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New Observatory Build, Melbourne, Australia

observatory astrophotography DIY
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#1 drafrete

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 06:00 AM

Chapter 1 – Introduction and the site

Hello to all,

 

I have been a beginner astro-photographer for a few years now and I have reached the point where I realise that the best improvement that I can make to my images is to build a dedicated observatory. Now I set up a portable tripod and I find that I spend too much of my available time setting up and aligning and I am ready to move to a permanent site.

 

Inspired by many on these forum pages I am going to tell the story of my journey. Not that I think I have any special insights, but to put back into the community after receiving so much information and guidance got from reading others build stories. Thanks to all of you who have shared your experiences, I hope that you and others find this thread useful.

 

I will build my observatory at home, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Some photos are attached of the site and the general view. These photos were taken in mid-winter, close to the solstice.  I think that I have Bortle 4 to 5 sky.

 

The attached images are compass point views (S, E, N and W) followed by a recent single DSLR image to the east.

 

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#2 mikerepp

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 07:27 AM

First welcome to the forum.   Looks like you have a very nice place for an observatory.   Post your progress here, we love pictures. smile.gif



#3 MHamburg

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 04:33 PM

G'day Mate,

Excuse the familiarity but I am a big fan of Down Under. Just finishing up an addicting police series called City Homicide set in Melbourne. I would love to visit whenever possible again. Your site looks great. Keep us posted.

Michael



#4 drafrete

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 06:21 AM

Chapter 2 – Planning

Having looked around and been inspired by many builds I have chosen to build a dome. But because I am fairly tall and I am sick of getting on my knees to use my refractor, I will put the dome on a standard height shed so I can stand up easily in the building.

I looked at all the different domes on the market and available in Australia, I chose the Nexdome system. I have purchased a dome and ring kit to mount on the roof.

I am making my pier from second-hand steel that I purchased from the local scrap steel merchant.

The shed/building is still being finalised. Either a steel shed purchased prefabricated or I will make a timber framed version myself.

Power will be 12V with solar panels to charge a deep cycle battery.

Network connection is most likely to be ethernet, but I am considering wi-fi bridge. I do not really like wi-fi because it is so hard to get a reliable high-speed connection.

The observatory building will be 2.4 metres (8 ft) by 4.1m (13 ft). It is sized to be just underneath the 10 sq m limit, beyond which I would need extra building approvals and permissions.



#5 drafrete

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 06:25 AM

Chapter 3 – Pier Foundation

The pier has been chosen to be able to be replaced with a large diameter pipe at some stage in the future, if I get really carried away.

 

The base plate is 400mm by 400mm to allow for this and the cement base I am building will cover that. We have a mild climate and so the footings do not need to be very deep compared with areas that have a frozen zone. I have planned about 900mm deep and two steps up, 300mm wide then up to 600 mm wide at the top. Four bolts are set into this slab to hold the pier. In one of the photos you can see the timber template used to set the bolt spacing.

 

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#6 drafrete

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 05:46 AM

Thanks Mikerepp,

 

Will try to keep the pictures coming.

 



#7 drafrete

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 05:47 AM

Hi MHamburg,

 

Thanks for reaching out - Melbourne is a good city to live.  Hope you enjoy the build.



#8 drafrete

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 05:55 AM

Chapter 4 – Pier and Mount Plate

I have an HEQ-5 PRO mount that I have had since I started out. This mount is OK. I recently stripped it down and completely re-lubricated the gears and re-set the gear drives.  That was a fiddly job, but worth it as it tracks much better now. It is not a super high quality mount, but I can get 2 min guided images OK and up to 6 minutes without wind. I think that it will do a for a little while longer. I can see that I will outgrow it soon. Getting out of the wind is part of the reason for building an observatory.

The raw pier was bought second hand – an H beam, 150mm width. I then welded this to 10mm steel plate cut to size. The steel plate was purchased from the local scrap metal dealer for $10 per kg. I welded the parts together, but I’m not the best welder and it shows. It seems to hold. The plate steel was cut using an angle grinder and cut-off wheels. Then smoothed down with a grinding disk.

For the mount plate I bought a disc brake rotor (from Repco) that I think is intended for a Holden Barina.  It has exactly the 60mm diameter hole that I need for the mount. I drilled four bolt holes and a hole for the adjustment screws.

 

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I had a test run of the pier and mount on the base in the open the other night. Was able to get the best tracking I have ever had. So far pleased with the way it is coming together.

 


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#9 MHamburg

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 12:50 PM

Nice work!

Michael



#10 drafrete

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 06:28 AM

Chapter 5 – Construction begins

Its been a few weeks since I last got a chance to make progress with the build. Two major steps forward: the slab base is poured, and I have built the modular walls and the roof for the dome.

 

Pictures attached show the various stages. The funny looking black and white shot is the support base for the dome ring. I have laid out the nexdome ring assembly to mark up the cut out. It is on structural grade ply.

I have yet to have the cladding for the walls arrive but once I do, I will be ready to assemble. The frame is inside my shed at the moment.

 

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#11 drafrete

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 05:24 AM

Chapter 6 - Walls and Dome

 

I have been able to find a couple of days where I can put some solid effort into the observatory and I have made some real progress. The frame has been fixed to the base, the walls are up and today I built the dome and put it up.

 

I am really excited to see how this now goes.  Clear skies forecast in the day or two.

 

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