will be new.

They have 4 different sizes but none of them are the 8x8 I was planning so I’m going relook at things.  they have plans for an 8x10 and a 6x8 but I think the 6x8 might be too small.  The 8x10 would certainly work but I’d like to not build something I don’t need and since I won’t be imaging from inside the observatory and visual will be done on the pad adjacent I’d just as soon not build extra space I don’t really need ... we’ll have to see.

BTW, these plans are quite impressive: color construction photos, dimensioned drawings & step by step written instructions as well  I’m confident you could be. Complete novice and build a very nice observatory from these plans!

 

Now if I could just get One clear night to setup my scope & execute a PA to verify my pier location I could actually get started with construction.   Will everyone please stop buying New telescopes and such for a week so the skies will clear ...dalek12.gif


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#17 speedster

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 12:42 PM

Howdy Nimitz!

 

Take a look at these:

 

https://www.cloudyni...er engineering

 

https://www.cloudyni...ng#entry9486633

 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.



#18 nimitz69

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 05:20 PM

BSpeedster:  thanks for the links!  Always appreciate actual engineering when doing Projects which require it ... lol.  Like your design, I will have a steel plate attached to anchor bolts that are embedded into the concrete.  Then I will bolt My steel mount plate to that which eliminates the bird cage design which so many People think is wonderful but Basically nullifies that nice concrete or steel pier they just spent  all that effort building.

 

I was originally planning to do a 10” concrete pier but noticed your deflection numbers show an almost order of magnitude decrease in deflection going from 10” to 12”.  With this in mind I’ll probably change to a 12” pier.  I’ve just about finished the CAD drawings for the 2  steel plates and once completed I’ll post a sketch of my current approach to the pier construction - feel free to comment on it ....


Edited by nimitz69, 09 July 2019 - 06:56 PM.


#19 nimitz69

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 08:51 PM

well according to Astrospheric, tomorrow should be clear all night which, if true means I’ll be able to confirm the exact location for my pier which in turn will also set the exterior location of the onervatory.  And that means I may be digging holes this next weekend.

 

I had to finally order a 10” diameter concrete tube on-line from Lowes as no local store had one nor could you have it delivered for store pickup ...

 

I also purchased one of those 10” diameter 1/4” A36 steel plates mentioned by Speedster and finished the drawing of the mount-to-pier plate.  It’s in VISIO which hopefully will be sufficient for a local machine shop to do.  I visited one who couldn’t handle something that large but recommended another shop.  I will try to stop by on Monday.



#20 nimitz69

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Posted 14 July 2019 - 09:44 PM

ok, just finished up executing a PA from my planned pier location and I can easily see Polaris & in fact have more than enough room to move a few feet in any direction.  Moving the 5 yards laterally from my normal imaging spot to where the observatory will be opens up a large portion of teh northern sky as my house roof is no longer in play.  the first obstruction to the horizon is now my neighbor's roof across the street some 80 yds away so i can easily see down to around 15 degs or so and at my latitude (28 degs) that makes things easy.  I also mounted a laser ruler device that I have on top of my tripod with the beam over the az bolt and marked 'north' on a fence wall.

 

When I pour the pier and insert the steel cap plate on top it will have a line scribed on it that will line up with the Az bolt on the mount steel plate.  I'll attach a string from the point I marked running N-S over the pier and then just line up the 2 lines to orient the mount plates to North.  I only need to be within 5 deg of true north for Sharpcap polar align to work but this should get me well within that.

 

Looks like I'm good to start digging this Saturday.  After removing the grass I'll run survey lines & stakes to mark out the location of the footing holes as well as the pier hole since I only want to rent the auger once.  I'll then focus on completing the pier and after that I'll return to pouring the footings.  Depending on how long it takes I my have to reattack the footing holes with a post hole digger but that should only be minor unless we have some torrential rains in the interim.

 

Once the pier and deck is complete I'll then pour the small concrete pad in front of the observatory that I'll be using for my Dob when I want to do visual and that will also give me some time to finalize wall height & stay in compliance with the subdivision rule about nothing visible in the backyard above the fence from the street.



#21 nimitz69

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 06:00 PM

decided to go home early from work and even though it was 91 degs outside I  decided to get the shovel out and start removing grass.  didn't get a ton done but at least it appears there is progress ....

 

Saturday I'll get all the grass removed and hopefully survey stakes out to mark the pier  & footing locations.  I only plan to rent the towed auger for half a day so I might be able to do it Saturday afternoon but more likely I won't be ready until Sunday.   Its going to still be 90 degs so it will  be slow going.

 

Also my pier cap plate arrived.  Looks like I'm going to have to create a CAD drawing after all since none of the local machine shops have a lathe big enough for a 10" plate mount-to-pier plate which means using one of the on-line shops ...

ground prep.jpg

pier cap plate.jpg


Edited by nimitz69, 17 July 2019 - 06:04 PM.


#22 nimitz69

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 04:33 PM

well the day started out ominous enough with a thunderstorm as I went to get started but it lasted only about 20 mins & actually cooled things off for at least a little while.

 

Managed to finish the ground prep today & mark the locations for the pier & each footing.  Unfortunately my Transit Connect is still not back from CarMax so I can't go rent the towed auger to drill holes tomorrow.  Thry gave me a loaner but it doesn't have a hitch ....

 

So instead, tomorrow I'll build the rebar cage for the pier since I have all the materials to do that & then next weekend we'll drill the holes & probably at least pour the footings since that just takes some bags of Quickcrete & not a mixer like I'll need for the pier ...

 

obs grd prep.jpg



#23 nimitz69

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 01:56 PM

A little more progress today ... I completed the rebar cage for the pier.  Now I just need my vehicle back so I can rent the towed auger on saturday ....

 

pier rebar cage.jpg



#24 nimitz69

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 11:29 AM

Went to reserve the towable auger today and received my first wrinkle in my cunning plan ... the nearest Towable auger is. 400 miles away so it was off to Home Depot.  While they don’t have a Towable one they do have 2-man one with a 12 “ blade and an extension rod that will get me either to 5’ or very close and easily do the pier footings.  Now all I have to do is convince my friend to come over Saturday morning and grab 2of the 4 handles ...



#25 nimitz69

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 06:42 PM

Had an 'interesting' weekend .... like the Chinese curse ... lol

 

Got the 2-man auger & extension rod from HD and went to drill the pier hole.  first 20" or so no issue then teh blade would just stop - turned out to be a nice 3" root from an old tree across one edge of the hole.  Out comes the hand saw & 20 m ins later we're back in business.  WE first drilled without the extension as far as it would allow - about 32".  We then  put on the extension & started again.  Unfortunately at about 36" we hit ground water. decided to keep drilling as far as we could go with the extension - bad idea.

 

With the auger now even with the ground, plus the suction created by the soupy mess, plus the weight of just the auger (70 lbs) plus 2 old decrepit guys and the auger gets stuck & we can't pull it out ....

 

Long story short - 2 1/2 hrs later we figured out a way to leverage it out  which is the pic below ...

 

fihole.jpg

 

as I race back to HD & return the auger so i wouldn't get charged for the whole day ....


Edited by nimitz69, 29 July 2019 - 12:49 PM.



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