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building an observatory dome- worth it?

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#1 GarethBarry

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 11:55 AM

My project of building a 10 inch dob for the school that I work at is coming to completion. My question is, is a dome observatory really worth pursuing? This scope will be used in an urban seeing with average seeing. Personally I like being under the stars, sipping coffee in he cold evening. So, other than the 'cool' (gimmicky) factor of having the scope under a dome, what real benefits would there be for a scope of this size in this setting?

If I do go with a dome, I assume it would be imperative that it be automated? If I did make it I would think of making it from EPS foam into a geodesic structure, coated inside and out with truck bed liner.

Any thoughts and comments much appreciated.

Gareth



#2 Augustus

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 12:12 PM

A Dob is a terrible choice for a dome, and I don't see the point in spending more on a facility itself than the scope in it, especially when said scope is only a few hundred bucks and easily moved around.

 

If you want to do a dome at least put the scope on a GEM or get something with tracking.


Edited by Augustus, 07 February 2020 - 12:36 PM.

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#3 Topographic

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 12:14 PM

Having a dome changed my hobby. Permanent set up - no more lugging equipment in a nd out of the house every time. Protection from stray light sources (not an issue for me but can be in town, wind protection- a guy lost his RASA to a gust recently.

For imaging automation is good but not imperative. You can still be under the stars and sip coffee. I don't believe Domes are a gimmick, the fact I don't have to set up and dismantle every night  (not to mention sudden weather changes) makes all the difference


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#4 kathyastro

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 12:32 PM

It depends on your use of it.  My main focus is astrophotography, so having an automated dome allows me to set up an imaging run and then go to bed, leaving the software to run the session.

 

An observatory makes sense for a big scope like yours.  It must be a bear to move around.  But whether or not it needs to be a dome is another question.  A roll-off-roof might be more practical, especially if part of the esthetic experience for you is being under the stars. 

 

If you go with a dome, there is no good reason to automate it.  It only takes seconds to pull a dome around to the correct azimuth.  Even if the dome is heavy, a motor and a manual left-right switch will take care of it.  Automation, frankly, is a pain in the butt.  My installation needs it, but it doesn't sound like yours does.


Edited by kathyastro, 07 February 2020 - 12:33 PM.

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#5 GalaxyPiper

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 12:37 PM

A dome has a small foot print other than a slide off room. Both are built for the same reasons, to protect your permanently mounted scope from wind, rain, and snow.

If you have the room, I would choose the slide off roof option for the very reason you gave, being under the stars, and sipping coffee.

Small domes are usually reserved for small gardens or backyards in bedroom community's, because it is a trade off in space.

So, that's my two cents worth, IMO.


Edited by GalaxyPiper, 07 February 2020 - 12:38 PM.


#6 RyanSem

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 12:50 PM

I don't see the purpose of a dome for a dobsonian. Dobs are meant to me moved around, not bolted to a pier. 


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#7 Jeff Struve

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:01 PM

Although the topic is if a dome is worth it, the OP wants to house a dob in it.

 

This being the case, unless you get a super beefy mount on some sort of pier and want to deal with moving a ladder around, no.

 

I think the goal may have been to keep the dob outside and not have to move it. if so, there are a number of ways that you can build a small shed that rolls away from the dob, or have the dob set up on a dolly so that it can be rolled out of a shed.

 

If as commented that sitting under the stars is desirable, a larger roll off roof building may work keeping in mind that the dob needs to get to the horizon, so low/collapsable walls/sides may be needed or the base of the dob raised up a bit. 


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#8 pkrallis

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:01 PM

As a user of a Roll off roof observatory there is no doubt in my mound that I would rather have a dome but budget and location dictated otherwise.  When you graduate to a scope on a GEM you will appreciate a dome's qualities.


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#9 TOMDEY

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:09 PM

If you have the time, money and effort... domes are wonderful! I've built geodesic domes for all my scopes from 6-inch Dob to 12-inch imager to 36-inch Dob. Once you go operational, the dome is the furthest thing from gimmicky... entirely practical and makes for a lot more happy, comfortable observing. For modest visual, no need for automation... but should provide 120vac to the building. I also sense that you haven't been involved in dome build or construction yet. Don't short-change the difficulty or cost of pulling it off. It will far far exceed what you have already dedicated to the scope; but make future observing the epitome of comfort.

 

Here's a picture of one of my early geodesic domes. Took me a few months spare time to design and build. Very convenient, others picked up my design and successfully completed and enjoyed. That's a 17.5-inch  Dobsonian in there. Can build any size that accommodates observers and equipment. I later built a 24-foot version that is working fine!  Tom

Attached Thumbnails

  • 94 Toms 12-foot dome.jpg
  • 93 12-foot dome sketch TM 18 60.jpg
  • 95 toms 12-foot dome in suburb 70.jpg

Edited by TOMDEY, 07 February 2020 - 04:01 PM.

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#10 GarethBarry

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:16 PM

Wow guys!! Thanks so much for the replies!

Being for a school, the storage of the scope needs to meet some criteria;

-easily accessible to kids that stay on the premises (we are mainly a boarding school)

-easy to operate by the kids.

-look good enough to inspire kids to want to use it.

-Is space efficient, as space is something of a premium on the campus.

 

I built the scope as part of a club that I started at the school, and whilst it is transportable (a truss dob) I really want it permanently stored in a nice, aesthetic and functional manner. To be clear, whilst I do think that a dome Iooks great, I am not at all set on it as yet. What is a must is that it doesn't live in my classroom!!!

 

My final worry-and maybe this is a non issue- is that putting a dob in a dome would mean low walls, which in the event of us building an elevated platform to put in on could be something of a saftey issue. 

 

Oh one last thing-as it is, it will already need a ladder for most kids, the scope is a 10 inch f7.5....maybe that illuminates a dome?

 

Thanks so much again everyone!



#11 Augustus

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:19 PM

Wow guys!! Thanks so much for the replies!

Being for a school, the storage of the scope needs to meet some criteria;

-easily accessible to kids that stay on the premises (we are mainly a boarding school)

-easy to operate by the kids.

-look good enough to inspire kids to want to use it.

-Is space efficient, as space is something of a premium on the campus.

 

I built the scope as part of a club that I started at the school, and whilst it is transportable (a truss dob) I really want it permanently stored in a nice, aesthetic and functional manner. To be clear, whilst I do think that a dome Iooks great, I am not at all set on it as yet. What is a must is that it doesn't live in my classroom!!!

 

My final worry-and maybe this is a non issue- is that putting a dob in a dome would mean low walls, which in the event of us building an elevated platform to put in on could be something of a saftey issue. 

 

Oh one last thing-as it is, it will already need a ladder for most kids, the scope is a 10 inch f7.5....maybe that illuminates a dome?

 

Thanks so much again everyone!

I'd personally do some kind of mini-ROR or something like Pierre Lemay's hinged shelter.


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#12 GarethBarry

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:20 PM

Tomdey I have seen your reply as I was typing-do you think a ladder in a dome is feasible?

Your domes look awesome by the way! Are they constructed from timber? I was thinking polystyrene cut with a wire (I have plenty of experience with building and crashing model airplanes) , sprayed with truck bed liner to weather proof it? 



#13 GarethBarry

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:26 PM

Another possibility I was thinking of was maybe a garden shed,with a barn-door and mounted on rails  that simply slides the whole shed back exposing the scope.

 

I do hope to eventually do imaging at the school with the kids, but will make or purchase a separate equatorially mounted scope for deep sky imaging. However I would like to get into planetary imaging with the dob, as it will have onstep integrated into it.

 

Costs may be a factor, but time effort and energy aren't- not when you have an army of keen teenage lads....


Edited by GarethBarry, 07 February 2020 - 01:27 PM.


#14 kathyastro

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:29 PM

A ladder in a dome works if the dome is big enough.  I sometimes have to bring a 6' stepladder into my 8' dome to work on the shutter.  It is not at all convenient and is a pain to move around. 


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#15 mikerepp

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:37 PM

Do you have a stadium near by?  One thing that the dome has over the ROR is that it can block light. It also blocks the wind. 



#16 Pierre Lemay

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 01:45 PM

I'd personally do some kind of mini-ROR or something like Pierre Lemay's hinged shelter.

20-inch-in-front-of-opened-shelter.jpg

 

Gareth,

Augustus just brought it up. My ideal telescope shelter for a dobsonian type telescope is a hinged shelter like the one shown in the picture above. You can read more details of its construction on my website whose link is in my signature. I made the shelter from scratch to protect my 20 inch ball scope but it is probably possible to start out with an already made plastic shelter and build a frame around its base.

 

As a Canadian having to deal with snow on the ground almost half year round, I prefer my design to a roll off shelter where the tracks quickly end up clogged by snow and ice. A dome could work but the slot would have to go almost all the way to the ground (you could enter the dome through the slot). That was my initial choice but in the end I prefered the hinged shelter. It provided a smaller footprint and protected the instrument perfectly. The dome for a 20 inch f/4 would have been at least 14 feet in diameter. Huge and expensive.

 

My shelter provides complete protection for the telescope, it provides a covered working desk, reaching down to the horizon is not a problem. I mainly see advantages. The only disadvantage is that you are not protected from the wind like you would be in a dome.


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#17 jgraham

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 02:53 PM

Personally, I like the idea of a dome for visual to provide protection from the elements and limit stray light, though I'd want to be careful about dealing with air currents flowing through the dome slit. (Our dark sky site used to have both a dome and a ROR.) For imaging I'd prefer a ROR for its simplicity. I'd consider a dome for imaging _if_ I could automate it. I'm probably going to go the ROR route unless I win the lottery. :)

 

Food for thought.



#18 Oberon

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 03:54 PM

Use the dome for a fixed equatorial mounted computer driven scope with imager attached (your next school project). Store the Dob in the dome, but roll it out on the grass for casual, visual, public and manual use.


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#19 TOMDEY

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 04:37 PM

Tomdey I have seen your reply as I was typing-do you think a ladder in a dome is feasible?

Your domes look awesome by the way! Are they constructed from timber? I was thinking polystyrene cut with a wire (I have plenty of experience with building and crashing model airplanes) , sprayed with truck bed liner to weather proof it? 

Another possibility I was thinking of was maybe a garden shed,with a barn-door and mounted on rails  that simply slides the whole shed back exposing the scope.

 

I do hope to eventually do imaging at the school with the kids, but will make or purchase a separate equatorially mounted scope for deep sky imaging. However I would like to get into planetary imaging with the dob, as it will have onstep integrated into it.

 

Costs may be a factor, but time effort and energy aren't- not when you have an army of keen teenage lads....

As Kathy points out, ladder is fine, provided your dome is spacious. I've always built mine a size or two up from what would theoretically work... and never regretted that. Most common complaint among my fellow dome-owners is they wished they had gone bigger. Something you don't anticipate/realize until you're in there and the walls seem so blasted close! Add a couple of guests (students?) and it can get downright cramped.

 

Adapted Garden Shed --- superb thought! Consider this approach >>> Just buy a commercial shed and use exactly as-is. Your scope rolls out on wheels, ready to use. I did that with my 16-inch Binoscope. Minimum time and effort. For a ten-inch Dobsonian, that could be like the smallest shed from one of the big-box stores, and you've got your facility done.    Tom

 

~ click on ~ >>>

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#20 Garyth64

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 07:15 PM

No matter the style of the observatory, it is a great idea.  It will be a place for the school to use  for many observation opportunities.   It could be a central point for those events to occur.  Depending on its function, a 10" dob will show lots of things for the students.  As it progresses, other scopes can be used inside and outside the observatory.  Later, with enough interest, you could put in for a grant to upgrade the observatory.

 

For Lincoln Park HS, our club, FAAC, runs their observatory.  Several years ago, officers of our club and teachers in the school applied for a grant to upgrade the old observatory that was on site.  Today, the observatory has all the modern equipment, telescope, mount and computers, even for Astrophotography.  The observatory's Ash Dome, I believe, is the only original working dome in the country.

 

Go for it!

 

Here's a video on the HJRO Observatory at Lincoln Park HS in MI.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=sqFLzZRMLwE


Edited by Garyth64, 07 February 2020 - 07:19 PM.

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#21 Steve Dodds

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 07:59 PM

That's pretty impressive for a high school.


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#22 mark77

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Posted 07 February 2020 - 09:10 PM

I built a 15 foot dome from scratch, took me 2 1/2 years working 20-30 hours a week almost non-stop.

 

Yes it was worth it!

Yes I would do it over again!

 

http://skychariot.co...nstruction.html


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#23 seryddwr

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Posted 08 February 2020 - 12:48 AM

If you have the time, money and effort... domes are wonderful! I've built geodesic domes for all my scopes from 6-inch Dob to 12-inch imager to 36-inch Dob. Once you go operational, the dome is the furthest thing from gimmicky... entirely practical and makes for a lot more happy, comfortable observing. For modest visual, no need for automation... but should provide 120vac to the building. I also sense that you haven't been involved in dome build or construction yet. Don't short-change the difficulty or cost of pulling it off. It will far far exceed what you have already dedicated to the scope; but make future observing the epitome of comfort.

 

Here's a picture of one of my early geodesic domes. Took me a few months spare time to design and build. Very convenient, others picked up my design and successfully completed and enjoyed. That's a 17.5-inch  Dobsonian in there. Can build any size that accommodates observers and equipment. I later built a 24-foot version that is working fine!  Tom

Tom,

Can your article be found in: "How to Build Your Own Observatory: Reprints from Telescope Making"?



#24 TOMDEY

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Posted 08 February 2020 - 08:27 AM

Tom,

Can your article be found in: "How to Build Your Own Observatory: Reprints from Telescope Making"?

I don't remember. But all issues of Telescope Making are included with the Astronomy on CD/DVD. I assume Kalmbach would still be offering that, in some digital format?    Tom

 

~ click on ~ >>>

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#25 BGRE

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Posted 08 February 2020 - 08:39 AM

Ventilating a dome so that hot air doesn't stream out the slit and into the telescope light path when the dome is populated by a number of people can be a significant issue for large domes.


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