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Celestron-11 in New Observatory

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#1 Rustler46

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Posted 22 May 2024 - 12:51 AM

My new "simple observatory" is now online with my trusty old 2008 Celestron-11. As I've gotten to the age of 78, it has become a rare time when I feel like lugging the 35 lb. OTA out onto the permanent pier Losmandy G-11 mount. Then at the end of observing much of the entire assembly was returned to the nearby garage. Such a hassle! The mount on pier would remain outside, covered with a Telegizmo 360 and plastic garbage can. 

 

But I remembered a prior slide-off roof observatory I had nearly 40 years ago, which inspired me to make another one of 8 X 8 feet size. So here is what it looks like now.

 

Open Roof - 9.jpg

 

Presently the roof slides off using human muscle power. But soon to come is a split-reel winch that will slide the roof open or closed. It will be powered by a 20 volt hand drill using a worm gear set, a pulley and 3/16 inch steel cable.

 

C-11 Home:Storage Position.jpg

This shows the Celestron-11 in its home storage position where it will clear the roof as it is slid closed.

 

Last night I had an enjoyable session with a bright, near full Moon observing some Spring globular clusters. Such a joy to use the big SCT under such conditions.

 

Late Edit:

Schmidt-Cassegrains have their strong and weak points. Pluses are light weight and short OTA for a given aperture. When thermal issues and accurate collimation are given due attention, they can perform quite well. Also an SCT has a relatively large back focus capability, which is an aid for imaging or bino-viewer use. While refractors can out-perform an equal aperture SCT, few refractors exist in the 8-inch and above size. When I piggyback my AT115EDT APO refractor, sometimes it wins on double stars. Other times the big SCT wins if seeing allows. For light gathering power the bigger aperture excels.

 

Among the negatives are the need for very accurate collimation for best high power performance. Also the fact that light traverses the interior of the OTA three times before coming to focus gives opportunity for thermals to degrade the image. And yes the obstructed aperture reduces contrast. Some users report variable quality in the execution of the optical design. My experience (C-5, C-8 & C-11) has shown reasonable quality commensurate with purchase price.

 

I don't want this to be a vehicle for the sometimes endless debate about the merits (or demerits) of Schmidt-Cassegrains. I'm just stating some of the reasons why I'm so pleased to have my own Celestron-11 on a nice go-to equatorial mount housed in observatory. It makes me a real "Happy-Camper".

 

Clear Skies,

Russ

 

FarmerRon.gif


Edited by Rustler46, 23 May 2024 - 12:50 AM.

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#2 Exnihilo

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Posted 26 May 2024 - 11:35 PM

Looks great Russ, enjoy!


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#3 Rustler46

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Posted 27 May 2024 - 10:05 AM

Thanks for your kind comment, Paul. I am enjoying it right now. Twice this past week I have slid the roof back on a clear night and enjoyed using the big SCT on some Spring objects. I hope to have the powered roof functioning today.

 

Clear Skies,

Russ


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#4 RichD

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Posted 27 May 2024 - 03:16 PM

Love your observatory Russ, I hope to have one very similar to it one day.
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#5 Rustler46

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Posted 27 May 2024 - 11:03 PM

Thanks, Kenneth. I hope you can get your own observatory soon. I sure have been enjoying getting mine functioning.

 

Last night I had another hour long session with the C-11. After decades using star-chart and star hopping to find objects, I enjoy the go-to function of a modern mount. I found two planetary nebulae, 4 globulars, 1 open cluster and a comet. The planetaries are among the best - M57 (Ring Nebula) and M27 (Dumbbell Nebula). For the former I used an oxygen filter, but preferred the view with no filter. For M27 the view was best with a narrow band filter. The globulars ranged from spectacular (M5) to easily seen (NGC 6229 in Hercules) but with individual stars to faint to detect (15th magnitude). The open cluster (IC 4756) would be an appropriate binocular object. Nonetheless in the big SCT with 42 mm, GSO 2-inch eyepiece the field was filled with bright stars. The 1 degree field of view was not wide enough to show any surrounding sky. But this cluster was of interest.

 

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was viewing Comet C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS). Using my APM SuperZoom at 15.4 mm the 10th magnitude comet showed a starlike pseudo-nucleus and faint coma. With averted vision a tail was visible extending out perhaps 1/3 of the 1/3 degree FOV.

 

Such an enjoyable evening would not have happened if the observatory hadn't made pre- and post-observing activities so quick and easy. 

 

Best Regards,

Russ


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#6 nof

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Posted 27 May 2024 - 11:18 PM

Enjoy your home observatory! I have a used C14 that I picked up at a bargain price in my home observatory and it gives me much pleasure. I spend hours out there on clear nights. Clear nights have been hard to come by recently but I can be out there viewing in minutes.
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#7 Rustler46

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 10:02 PM

Enjoy your home observatory! I have a used C14 that I picked up at a bargain price in my home observatory and it gives me much pleasure. I spend hours out there on clear nights. Clear nights have been hard to come by recently but I can be out there viewing in minutes.

That's great that you have the big C-14 housed in an observatory. I had considered getting a C-14 about 16 years ago. But the weight of the OTA convinced me to get the somewhat lighter C-11. Both are quite capable telescopes.

 

Best Wishes,

Russ


Edited by Rustler46, 28 May 2024 - 10:12 PM.

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#8 dcweaver

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 10:59 PM

Very nice. Enjoy the clear skies in Oregon's banana belt!


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#9 Rustler46

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Posted 28 May 2024 - 11:33 PM

Very nice. Enjoy the clear skies in Oregon's banana belt!

Thanks for the comment dc. I don't know if many bananas would grow here. But the effect of being near the Pacific Ocean is that it doesn't get very hot or cold. A warm day would be 75 degrees. Frost is not frequent in the winter. But being 4000 miles down wind from Siberia makes for very clean air. So I really do enjoy the climate, even if sometimes the winter storms don't allow for many clear nights.

 

Best Regards, 

Russ

 

FarmerRon.gif


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#10 Rustler46

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Posted 04 June 2024 - 08:33 PM

Work on the new simple observatory has been on hold for a few days while I attended a 3-day Bible convention. Now we're  back home, and I'm hoping for another observing session tomorrow night. While the observatory is functional as it is, I've come up with a list of different tasks to fine tune its functionality.

 

While I was out of town, Coos Bay accumulated over 1-1/2 inches of rain. On returning home, I didn't notice evidence of any roof leaks. But I still need to finish attaching the final 15 roofing screws. These will be hard to access, requiring I get up on the roof, supported by some plywood that is over at least 3 purlins. This will avoid damage to existing polycarbonate roofing sheets. 

 

Other important tasks include:

  1. Install winch cable, and get powered roof movement functioning.
  2. Install center rafter ramp-blocks that lift it as it approaches open- and closed-position supports.
    While being opened or closed the purlins sag a bit, causing the metal rafters to run into the support structure.
    I opted to place protective metal strips where the three center rafters slide over their supports. This is shown in the photos below. The outer two rafters are always supported by the side rails.
  3. Install hardware cloth covering the low wall ventilation openings.
    This will prevent cats, rats, wind blown detritus, et cetera from getting inside the enclosure.

Rafter Suport Ptotection - 1.jpg

This shows the north end ramp block that lifts the center rafter up a bit as the roof is slid fully open.

 

Rafter Support Protection - 2.jpg

Here are seen all three metal strips that protect the open end rafter support 2X4.

 

Rafter Support Protection - 3.jpg

This shows the south end, closed roof protective strips. I haven't made a ramp block for this end.

 

That's where it stands as of today.

 

All the Best,

Russ

 

 


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#11 Rustler46

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Posted 08 June 2024 - 09:06 PM

After getting my new observatory into a functional state, I have had several opportunities to benefit from having it at the ready. By taking advantage of clear nights, without having to struggle with telescope setup and take-down - well,  it has been great. Last night was less than perfect as to transparency and seeing. Still I enjoyed a 45 minute observing session, that likely would not have happened without a simple observatory.

 

From unlocking the observatory to looking through the eyepiece takes perhaps 5-10 minutes:

  • Open the door and remove the lawnmower from my "toolshed"
  • Slide the roof open and secure it to the track by nylon straps. Winds can come up suddenly here on the Oregon coast.
  • Remove the Telegizmo TG365 telescope cover; remove lens cover & install dew shield
  • Plug in 17 volt power supply for the Losmandy Gemini-1 electronics, and allow it to boot up.
  • Choose "Warm Restart"; center and align on the bright star that it has gone to
  • Choose first object to observe and let the Losmandy G-11 mount go-to

Note:

I have enjoyed using SkySafari on my iPad wirelessly connected to the G-11 for telescope control. It has a wonderful interface for selecting the subject and controlling the mount.

 

To reduce the effort to get observing, I've begun leaving the eyepieces out in the observatory, at least for the summer months. One less thing to have to carry from the house reduces the overall effort. Having a "garden toolshed" is not a very inviting target for theft. For that matter, I have had my $3K mount outside under cover for some years without being lifted. I doubt if a thief would know what it was or see its value.

 

The coming months will no doubt prove that the planning and building of my new simple observatory has been worth the effort. The total cost was less than $1800. My old body can now reap the benefits, and keep my astronomy hobby alive, now after over 60 years. Perhaps my experience will encourage others to try something similar.

 

All the Best,

Russ

 

FarmerRon.gif


Edited by Rustler46, 09 June 2024 - 12:10 AM.

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#12 payner

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Posted 08 June 2024 - 09:23 PM

Congratulations on your "simple observatory", Russ! Well built and thought out, it seems to me.

 

Clear and steady skies,


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#13 Rustler46

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Posted 08 June 2024 - 09:41 PM

Congratulations on your "simple observatory", Russ! Well built and thought out, it seems to me.

 

Clear and steady skies,

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Randy. It is still a work in progress. There are a few more items to take care of. One of these is to attach hardware cloth mesh to the low wall ventilation openings. This will keep out varmints and windblown detritus. The winch powered roof opening & closing is still to come. That has become less of a priority, seeing how easy it is to slide, when pulled by ropes. 

 

There are a lot of little things that can be done. For example having a simple latch to hold the door closed while inside would reduce the amount of stray light that affects observing. Just a slight breeze swings the door open.

 

I'm still figuring the best arrangement of accessories inside. With major construction finished, removing ladders, and other tools has made the inside less cramped. I'm not sure if my adjustable observing chair will fit inside. At least it is nearby, just across the garden in the carport AKA fire-wood shed. Observer comfort adds much to the experience. Nonetheless it has been fun working out the details of the entire observatory. I'll keep the forum posted as to progress reports.

 

Best Regards,

Russ


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#14 Rustler46

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Posted 10 June 2024 - 01:04 AM

Now that my simple observatory is functional, the ease of its use and ability to take advantage of opportunities presented has become apparent. Now even brief observing sessions can be enjoyed when skies are clear and other circumstances permit. Since Ocean Observatory is sited within a small town of some 25,000, there are significant light pollution and atmospheric transparency issues. According to one online light pollution source it is Bortle 5, with SQM of 20.33 magnitudes per arc-sec2. Also the close proximity of the Pacific Ocean affects the transparency of the air. While this situation is much better than what others must endure, it does limit the visual observing experience. I'm not ready to go back into astrophotography or EAA. Perhaps sometime in the future that may be. But as for visual observing, what would be good objects to observe under those conditions?

 

While the early hours of the night currently have no bright planets, the Moon is always a target of endless fascination when it is visible. As for DSOs, the summer globulars and some planetary nebulae are also sources of endless variety and fascination. Galaxies are mostly nondescript under bright sky conditions. There is at least one comet now easily visible - C/2023 A3, Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS. And of course the enjoyment of double stars is not greatly affected by light pollution. So until the evening sky brings some planets into view, these are my options. 

 

My next dark sky excursion will be an hour plus drive to a Bortle 2 site (21.96 magnitudes per arc-sec2) for this year's Perseid meteors. I hope to again be joined a dozen or so others like in 2023. Then at the end of August Renee & I will spend a week camped at Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon for another dark sky adventure. Until then I'm at home with a simple observatory and the C-11. It may well be accompanied by a piggybacked AT115EDT refractor for some interesting comparisons. Sometimes for double stars the little refractor gives the best view. Other times when seeing conditions permit, the big SCT's light-gathering power and increased resolution pull ahead. 

 

So as you might gather from my ramblings, my simple observatory has re-invigorated my astronomy passion, despite the challenges of advancing age. This is thanks to the support of my wife, the construction skills of my friend James and modest input of money and time. I hope my experience will encourage others to pursuit something similar. In the companion thread I'll be reporting on progress and recommendations that others may consider. There have been some worthwhile design decisions and some others less so. In any case, best wishes and clear skies to all.

 

Russ 

FarmerRon.gif


Edited by Rustler46, 10 June 2024 - 01:05 AM.

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#15 Rustler46

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 01:03 AM

There are a lot of little things that can be done. For example having a simple latch to hold the door closed while inside would reduce the amount of stray light that affects observing. Just a slight breeze swings the door open.

 

I'm still figuring the best arrangement of accessories inside. With major construction finished, removing ladders, and other tools has made the inside less cramped. I'm not sure if my adjustable observing chair will fit inside. At least it is nearby, just across the garden in the carport AKA fire-wood shed. Observer comfort adds much to the experience. Nonetheless it has been fun working out the details of the entire observatory. I'll keep the forum posted as to progress reports.

Found the hardware to make the gate-hook latch to hold the door closed. That makes for a better environment - me and the telescope inside with the open sky above.

 

My adjustable observing chair was just the thing to make viewing more comfortable. It now resides in one corner with a small portable table in the opposite corner, holding eyepiece case and iPad for SkySafari. Depending of the direction the telescope is pointed it can be standing or seated at a stool for best comfort. For objects at the zenith, the adjustable chair is best.

 

Last night while observing some doubles in Corona Borealis, Eta CrB at 0.6 arc-seconds was an easy split with the C-11 when seeing allowed.

 

Clear Skies,

 

Russ

 

Observing Chair-02529.jpg


Edited by Rustler46, 12 June 2024 - 01:12 AM.

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#16 quilty

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 03:00 AM

good thing is you can open the roof completely which might be hard at larger observatories

#17 Rustler46

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Posted 13 June 2024 - 01:02 AM

To fine tune optical performance and ease of use of the 2008 Celestron-11 XLT, I've scavenged some parts that had been installed on my 1985 Celestron Super C8 Plus:

  1. Baader 2-inch Clicklock, which attaches to the C-11's rear port to allow for near effortless adjustment of the star diagonal's orientation
  2. Baader 1-1/4 inch Zeiss-spec Prism Diagonal; This will give premium performance at the C-11's native f/10. If I install the f6.3 focal reducer, the prism diagonal would not be used to avoid color aberration from the prism. I use mostly 1-1/4 inch eyepieces. For my only 2-inch eyepiece, a GSO 42mm Superview, I'll need to trade back for the existing 2-inch mirror diagonal. This eyepiece is not a very frequently used.
  3. ZWO 1-1/4 inch Helical Focuser, this for fine-tuning focus without the mirror flop of the SCT focuser. This also has a numeric focus scale that allows for repeatable, best focus settings.

CS,

Russ

 

C-11 Diagonal + ClickLock.jpg


Edited by Rustler46, 13 June 2024 - 01:28 AM.

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#18 Rustler46

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Posted 15 June 2024 - 01:59 AM

A couple of nights ago, I had opportunity to view some double stars in Corona Borealis with my 2008 Celestron-11 XLT on Losmandy G-11/Gemini-1 mount. When I viewed Eta Coronae Borealis its A-B pairing was seen at 0.6 arc-seconds, as seeing allowed. Here are my notes from that:

 

2024-June-10 

Coos Bay, Oregon, Ocean Observatory, crescent Moon in sky, fair to good seeing, thin clouds before sunset increasing later, poor transparency, eventually clouded over, in bright twilight at the start, little dew, collimation is very good, G-11 mount controlled by SkySafari via wireless link, mostly looking at doubles in Corona Borealis

 

Beginning at 182X with APM SuperZoom (15.4 - 7.7 mm) on Eta Corona Borealis:

Double star – 5.6/5.9/13.4/11.0 magnitudes @ 0.6/74/218 arc-seconds, still in bright twilight, the AB-D pairing is seen, the companion is way far out, huge brightness contrast, later @ 364X the A-B split is sometimes visible as seeing allows, two little discs almost touching inside the seeing induced “hash’, yeah there it is always in the same position angle, this is unusual to split a pair at well less than an arc-second separation, could use some more magnification, but 364X is enough to show this one, two little stars with some dark sky between ‘em, visibility comes and goes with the seeing, but when seen they are always in the same position angle, there is a faint star at the same PA, but I just enjoy the view as seeing allows, this is a real highlight of the evening

 

The next change at Ocean Observatory is that I'm working on re-mounting my little AT115EDT triplet refractor piggyback on the C-11. That makes for some interesting comparison views.

 

Clear Skies,

Russ


Edited by Rustler46, 15 June 2024 - 12:24 PM.

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#19 Rustler46

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Posted 17 June 2024 - 12:31 AM

The next change at Ocean Observatory is that I'm working on re-mounting my little AT115EDT triplet refractor piggyback on the C-11. That makes for some interesting comparison views.

Last night I did successfully remount the AT115EDT refractor atop the Celestron 11 XLT for some nice observing comparisons. Some friends shared the views of the Moon for an enjoyable evening. But I've decided to not employ that dual setup for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, it just negates the quick and easy setup for observing. Neither the refractor nor its rings will clear the roof during the opening or closing. So to use that setup requires a bit of time before and after observing to deal with these items

 

Of course I could choose a different home position for the Losmandy G-11 mount - one that has the counterweight shaft horizontal and the OTA pointing south. This would clear the roof, but the Telegizmo TG365 cover would not fit over both the telescope and mount in that orientation. I prefer that extra layer of protection even under the observatory's roof. Also with the OTA and counterweight on the west and east of the pier, easy access to my "tool shed becomes difficult.

 

So it's back to the C-11 alone for the time being. At other times I opt for the refractor by itself. I'm keeping my Celestron-8 on its fork mount for an easily portable telescope. But for my "simple observatory", I'm exploring what works best.

 

CS,

Russ 


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#20 Auburn80

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Posted 19 June 2024 - 07:52 PM

To fine tune optical performance and ease of use of the 2008 Celestron-11 XLT, I've scavenged some parts that had been installed on my 1985 Celestron Super C8 Plus:

  • Baader 2-inch Clicklock, which attaches to the C-11's rear port to allow for near effortless adjustment of the star diagonal's orientation
  • Baader 1-1/4 inch Zeiss-spec Prism Diagonal; This will give premium performance at the C-11's native f/10. If I install the f6.3 focal reducer, the prism diagonal would not be used to avoid color aberration from the prism. I use mostly 1-1/4 inch eyepieces. For my only 2-inch eyepiece, a GSO 42mm Superview, I'll need to trade back for the existing 2-inch mirror diagonal. This eyepiece is not a very frequently used.
  • ZWO 1-1/4 inch Helical Focuser, this for fine-tuning focus without the mirror flop of the SCT focuser. This also has a numeric focus scale that allows for repeatable, best focus settings.
CS,
Russ

C-11 Diagonal + ClickLock.jpg
Russ,
Did you leave out a 2-1.25 adapter or does the Click lock accommodate 1.25 to 2" devices?

#21 Rustler46

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Posted 19 June 2024 - 09:55 PM

Russ,
Did you leave out a 2-1.25 adapter or does the Click lock accommodate 1.25 to 2" devices?

The Baader Clicklock is a 2-inch device. The Baader Zeiss-spec prism diagonal has a 2-inch input adapter but only has a 1-1/4 inch output. While I suppose one can get a 2-inch output adapter, the prism is only large enough to fully illuminate 1-1/4 inch.

 

One of the positive repercussions of my mounting the AT115EDT refractor atop the C-11 was discovering that the refractor's Astro-Tech mirror diagonal has a 2-inch click-lock type eyepiece holder and a 2-inch input. So that 2-inch mirror diagonal fits into the Baader 2-inch ClickLock on the C-11.

 

Clicklock 2-inch Diagonal - 2.jpg

 

Clicklock 2-inch Diagonal - 1.jpg

 

Now the Celestron-11 has easily adjustable diagonal orientation for observer comfort. And it now can accommodate both 2-inch and 1-1/4 inch eyepieces. This gives a near 1-degree actual field of view with a GSO 42mmm, 2-inch eyepiece. Not bad for a 2800 mm focal length.

 

The negatives of this arrangement include not having the premium Zeiss-spec prism diagonal in the optical train. But realistically, the seeing seldom would allow the difference to be apparent. Also lost is the fine focus helical focuser. So there are positives and negatives. But for the time being, that is what I've found to be best for simplicity and functionality with the Celestron-11 in its new "simple observatory". 

 

Clear Skies,

Russ


Edited by Rustler46, Yesterday, 03:01 PM.

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