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Advice on sharing my observatory with guys who want to pay..

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#1 ssagerian

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:09 AM

Ok, so I have this dark site that I am starting to build my observatory on. I m strapped for cash so the building has gone slow.

I also have 2 kids in college for at least the next 3 years so funds will be short for the foreseeable future.

A couple members of my club, have been to my site and have offered to help fund the building with the expectation of getting a fair share of access.

I am fine with sharing but wanted to know if anyone else has been in this situation, what types of agreements you put together, how did it work out etc.

To be clear, I am not going to sell them a share of the property, just give them a key and a process for all (2 others) of us to schedule time at the site.

thanks!

Steve

 



#2 Taylor

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:23 AM

I wouldn’t do it. What happens when kids are out of college, you have more cash, and want the time all to yourself?
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#3 stevereecy

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:24 AM

Hi,

 

I'm not a lawyer, but I have a lot of rental properties.  Just make sure that you have a written agreement.  And somewhere on that agreement, it needs to say something about how these people agree to indemnify you for any injuries or deaths that may occur for themselves or invitees.  You might also look into getting a simple liability insurance policy just in case.


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#4 vsteblina

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:32 AM

I didn't ask for funding help. I paid for all materials, but I had friends help with the building of the observatories.

 

The first was 10X16 and had a Parks 10f6 equatorial and a 17.5 inch DOB. Neither of which, belonged to me!!  It worked great, the important point for sharing a observatory is to have a minimum of TWO scopes for sharing. You can do this with either one larger building or two smaller buildings.

 

BUT you want to two scopes for a shared observatory.  I found it a real advantage to share the observatory. First, I got two large scopes to use that were not mine!!! Second, folks would come over and use the observatory on a consistent basis. So many nights I would go out and join them for a bit of time...and didn't have to close the observatory.  I did have people bring their own eyepieces.

 

Currently, I have a ONE pier telescope and several people with keys, but it is almost never used except by me. That one pier really limits folks that use the observatory. A few have their own observatories and others don't observe enough to use mine. It does have a very expensive mount in it, which could make people shy away from using it.

 

We share lots of "gizmo's". Just recently, a friend was looking for a "piece" that he had misplaced. It was at my observatory and had been there for a year!! So I would just mark each persons stuff.

 

Your dealing with other human beings. BUT in my case, sharing a observatory is great. Increased my viewing and it was great having other folks to use the scopes.  Just be sure you have more than one scope in it.


Edited by vsteblina, 01 October 2019 - 10:33 AM.

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#5 sg6

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:43 AM

Have fear is that having paid towards it then it might become "their observatory", as much or more than "your observatory". Likely just me but seems a bit of a strange thing for someone to suggest/offer. Give you a hand on the construction perhaps but not monetary..



#6 iwannabswiss

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:57 AM

I co-own my observatory with my friend and wouldn't have it any other way. We're imagers and most of the time remote but when we do go out there, it's nice to have someone else in the building on a late night and talk shop, politics, or whatever else comes to mind. We're great friends, so our word is good enough, but each situation is different. I agree with a lot of the statements above, get things in writing, define the terms, and set clear guidelines for operation.

 

Personally, if it's just a single telescope building, then I would say no to having others involved unless they only want access to data if you're imaging.


Edited by iwannabswiss, 01 October 2019 - 10:57 AM.


#7 guyroch

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 10:58 AM

I wouldn’t do it. What happens when kids are out of college, you have more cash, and want the time all to yourself?

I wouldn't do it either.  There are no friends in any transactions where money is exchanged for any type of services.  If you do it you need to do it from a 'business transaction' angle.  These guys aren't your friends anymore, they are customers and you need to make this very clear, in writing, and you must be very clear about the exit plan as well.  By that I mean you need to have a clause that allows you to terminate the agreement without notice for reason x,y, or z.

 

This being said, I would not do it.  I'd wait until I can fund the observatory myself.

 

Guylain


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#8 Traveler

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 11:27 AM

Steve, your plans seems to be too big for your budget now. Two solutions i see: make smaller plans or postpone your plans to the near future. The third option is as others said, also not my take. 



#9 tolgagumus

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 11:39 AM

Here is the way I would do it.

 

Install ACP Expert in your system. Create a user (not admin) account for each "member". This way they can enter targets but will have no access to the system. ACP will enter their request in the target que. Once their target request are done they will have access to the data. 

 

Each system is so unique that I can't imagine giving 100% access to someone who is not familiar with it. 



#10 sc285

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 12:07 PM

Too many cooks always spoil the broth...

Been down that road once many moons ago. Won't do it again.



#11 Hawkdl2

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 12:10 PM

Be very careful if you do this.  In addition to what others have said, consider what could happen if you are not in a financial position to complete the project, so you take money from people who have the expectation of access to a functioning observatory, and then you encounter issues and need money to repair or correct some aspect of the facility, and you do not have the funds to correct them.  Your customers (as others have said, there are no "friends" in contracts) may have a case against you for failure to provide the agreed upon services.

 

Personally, I would never let anyone I didn't know extremely well get near any of my equipment unsupervised (if at all).  The most I would consider would be to rent remote access or sell imaging data. 



#12 Allanbarth1

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 12:21 PM

I would be careful with that. Even if you know the folks that your sharing your observatory/property with and 100% trust them. Sometimes wacky things happen. You don't want your well intentions to backfire on you later. 

 

What if they bring a guest with them one night? What if the guest or observatory partner harmlessly talks about the good time they had to the wrong person? You don't want a break in. Your equipment could take years to replace. Or even worse, what if it's someone else's equipment that goes missing? How ever would that get replaced?  

 

Also what if someone got hurt in/on the observatory or on your property? I'm sure there is some sort if insurance that you can get to cover yourself, but if money's tight that may be an issue.

 

Myself, I would be leery. Especially with taking money to help with the initial build. While the observatory build would be completed much sooner, now your indebted to those who helped you get it completed. I'm not saying that the people that helped you up front would turn on you. The thing is though, they are helping you out up front and are expecting to receive something back later. The expectation is time in the observatory. Not a big deal right?  What if both want to use the observatory for a certain event. Most likely only one can use it at a time, so there is a conflict. If it happens once it should not be a big deal. What if it happens again. You don't want to have the fact that they helped with the initial finances get thrown in your face. Or what if a friendship ends over it.

 

I know I sound negative. Thing is, we all know money causes all types of odd behavior. Even though it isn't a loan, it's to help build something to be used and enjoyed by a few folks. I just keep getting a question lingering in my mind,....what if this?,.....what if that?,.... what about if?

 

It would be an entirely different situation if you fund the build of the observatory yourself. Then you could rent to them, although not what you want to do.



#13 vsteblina

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 02:47 PM

Like I said....sharing the observatory was one of the best things I did. 

 

However, I agree with everybody that advised against a financial arrangement. That I never wanted to do.

 

You could put up a shed at your dark site and let people store their telescopes there. My first observatory was 8X8X5 feet high and had bolt together walls and a "shoebox" roof.  It cost about $200 in wood and bolts about 20 years ago.. Took less than a day to build.  hYour friends could build something like that very cheaply and if you wanted them gone....they could remove it in a couple of hours.

 

Those folks that always wanted the "final" observatory built first never seemed to build it. So putting up temporary structures and starting to do something would allow you to use the dark sky site now and also see how it goes with your friends before putting up the "final" observatory seems like the way to go right now.



#14 ssagerian

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 03:34 PM

Thanks to everyone for your comments, as always, the breath of responses was expansive and valuable.

 

To you guys who, said not to do it, you are in the same camp as my wife, and she is usually right.

 

I really dont want to face another winter doing AP standing in the middle of an alfalfa  field. Last winter it was so cold I had to install a heater into my hand controller to keep the LCD display from freezing. Setting up, polar aligning, while freezing is not fun.

 

I am still undecided, and will be meeting with my two associates tonight to discuss IF and HOW we would move forward, you all have  given me a bunch of issues to resolve before making a decision.

 

Ive include a picture of my dark sight last winter (taken the week of the lunar eclipse (jan?)). The solar array you see is used to charge a 120AH deep cycle marine battery (in the box to the right), the box is insulated and has a temp controlled heater so the battery never experiences freezing. The array is about 200 feet from the road, from where I took that picture.

 

If anyone is interested in a DIY heater for their hand controller, I did a write-up on hackaday website..https://hackaday.io/...ount-controller

 

I ll update this once I make a decision.Steve

 

IMG_20190113_105550.jpg


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#15 Raginar

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Posted 01 October 2019 - 06:32 PM

I’d build it yourself and lease them access with a contract. If they’re bad room mates you’ll have an easier time getting rid of them.
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#16 555aaa

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Posted 02 October 2019 - 01:29 PM

In my other hobby/money pit I race sailboats. It's very common where I am to run a race boat as a partnership. Probably 30% of the boats out there are run that way, and we're talking six figures or more, and quite high annual operating costs, so that is really the only way us mere mortals can get in that game. I've been in a couple and it's been a great experience. You absolutely have to have a written agreement. It's somewhat like writing a pre-nup. You go through a "partner dating" phase, then the active phase, and then, in the end, you go through the "breakup" phase. Just expect it, it's normal and people get other interests, or they move, and all the parties need a way out. My last boat was a four way partnership with two of us as equity principal owners and we had at various times two "condo" owners who paid monthly but had no equity in the boat.



#17 t-ara-fan

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Posted 02 October 2019 - 11:50 PM

 


I really dont want to face another winter doing AP standing in the middle of an alfalfa  field.

 

 . The solar array you see is used to charge a 120AH deep cycle marine battery (in the box to the right), the box is insulated and has a temp controlled heater so the battery never experiences freezing. The array is about 200 feet from the road, from where I took that picture.

 

 

 

AP in the winter.  I have used two 5m USB extensions so I can setup with my laptop and get things going. Then drag the laptop into my car so I don't freeze to death.  Fun, but could be more fun. This year I am building a rolloff with warm room.

 

Do you come out ahead heating the battery so it is at a good temp for maximizing capacity?  Do you mind my asking what latitude you are at? From the pic I would guess 40's.   How many watt-hours a day does it take to keep warm?  I get temps down to -20°C regularly, and -30°C a few days a year.


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#18 guyroch

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 08:49 AM

If anyone is interested in a DIY heater for their hand controller, I did a write-up on hackaday website..https://hackaday.io/...ount-controller

 

This is awesome.  Cool idea.

 

Guylain


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#19 ssagerian

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 08:54 AM

This is awesome.  Cool idea.

 

Guylain

Thanks!, not as cool as backyardEOS !


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#20 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 09:07 AM

I have offered to share my dark site roll off for virtually free, and no takers. I guess it’s too remote.
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#21 ssagerian

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 09:10 AM

I have offered to share my dark site roll off for virtually free, and no takers. I guess it’s too remote.

Looks like you would have great sky quality, who did you offer it to? a club?



#22 ssagerian

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 09:26 AM

AP in the winter.  I have used two 5m USB extensions so I can setup with my laptop and get things going. Then drag the laptop into my car so I don't freeze to death.  Fun, but could be more fun. This year I am building a rolloff with warm room.

 

Do you come out ahead heating the battery so it is at a good temp for maximizing capacity?  Do you mind my asking what latitude you are at? From the pic I would guess 40's.   How many watt-hours a day does it take to keep warm?  I get temps down to -20°C regularly, and -30°C a few days a year.

We are at  40,46',42" N

When the external temps are below 32, the unit turns on about 4 times a day for roughly 30 minutes periods, so roughly 120WHr per day.

Here is a link to the construction and test of the unit...

 

 

https://sites.google...bservatory/home


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#23 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 11:35 AM

Looks like you would have great sky quality, who did you offer it to? a club?

Any CN member who wants to come out.  If they bring a camper, reimburse me for cost of electricity.


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#24 t-ara-fan

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 11:30 PM

Any CN member who wants to come out.  If they bring a camper, reimburse me for cost of electricity.

Do you make it yourself at vast expense? Or are we talking $0.10/kWhr ?



#25 t-ara-fan

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 11:50 PM


Here is a link to the construction and test of the unit...

 

 

Great idea.  I have access to a site that has batteries charged by some solar panels. But when it is really cold, the batteries definitely lose capacity. 

 

You mentioned that your panels are tilted to 42° which is the latitude of Chicago. I was thinking about that.  I think you would get more output from them if they were tilted to about 20° off vertical.

 

My reasoning is that you would be better off optimizing the angle for the coldest and shortest days of the year.  At the winter solstice your sun peaks at 22.5° above the horizon.   Of course having the panels at 20° is the wrong angle at the equinoxes and in the summer, but at those times the days are longer and warmer.  

 

Bonus: the snow would be more likely to slide off. 


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