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My "Driveway Observatory"....

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#1 B 26354

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 05:42 PM

Well... I honestly meant to post a thread about my solution for blocking out the neighborhood streetlights and porch lights right after I'd finished making it. But hey... I'm only a little over three-and-a-half years late.  fingertap.gif

 

In my circumstance, I own my home... but since I'm in a mobile-home park, I'm not allowed to erect a permanent structure in my (gravel) front yard (and don't have a back yard), so my "driveway observatory" has to be put up and then taken down each time I use it. Each of the four separate 7'x10' panels is made from PVC tubing that's solidly glued together, and each panel has a nylon "privacy screen" that's permanently attached to the PVC frame via grommets and zip-ties:

 

https://www.fencescr...FenceBlock.aspx

 

The seven-foot height is exactly enough to block all of the local lighting fixtures, and the screening is opaque enough to keep the neighborhood streetlights and porch lights and drive-by car headlights completely at bay. Once I'm in it and observing / photographing, my dark-adaptation is completely preserved... so as you can well imagine, as soon as I'm settled in and under way, I can't get the grin off my face.

 

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to have some seriously dark sites within an hour or two of where I was living... but this is only the third place I've ever lived, where I could realistically observe from home. I've been here for twelve years, and while the skies here aren't as dark as I'd like them to be (whose are?), they're not *too* bad. To my west, there's an unpleasant amount of sky-glow from a nearby city (~seven miles distant)... but the sky's entire east-facing hemisphere is pretty much mag 5.3... so as an example, M31 in Andromeda is just above the edge of naked-eye visibility.

 

Of course, starting with the first night I spent here, I immediately began thinking about ways to block the neighborhood lights... but it wasn't until about four years ago that I finally started homing in on a workable solution.

 

The obstacles were significant; the most serious one being that I live alone, so whatever I devised, it had to be something that would be large enough to encompass all of the necessary equipment, and high enough to block all of the surrounding lights... but also something that I could easily put up by myself, and do so in no more than about fifteen minutes. Otherwise, I'd never want to bother with it.

 

So metal pipes were out... but the 1-1/2" PVC tubing from Home Depot seemed strong and light-weight enough... and it was conveniently available in ten-foot lengths. I did have to have the privacy-screening panels custom-sized, in order to have them fit inside the finished 7-foot-high PVC rectangles (the "stock" height for the screening is eight feet). And the seven-foot height was necessary, because if they were any taller, I couldn't lift them high enough to clear the ground and carry them by myself. The total cost for the whole setup was about $400... which isn't too bad, for a private "observatory".  lol.gif

 

I keep the four panels outside, leaning against the side of my house... and to assemble it in the driveway, I just fasten them together at all eight corners with 24"-long, 1/4"-diameter, rubber-coated "twist-ties", which I also found at Home Depot.

 

Obviously, this is not a structure that will remain standing in more than about a ten-mph wind... but fortunately, it's not very windy here, and what wind there is completely dies down -- except for maybe ten nights a year -- about an hour before sunset. For added stability, I place a 5-lb sandbag at each corner:

 

https://www.sandbags...-5lb-white.html

 

Driveway Observatory.jpg

 

biggrin.png


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#2 csa/montana

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 05:51 PM

Very nice indeed!  Good solution to neighborhood lights!waytogo.gif



#3 BlueMoon

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 05:52 PM

Bravo! Well done and well thought out as well. What weight is the nylon and where if I may ask did you get it from for the screens?

 

Clear skies and be well.


Edited by BlueMoon, 30 August 2020 - 05:54 PM.


#4 Javier1978

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 05:58 PM

That's fantastic! I love what people is willing to do to enjoy the night sky!



#5 B 26354

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 06:05 PM

What weight is the nylon and where if I may ask did you get it from for the screens?

That info can be found in the first of the two links in my post.  grin.gif


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#6 BlueMoon

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 08:52 PM

That info can be found in the first of the two links in my post.  grin.gif

Ah yes. Another <facepalm> senior moment. Thanks, I looked right over the top of them.

 

Clear skies.



#7 B 26354

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Posted 30 August 2020 - 11:46 PM

Ah yes. Another <facepalm> senior moment.

Ha! Personally, I try not to have more than twenty or thirty of those a day.   waytogo.gif

 

In planning the construction of the panels, one of many concerns that I had, was finding a space with a perfectly-flat floor that was large enough for me to assemble and glue all four of them on the same day, and then allow them to lie in place for two days, thereby assuring me that the glue had completely cured, and that I needn't be worried about the panels becoming warped.

 

Fortunately, the large dining room in the mobile-park's clubhouse wasn't due to be used for a while, and I was given permission to clear the tables and chairs, and use the room for my "project". I used this glue:

 

https://www.homedepo...HP-36/100151698

 

The panels are as strong as ever... and after 3.5 years of leaning against the side of my house, they show no signs of warping whatsoever, even though it is frequently well above 100° F during the summer and early fall. The privacy-screen material is also still perfectly intact, and shows no sign of weakening... but the panels are shaded by a tree year-round, so they are not exposed to direct sunlight.


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#8 justfred

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Posted 31 August 2020 - 11:36 PM

Outstanding! If you can't find a dark spot - make one!

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

Fred


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#9 BrettG

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 07:55 AM

I'd love to do something like that, but I am always afraid that I am going to lose sky with my dob, so I haven't really bothered.  My wife and I tried (and failed) on a similar "box" 5-6 years ago.

 

I think I need to pay more attention to where what I am observing is, and make a determination on it.



#10 sunnyday

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 08:43 AM

very ingenious, thanks.



#11 B 26354

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 10:20 AM

I'd love to do something like that, but I am always afraid that I am going to lose sky with my dob, so I haven't really bothered.  My wife and I tried (and failed) on a similar "box" 5-6 years ago.

 

I think I need to pay more attention to where what I am observing is, and make a determination on it.

Understood.   grin.gif

 

My first real astronomical telescope -- back in 1956 -- was a 4.25" Newtonian on a manual EQ mount... so for me, using an EQ has been completely intuitive for more than six decades. So when the Dobsonian revolution first began, I understood the economic and logistic values in the concept... but as a seasoned DSO observer, the thought of not being able to re-locate my target by simply moving the mount in Right Ascension, made no sense at all.

 

I did try putting myES 102CF on an alt-az mount once... and at any magnfication higher than 18X, I hated it. Consequently, other than tripod-mounted cameras and binoculars (25X max), I've never used an alt-az mount for astronomical observation.

 

But as a result of innumerable discussions with C-N members about the pros and cons of a Dobsonian being a relatively inexpensive solution to "aperture fever", I confess to having on-and-off entertained the thought of a 12" or 14" one. In order for me to be able to effectively use it though, I'd have to do so in my "observatory"... and like you, I fear that because of how close to the ground the Dob's altitude pivot-point would lie, too much sky would be blocked.

 

I suppose a few simple geometric plots would answer the question... but I haven't yet been enthusiastic enough to put forth the effort to draw them. So many projects... so little time.  lol.gif


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#12 DSOGabe

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 11:51 AM

That is a great solution. I wonder what people think when they drive or walk by?.. 



#13 aa6ww

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 11:52 AM

Mine is similar. I have made eight 10ft wide by 7 ft tall walls I use in my back yard to not only block out light (Mostly from my own house) but it also keeps the wind out and get you lost in the "zone" much easier. They lock in place and  have rotating legs so the sit flat against each other.

 

..Ralph

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Edited by aa6ww, 01 September 2020 - 11:54 AM.

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#14 BrettG

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 11:54 AM

Understood.   grin.gif

 

My first real astronomical telescope -- back in 1956 -- was a 4.25" Newtonian on a manual EQ mount... so for me, using an EQ has been completely intuitive for more than six decades. So when the Dobsonian revolution first began, I understood the economic and logistic values in the concept... but as a seasoned DSO observer, the thought of not being able to re-locate my target by simply moving the mount in Right Ascension, made no sense at all.

 

I did try putting myES 102CF on an alt-az mount once... and at any magnfication higher than 18X, I hated it. Consequently, other than tripod-mounted cameras and binoculars (25X max), I've never used an alt-az mount for astronomical observation.

 

But as a result of innumerable discussions with C-N members about the pros and cons of a Dobsonian being a relatively inexpensive solution to "aperture fever", I confess to having on-and-off entertained the thought of a 12" or 14" one. In order for me to be able to effectively use it though, I'd have to do so in my "observatory"... and like you, I fear that because of how close to the ground the Dob's altitude pivot-point would lie, too much sky would be blocked.

 

I suppose a few simple geometric plots would answer the question... but I haven't yet been enthusiastic enough to put forth the effort to draw them. So many projects... so little time.  lol.gif

I could also just go out with my wife and stand in my usual observing location, and well, move her around to see about high/low it would need to be to be effective and still show the sky that I can see.  The entire West-to-North area is pretty well a no-go - big tree in my yard blocks that direction.  Even in winter when the leaves would be gone - not worth it, I suspect.



#15 B 26354

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Posted 01 September 2020 - 05:54 PM

That is a great solution. I wonder what people think when they drive or walk by?.. 

Not much... apparently.

 

It's a small (210 homes), fairly-rural seniors-only mobile-home park (i.e., private property) with only two (un-gated) entrances, so the only people walking around after sunset are a handful of residents, walking their small dogs. Seeing a car in the park after 10pm is extremely rare. And after seeing the "big black box" periodically appear in my driveway for the past three-and-a-half years... no one even notices it.

 

Nor did they take much notice of it when I first stared putting it up, to tell the truth. Probably 95% of the residents here prefer to keep to themselves. Even when I have an instrument or three set up in my driveway without the "observatory" (which I've been doing for twelve years, now)... most everyone just waves "Hello", and walks right on by, without saying a word. And of the probably fifty residents whom I've invited to casually drop by and "take a look", if they see that I'm set up... only two have actually done so.

 

I believe the operatives here are "apathy" and "ambivalence".

 

shrug.gif


Edited by B 26354, 01 September 2020 - 05:56 PM.


#16 jcj380

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Posted 02 September 2020 - 10:36 AM

LOL.  I love apathetic neighbors.  It's the nebby noses that are a PITA.


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#17 B 26354

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Posted 02 September 2020 - 02:05 PM

I'd love to do something like that, but I am always afraid that I am going to lose sky with my dob, so I haven't really bothered.  My wife and I tried (and failed) on a similar "box" 5-6 years ago.

 

I think I need to pay more attention to where what I am observing is, and make a determination on it.

Understood.   grin.gif

 

My first real astronomical telescope -- back in 1956 -- was a 4.25" Newtonian on a manual EQ mount... so for me, using an EQ has been completely intuitive for more than six decades. So when the Dobsonian revolution first began, I understood the economic and logistic values in the concept... but as a seasoned DSO observer, the thought of not being able to re-locate my target by simply moving the mount in Right Ascension, made no sense at all.

 

I did try putting my ES 102CF on an alt-az mount once... and at any magnfication higher than 18X, I hated it. Consequently, other than tripod-mounted cameras and binoculars (25X max), I've never used an alt-az mount for astronomical observation.

 

But as a result of innumerable discussions with C-N members about the pros and cons of a Dobsonian being a relatively inexpensive solution to "aperture fever", I confess to having on-and-off entertained the thought of a 12" or 14" one. In order for me to be able to effectively use it though, I'd have to do so in my "observatory"... and like you, I fear that because of how close to the ground the Dob's altitude pivot-point would lie, too much sky would be blocked.

 

I suppose a few simple geometric plots would answer the question... but I haven't yet been enthusiastic enough to put forth the effort to draw them. So many projects... so little time.  lol.gif

OK... my curiosity got the better of me, so I drew up a simple diagram.

 

In my situation, the "observatory" couldn't be larger than 10' square, due to the width of my driveway... and its 7' height was dictated by the ambient streetlights, and my ability to manipulate the panels by myself. And from a practical standpoint, whie I can visually observe objects to my east as low as 20° altitude with acceptable results... my surrounding sky conditions don't allow for great AP results much lower than about 30° of altitude.

 

On its Oberwerk tripod (which I never collapse), the pivot-point of my CEM25P is approximately 52-inches high:

 

CEM on Oberwerk 4cn.jpg

 

...and my best-guess estimation for the altitude-axis pivot-point on an Orion SkyQuest XX12g is approximately 24-inches high. An XX12g is probably the heftiest Dobsonian I'd be willing to man-handle. I know that the base height on your Apertura AD10 is ~26"... so I'm assuming its altiutude pivot-point is approximately 24" as well.

 

Given those constraints, here's what I came up with:

 

Driveway Observatory - Minimum Altitude Visibility.jpg

 

So for my AP setups, visibility down to ~28° altitude is perfect. But for visual use, the XX12g's 45° minimum just seems too limiting to me... so I will not be getting a Dob.

 

Nice to finally have a pragmatic answer to my musings, though. grin.gif


Edited by B 26354, 02 September 2020 - 02:14 PM.

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#18 RockyMtnRR

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Posted 02 September 2020 - 02:48 PM

Hm.... that picture gets my brain grinding away.  Time to get out in the front yard with the inclinometer.  I really want more sky and the raspberry patch has huge trees that blot out the North and East, but the 6 foot fence blocks out a good chunk of the neighbors and streetlights


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#19 Ant78

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Posted 03 September 2020 - 10:51 AM

Do you find dewing is reduced?



#20 B 26354

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Posted 03 September 2020 - 02:35 PM

Do you find dewing is reduced?

Well... happily for me, here in the "semi-desert", dew has never really been a problem that my scopes' dew-shields couldn't prevent.

 

Once in a long while, as dawn approaches at the end of an all-night session, there will be an all-but-imperceptible coating of dew on one of my OTAs... but I only learn of its existence when I touch the OTA tube. It is otherwise invisibly thin... and I have never once had dew be even remotely heavy enough to "bead-up" on any surface. Again... in these conditions, dew-shields are completely adequate, and are all that is necessary.

 

This has been true for the entire twelve years that I've lived here... and I can't honestly say that I have noticed any difference since I started using the "observatory".

 

Interesting question, though. Perhaps others who use similar "light-shields" in more highly dew-prone locations, will contribute.

 

grin.gif



#21 brlasy1

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Posted 15 September 2020 - 09:01 PM

Looks like a good idea.  I'm being forced to consider something similar as my local sodium vapor streetlights are being replaced with glare-y LEDs front and back of my house.  The school behind my house just added the tall LED parking lot light.  I've been wondering what a solution would look like, and your setup looks like something I couldn't mangle.

 

I wrote the school district Superintendent to ask if something could be done to focus or re-aim the tall fixture.  On a previous occasion, he had the school re-aim an LED door security light away from my house when I asked, and I provided him with a couple of Milky Way and Orion photos as evidence of what I could do with less glare.  We'll see if he can fix this problem.  My hobby is likely WAY down the list of his concerns.  

 

Push come to shove, I can carry my equipment into the empty field behind the school building (100 yards) and have darkish skies in two directions (and take my chances with the feral hogs, skunks, and foxes), or to the outskirts of my subdivision (1/4 mile) and be looking toward very dark skies in 3 directions. Compared to what some people have to do to get dark skies, I've got it easy, I suppose.

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#22 sparks

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Posted 17 September 2020 - 01:55 PM

I built one of these years ago with electrical conduit and blue tarps. Not only did it block obtrusive lights, it cut down cool breezes in the winter.

 

Cheers,

 

Bob


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#23 MikeTay

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 10:18 AM

Well... I honestly meant to post a thread about my solution for blocking out the neighborhood streetlights and porch lights right after I'd finished making it. But hey... I'm only a little over three-and-a-half years late.  fingertap.gif

 

In my circumstance, I own my home... but since I'm in a mobile-home park, I'm not allowed to erect a permanent structure in my (gravel) front yard (and don't have a back yard), so my "driveway observatory" has to be put up and then taken down each time I use it. Each of the four separate 7'x10' panels is made from PVC tubing that's solidly glued together, and each panel has a nylon "privacy screen" that's permanently attached to the PVC frame via grommets and zip-ties:

 

https://www.fencescr...FenceBlock.aspx

 

The seven-foot height is exactly enough to block all of the local lighting fixtures, and the screening is opaque enough to keep the neighborhood streetlights and porch lights and drive-by car headlights completely at bay. Once I'm in it and observing / photographing, my dark-adaptation is completely preserved... so as you can well imagine, as soon as I'm settled in and under way, I can't get the grin off my face.

 

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to have some seriously dark sites within an hour or two of where I was living... but this is only the third place I've ever lived, where I could realistically observe from home. I've been here for twelve years, and while the skies here aren't as dark as I'd like them to be (whose are?), they're not *too* bad. To my west, there's an unpleasant amount of sky-glow from a nearby city (~seven miles distant)... but the sky's entire east-facing hemisphere is pretty much mag 5.3... so as an example, M31 in Andromeda is just above the edge of naked-eye visibility.

 

Of course, starting with the first night I spent here, I immediately began thinking about ways to block the neighborhood lights... but it wasn't until about four years ago that I finally started homing in on a workable solution.

 

The obstacles were significant; the most serious one being that I live alone, so whatever I devised, it had to be something that would be large enough to encompass all of the necessary equipment, and high enough to block all of the surrounding lights... but also something that I could easily put up by myself, and do so in no more than about fifteen minutes. Otherwise, I'd never want to bother with it.

 

So metal pipes were out... but the 1-1/2" PVC tubing from Home Depot seemed strong and light-weight enough... and it was conveniently available in ten-foot lengths. I did have to have the privacy-screening panels custom-sized, in order to have them fit inside the finished 7-foot-high PVC rectangles (the "stock" height for the screening is eight feet). And the seven-foot height was necessary, because if they were any taller, I couldn't lift them high enough to clear the ground and carry them by myself. The total cost for the whole setup was about $400... which isn't too bad, for a private "observatory".  lol.gif

 

I keep the four panels outside, leaning against the side of my house... and to assemble it in the driveway, I just fasten them together at all eight corners with 24"-long, 1/4"-diameter, rubber-coated "twist-ties", which I also found at Home Depot.

 

Obviously, this is not a structure that will remain standing in more than about a ten-mph wind... but fortunately, it's not very windy here, and what wind there is completely dies down -- except for maybe ten nights a year -- about an hour before sunset. For added stability, I place a 5-lb sandbag at each corner:

 

https://www.sandbags...-5lb-white.html

 

attachicon.gifDriveway Observatory.jpg

 

biggrin.png

I used your idea to build my backyard  light blocking shield and It worked great. I use 3 7X10 panels and it blocks all that light I was having issues with. 

Thanks for the idea.

Mike.  

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#24 ValhallaObserver

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Posted 06 October 2020 - 08:58 PM

Does anyone have a "cold weather" version of this? I love the concept but wonder about if one could take a tent and weatherize it somehow for the observer and or the telescope? I know thermal gradients exist so maybe a two chamber approach? Hopefully someone is following my ramblings.

 

Shawn



#25 csa/montana

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Posted 07 October 2020 - 10:04 AM

There is an astronomy tent on the market now.  Here


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