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Sawnee Gold - BYO Observatory Build

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#1 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 07:27 PM

My 15.5x11.5 BYO built roll off roof observatory is nearing completion at Deerlick Astronomy Village and I’ve heard a fair amount of interest from others in seeing some pictures of the construction, so I figured I’d post a build thread. Deerlick is a little over two hours from my home and the nearest “darkish” site. I’ve considered doing this for many years, but just finally made it a reality. I will be operating it entirely remotely via automation through Voyager and lots of custom software I’ve built to go along with it. I had initially planned to build it myself since I’m an engineer and have the necessary background, but when I heard Scott would be at Deerlick this spring to build several other observatories it was an easy decision to have BYO build it given how many weekend trips it would’ve taken me and how few free weekends I have available.

Goal for the observatory is to have two automated piers with target scheduling to avoid my time constraints inhibiting my data collection. I’ve had the entire setup including an Arduino acting as a mocked up roof motor and sensor set working in a spare bedroom at my house for several months doing simulated imaging sessions to work out all the issues, or at least as many as possible, before everything is installed remotely. The two scopes and imaging setups I’m using are ones I’ve used extensively already, so I know all the spacing and operation are solid. Over the past few days I’ve packed everything up to go down to Deerlick on Friday after I return from a business trip, so we’re on the home stretch. The observatory will be completed tomorrow most likely and then I’ll be on site Friday to have power connected and install everything over the long weekend.

The next post will start the step by step construction pictures.
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#2 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 07:33 PM

I started with the site plan and layout of the observatory, which I provided to Scott in advance of construction as well as to my concrete contractor for the slab. 
 

 

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#3 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:41 PM

When it was time for the slab to go in, my friend Jeff and I decided to do it at the same time and use the same contractor for a better deal.  We also had them put in a large french drain to improve the drainage at the site.

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#4 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:42 PM

Rebar and mesh, no isolated pier since this is remote the pier will be bolted to the slab to provide future flexibility to move piers.

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Edited by KGoodwin, 19 May 2024 - 08:43 PM.

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#5 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:44 PM

Concrete going in, trench for the french drain visible along with the perforated drain tube sitting inside the forms for Jeff's pad.

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#6 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:45 PM

Concrete being spread and smoothed.

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#7 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:47 PM

Both pads side by side, french drain nearing completion with just the last part of the gravel to spread behind the slabs.

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#8 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:48 PM

Forms off the 6" slab, final smoothing.

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#9 firemachine69

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:53 PM

Some advice for the gravel: Spread calcium chloride over it, and wet it. It'll really help control the dust.


Edited by firemachine69, 19 May 2024 - 08:53 PM.


#10 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:54 PM

After about a month of curing it was time for Scott and Diane to start building.  First they framed the east and west walls...

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#11 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:55 PM

Then the first two walls went up and they started framing the north and south walls...

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#12 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:57 PM

Next the north and south walls went up and the roll off roof support went in along with the roof going on.

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#13 KGoodwin

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 09:00 PM

Roof is rolling and the electrical is wired inside (although no power yet at this point since it's not pulled from the meter yet).

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#14 KGoodwin

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Posted 22 May 2024 - 02:08 AM

Outside complete, siding and roofing installed. 

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#15 KGoodwin

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 09:00 PM

I've been working inside last night and all of today getting things ready, but unfortunately we've had a lot of thunderstorms that have dropped a huge amount of rain making things more challenging since I can't open the roof very often.  My electrician was planning to connect me today, but will instead be doing the work on Tuesday, so I've been temporarily using my generator.  Unfortunately that means that when it starts raining I need to turn it off and bring it inside and hope my battery backups last longer than the rain or else I have to shut down all the computers.  I have two 1500VA backups, and the computers are all low power, so they usually last 2-3 hours if I'm not using mounts or moving the roof or something.

 

Here's a couple photos inside with all the move-in mess and my Mach1GTO up on a pier!

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#16 KGoodwin

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 09:06 PM

During a thunderstorm this afternoon that lasted long enough I didn't have any more battery (it takes them a while to charge back up after being used for a while when the generator is off) I shut down the electronics and got my AP130GTX mounted on the Mach1GTO.  I took the picture using a flashlight while it was pouring down rain and crazy lightning and thunder...even a bit of hail, but I was nice and dry inside the buttoned up observatory.  I will admit that it is a bit disconcerting to be in a small building with no windows, no power, and no cell service while a storm like that is going on.  It gave me a great chance to see if anything leaks since it was also quite windy.  Not even a drop inside other than what I dripped on the floor by the door running in dragging the generator when it started.  Need to do a bit more grading to improve drainage though as you can see from the photo after the storm passed...

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#17 Victory Pete

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 09:58 PM

During a thunderstorm this afternoon that lasted long enough I didn't have any more battery (it takes them a while to charge back up after being used for a while when the generator is off) I shut down the electronics and got my AP130GTX mounted on the Mach1GTO.  I took the picture using a flashlight while it was pouring down rain and crazy lightning and thunder...even a bit of hail, but I was nice and dry inside the buttoned up observatory.  I will admit that it is a bit disconcerting to be in a small building with no windows, no power, and no cell service while a storm like that is going on.  It gave me a great chance to see if anything leaks since it was also quite windy.  Not even a drop inside other than what I dripped on the floor by the door running in dragging the generator when it started.  Need to do a bit more grading to improve drainage though as you can see from the photo after the storm passed...

Very impressive, I will be building something similar.



#18 KGoodwin

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Posted 26 May 2024 - 12:08 AM

My observatory had first light tonight! RoboTarget chose M51 in HA and the test went extremely well.
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#19 KGoodwin

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Posted 27 May 2024 - 08:49 PM

This will probably be my last post on this topic since the construction and set up period is now complete for my observatory.  Here's a last couple pictures of the inside (second pier will be set up once an adapter plate arrives) and the front door with my sign hung up.  I'm extremely satisfied with the job BYO did!  I'll be adding some insulation to my roof, but otherwise it's pretty much complete.

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#20 Astrola72

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 07:11 PM

Very nice Kyle. Thanks for sharing this build thread. waytogo.gif

 

Joe



#21 sheepofblue

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 01:59 PM

THANK YOU very much for this.  In process of building a house then would like to add something like what you havish....  Some questions that would be helpful to me NONE of this is criticism as yours looks to be everything you want and then some.

1) How much power are you running to it?  I was considering a 20A breakers worth for me

2) Was the price still similar to what was on their website?  I am guessing higher but wondering for estimation of mine.

3) If you staggered your piers could you have done 3 in your opinion?  I would like 2 for night and a dedicated solar pier.

4) I notice you did not bore down for the piers, any second thoughts?  It would simplify things for sure.

 

Thanks looks super and is southern so a better example for me.  I debate on a 'cold' room with A/C but think other than initial I would run stuff from the house or an occasional walk out.  Exception being solar.  I also thought of extending the pad in your case to the south for guests with tripods....



#22 KGoodwin

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Posted 29 May 2024 - 02:34 PM

1) How much power are you running to it?  I was considering a 20A breakers worth for me

2) Was the price still similar to what was on their website?  I am guessing higher but wondering for estimation of mine.

3) If you staggered your piers could you have done 3 in your opinion?  I would like 2 for night and a dedicated solar pier.

4) I notice you did not bore down for the piers, any second thoughts?  It would simplify things for sure.

 

Thanks looks super and is southern so a better example for me.  I debate on a 'cold' room with A/C but think other than initial I would run stuff from the house or an occasional walk out.  Exception being solar.  I also thought of extending the pad in your case to the south for guests with tripods....

 

1. I have 2x 20A breakers...one has all my electronics, mounts, etc. on it and the other one has the dehumidifier, space heater, and blower.

2. The price was higher than what's on the website.  It fluctuates with the cost of materials.  It was considerably less than during the height of the material shortage/inflation.

3. You could definitely have done 3 piers one way or another if you didn't want all 3 to be able to hold big things.  I plan for my second pier to hold a Planewave 14" this fall, so hence giving both plenty of room.  I also don't want 3 setups.

4. Definitely no second thoughts.  I won't be in the observatory at all when it's in use since it's 100% remote, so no one is going to be walking around my piers.  The slab is about 8" thick, it's plenty of mass.

 

I didn't need a warm/cold room or any room for guests since it's 100% remote usage.  The climate control I have is simply to prevent excess dew from accumulating once the roof is shut.  I've installed reflectix on the rafters covering the southern half of the ceiling this morning and will complete the north side when I'm back there on Friday.


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#23 sheepofblue

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Posted 30 May 2024 - 09:02 AM

Thanks!  All things were helpful.  Even the planewave, right now I have a Mach2 and the biggest is a Celestron 8, I could see a bigger reflector or a large refractor on it one day.



#24 syxbach

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Posted 30 May 2024 - 01:47 PM

Kyle

 

Can you share how much percentage higher than the listed price on the website? I plan to build another ROR by them

 

Yuexiao

1. I have 2x 20A breakers...one has all my electronics, mounts, etc. on it and the other one has the dehumidifier, space heater, and blower.

2. The price was higher than what's on the website.  It fluctuates with the cost of materials.  It was considerably less than during the height of the material shortage/inflation.

3. You could definitely have done 3 piers one way or another if you didn't want all 3 to be able to hold big things.  I plan for my second pier to hold a Planewave 14" this fall, so hence giving both plenty of room.  I also don't want 3 setups.

4. Definitely no second thoughts.  I won't be in the observatory at all when it's in use since it's 100% remote, so no one is going to be walking around my piers.  The slab is about 8" thick, it's plenty of mass.

 

I didn't need a warm/cold room or any room for guests since it's 100% remote usage.  The climate control I have is simply to prevent excess dew from accumulating once the roof is shut.  I've installed reflectix on the rafters covering the southern half of the ceiling this morning and will complete the north side when I'm back there on Friday.



#25 KGoodwin

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Posted 30 May 2024 - 06:37 PM

The price on the website is the bare observatory without piers, any extra wiring, a roof motor, etc.

For my 11.5x15.5 there was an up charge of $2100 for materials price increase. There is also a charge for travel depending on how far they’re coming to build your observatory ($1080 for me in Georgia). From what Scott told me, they’re only doing builds within about one day’s drive of home for them in Ohio these days; no more west coast builds. I also bought two piers, the roof motor, the roof motor relay board to integrate it with my Dragonfly, and some extra wiring/lighting.
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