Bit of a rant...buckle up. I promise it gets somewhere
I live in Upstate South Carolina. Anyone else who lives in the area knows...it's not exactly ideal for this hobby. There's light pollution galore, virtually nowhere outside the mountains allows night access, and I'm far enough from the mountains that going there requires a solid two-hour drive in one direction. Since moving here, I've been desperate to keep doing this - two hours drives, even after 9 or more hours at work, have been worth it. But tonight is it for me. I just spent an hour and a half on the interstate headed to my usual spot, an extra 45-minutes in near standstill traffic because of construction on the highway, only to finally arrive at my site to find a couple smoking meth there. I can't keep doing this to myself. I don't have a usable backyard, as my fiancé and I live in an apartment, and likely will not have the ability to buy our own home for another several years.
I want to build an observatory. I've always had that idea in the back of my mind, even when I was in high school and started doing this hobby seriously, but never put much thought into it because it seemed far off. Consequently, I don't know where to start. I'm 23. I've never bought land in my life, I have only limited woodworking/construction skills, and I know next to nothing about zoning laws, electrical work, and all the other things I haven't even thought of that probably go into a project like this.
So, for all you pros out there who know what you're doing: where do I start? My basic plan has always been to buy a small plot of land up in the Appalachians somewhere, where the light pollution level is decent, and build a simple roll-off roof observatory there, putting down a pier, and plopping my 10" reflector inside. I'd pictured initially just using the site as a private place to use my scope, but eventually investing in solar panels, so that I could power a permanently-fixed scope and perhaps a few red lights, maybe even a laptop to run guiding software.
But the actual details of making this happen? I don't know the first thing about accomplishing this - how to construct the actual structure, how to weather-proof it, how to even tell what kind of power supply would support my mount and some lights. Would zoning laws apply to a structure like this? Would they apply differently if I'm not concerned with being on the electrical grid versus just using solar panels as described above? I've looked through some of the "suggested links" pinned at the top of this forum, and it looks like it's possible to get pre-built observatories, or at least pre-planned ones that only require assembly? What do you think of those? Are they worth it? Is it better to build something from scratch?
Simply put, I'm looking for suggestions. Given that I have no experience and no idea where to start, I'm open to literally any advice, resources, tips, whatever, that you guys can offer me on how to start seriously planning a project like this - from finding land, to building the observatory, and everything in between.
Edited by RatBiscuit225, 04 September 2021 - 12:40 AM.