Hi all, thought I'd share with you a recent acquisition I made in the past weekend - the Astronomy Academy Perth (AAP) Octans Portable Observatory
Disclaimer: Whilst I do know the owner/founder of AAP however I did not purchase the Octans from him, nor has he asked me to write any review. In fact I bought this used off the IceInSpace classifieds. I'm sharing my thoughts as a happy owner of this product. Moderators, feel free to do as you wish with this preliminary review.
In the most basic foundation the Octans Portable Observatory has a ver similar design to the more well known green Omegon Tent Observatory, ClearView Portable Observing Tent and their variations that's been around for at least 8 years. The tent is propped up by 4 long frame poles, and a support ring frame at the top. That is where the commonality ends.
When AAP designed the Portable Observatory (hereafter, Octans), they had in mind designing a portable observatory tent for astrophotography use that could be set up by 1 person, housing a large telescope such as a 10" Newtonian. The base of the Octans is a generous 3.8mm in diameter, and has 2 entry doors. The height of the Octans is roughly 1.7m however there is an extendable neck that can be popped up with 4 poles that'll further shield the interior from strong winds blowing in. The poles can be tied down from the top to pegs on the ground but I didn't do that for the setup in my backyard. Naturally the higher you do prop up the neck, the field of view reduces. That FoV varies depending on the height of your scope.
Durable materials have been chosen as the Octans is expected to withstand West Australian's harsh desert conditions. During prototype testing, the Octans was put through wind gusts of up to 60km/h. Personally I've seen it used in up to 40km/h, where my DIY 3x3m marquee failed in even setup. A roof is also included to provide shelter from rain during the day. One of my astro friends who also have the Octans has tested leaving it out in the rain for a few days and no noticeable leaks were found. Both the walls and the roof use durable 420D Polyester Oxford weave 122 gsm that are silver PU coated to protect from UV, light showers, etc. The base floor of the Octans is made of 480 gsm PVC coated canvas that is naturally waterproof.
As mentioned earlier the Octans can be set up by one person which can take approx ~40 mins and naturally with a helping hand, it can be done faster. Aside from the materials used and size differences from the other variants, the prop-up poles sleeve into the tent walls with less use of plastic clips clips. For me at least, this gives me more confidence on the longevity of the tent as plastic clips may degrade over time under harsh exposure. I found setting up the main body of the tent is a breeze (pardon the pun) as long as I don't forget put the frame through all the sleeves. The most time consuming and difficult part is the sleeving of the support rings for the top and for the neck. The neck portion is also velcro-ed onto the main body of the tent.
Similarly for dismantling, taking down the ring frames were the hardest, however the rest is pretty straight forward.
I've only had the Octans for a few days and have left it out in my backyard for 2 nights with my scope in it. I have also had the pleasure of using an earlier prototype of it in the field last October as per my YouTube walkthrough here. Whilst on my first use out in the field, I rolled out my swag and slept in it with my scope chugging along snapping pix. With my recently acquired Octans from last weekend, I naturally slept in the comfort of my home whilst my scope was in the Octans in my backyard.
Whilst sitting in the tent, with the neck let down, I can feel the wind blowing in from the top, not surprising considering the tent walls are only 1.7m. With the neck extended however, it does a decent job in blocking the wind and the extended poles do hold up well. I can decide which side of the neck to prop up and which side to let down. This also helps to block out any stray light coming from one direction. On the 1st morning, there was lots of dew which the tent demonstrated its waterproofness 'cos as I let the neck down, it all dripped inside the tent.
After drying out the tent, I put the roof on (as pictured above). Unlike the other variants where there is are cross poles to hold the roof up, the Octans just uses a square sheet that velcros on 4 edges onto the main tent, and can be roped down at the 4 corners. Together with the velcro and the use of ropes, the roof does encapsulate over the roof opening tightly ensuring no water/rain leakages. However it is also recommended to use one or two of the neck poles to prop up the roof so that if it does rain, water doesn't pool in the middle. As my colleague rightfully mentioned, using a plate or frisbee at the end of the sharp end of the pole to hold up the roof would ensure the poles don't puncture the roof.
The Octans is a very durable tent. As I described it elsewhere, it's like the Rolls Royce of portable observatory tents with a RRP price to match at AUD$800 (~USD$587 at current exchange rates). I was very lucky to get mine used for about AUD$450 (~USD$330). The astro group I hang out with go to remote Bortle 1 dark sites in the middle of nowhere and a few of them have the Octans already. I think it's proven to hold itself well in harsh conditions.
Edited by AnakChan, 17 August 2021 - 03:38 AM.