Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Building an Observatory

  • Please log in to reply
21 replies to this topic

#1 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 24 June 2024 - 07:18 PM

I’m kicking around the idea of building an observatory to house my Losmandy G11 and soon to arrive AP Mach2 I was hoping to get some input from everyone, I have a few options I’m bouncing around right now.

 

The pier… Thinking about building one from concrete or getting a steel pier. I’ve looked at the ShyShed piers and they are a bit pricy, but I like the ability to take it with me if/when I move. Also, with a steel pier, placing the footing just below the floor line would allow the next owner to use it as a shed once the pier is removed.

 

Are there any obvious downfalls to using a steel pier over a concrete one? The footing for the steel pier still requires concrete work, not as much, and I cannot find any ready-made adapter plates, it seems I’d have to get one custom made if I go the all concrete route.

 

I was planning to use the Losmandy MA top since that’s the adapter I ordered with the Mach2, I did that so that I could use the Mach2 with my Losmandy HD tripod as well as the G11, but now thinking about a pier instead…

 

The next thing I’m mulling over is observatory size. Yes, the budget is to be considered, but it may be a once in a lifetime build, so of course I’m thinking about building it large enough to have 2 piers.

 

The largest scope I have is a 10” newt, I’m planning on eventually getting an RC10 truss. I would want to spec it so that if both the 10” newt and RC10 were both mounted simultaneously, there’d be enough room for both. I know that’s probably not likely, the G11 really can’t handle either of those, but who knows, maybe one day there’s another AP in the future.

 

I laid it all out in my house using the G11 and my CGX (CGX is for sale if anyone is interested by the way). What I came up with was I’d need to set the distance between the piers to about 6 feet.

 

It seems like to the walls could be about 4-5 feet. So that comes out to about a 10’x14’ if I place the scopes 4’ off the back walls, 5’ to the side walls and 6’ between the piers.

 

Maybe 10’x16’, that puts the piers 5’ off the back walls, 5’ off the side walls, and 6’ in-between.

I really want to size it “just right”, I have a fairly large backyard but don’t want it to be much larger than it has to.

Any thoughts or suggestions please feel free to comment.

 

Thanks,
Darryl


Edited by dally, 24 June 2024 - 07:19 PM.


#2 kathyastro

kathyastro

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6,482
  • Joined: 23 Dec 2016
  • Loc: Nova Scotia

Posted 24 June 2024 - 07:53 PM

I cannot find any ready-made adapter plates, it seems I’d have to get one custom made if I go the all concrete route.

If you are talking about buying a ready-made steel pier, it will have holes for mounting bolts already drilled.  Make sure you have the pier on site before you pour concrete.  That way, you have a pattern for the bolts.  Set the bolts into the concrete to match the pier's bolt hole pattern and you won't need an adapter plate.

 

If you are thinking of getting a steel pier custom-made, the same thing applies.  Have the fabricator pre-drill the bolt holes.  Then use them as a pattern to set the bolts in concrete.

 

In either case, use the pier as a pattern and transfer the hole positions to a piece of plywood.  Drill the wood to match the bolt holes.  Then set the bolts into the plywood.  As the concrete gets to the top of the column, embed the bolts into the concrete, held in place by the plywood.  That way, when the concrete sets, the bolt pattern will exactly match the pier base.


  • sheepofblue likes this

#3 haleakala

haleakala

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 79
  • Joined: 28 Sep 2020
  • Loc: Austin, TX

Posted 24 June 2024 - 08:03 PM

Daryl, I haven't started mine yet, but after extensive research on piers, the best engineering I have read about is steel pier on a concrete base, like you are contemplating. One of the best reads on CN on this subject:

 

https://www.cloudyni...er engineering

 

Especially the first post by speedster, owner of https://telescopepiers.com

 

Good luck on the build!


  • dally likes this

#4 macdonjh

macdonjh

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 8,476
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2006

Posted 24 June 2024 - 08:26 PM

dally, I built my pier using concrete.  I had a Losmandy MA adapter until I changed mounts.  I also went a little wild with finishes for my "shack".  As you said, it may be a one-time build, so why not?

 

Since you're in NJ, consider a warm room, even a small one, even if you plan to operate your gear from inside the house.  You never know when you might want to be next to your gear for some reason.  There is always the issue of unplanned-for storage needs as well.

 

An early photo during construction, showing my pier:

150228 Plot 6 west.JPG

 

A photo of the first iteration, but with my new scope (not so new anymore):

150926 Plot 6 SE.JPG

 

And now, with a full interior renovation:

220528 Plot 6 over west wall small.jpg


  • Knasal, RSJ and sheepofblue like this

#5 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 24 June 2024 - 08:41 PM

Daryl, I haven't started mine yet, but after extensive research on piers, the best engineering I have read about is steel pier on a concrete base, like you are contemplating. One of the best reads on CN on this subject:

 

https://www.cloudyni...er engineering

 

Especially the first post by speedster, owner of https://telescopepiers.com

 

Good luck on the build!

Thank you! Great reading!



#6 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 24 June 2024 - 08:43 PM

dally, I built my pier using concrete.  I had a Losmandy MA adapter until I changed mounts.  I also went a little wild with finishes for my "shack".  As you said, it may be a one-time build, so why not?

 

Since you're in NJ, consider a warm room, even a small one, even if you plan to operate your gear from inside the house.  You never know when you might want to be next to your gear for some reason.  There is always the issue of unplanned-for storage needs as well.

 

An early photo during construction, showing my pier:

attachicon.gif 150228 Plot 6 west.JPG

 

A photo of the first iteration, but with my new scope (not so new anymore):

attachicon.gif 150926 Plot 6 SE.JPG

 

And now, with a full interior renovation:

attachicon.gif 220528 Plot 6 over west wall small.jpg

That's a beautiful build. Did you bolt the MA top directly to the pier?



#7 macdonjh

macdonjh

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 8,476
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2006

Posted 24 June 2024 - 08:46 PM

That's a beautiful build. Did you bolt the MA top directly to the pier?

I put a 3/8"-16 anchor bolt in the center of the pier immediately after pouring.  I also put some threaded inserts in the concrete for the #10 screws which would normally secure the tripod legs to the MA (if it is being used as the top of a LW tripod).  If I'd thought about it, I'd have only installed one #10 screw: it's only job was to keep the MA from rotating.  

 

[edit] In that last photo you can see what I mean about unintended storage.  I didn't anticipate housing my other scopes in my observatory.  I wish it was two feet wider and a few feet longer now.  That extra length would be used for a warm room I didn't think I'd ever want.  Now that I've started imaging I wish I had room for two monitors at my chart table.


Edited by macdonjh, 24 June 2024 - 08:48 PM.


#8 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 24 June 2024 - 09:00 PM

I put a 3/8"-16 anchor bolt in the center of the pier immediately after pouring.  I also put some threaded inserts in the concrete for the #10 screws which would normally secure the tripod legs to the MA (if it is being used as the top of a LW tripod).  If I'd thought about it, I'd have only installed one #10 screw: it's only job was to keep the MA from rotating.  

 

[edit] In that last photo you can see what I mean about unintended storage.  I didn't anticipate housing my other scopes in my observatory.  I wish it was two feet wider and a few feet longer now.  That extra length would be used for a warm room I didn't think I'd ever want.  Now that I've started imaging I wish I had room for two monitors at my chart table.

What's the dimensions of the observatory? How long is that scope?



#9 TOMDEY

TOMDEY

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,351
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 24 June 2024 - 09:21 PM

If this is your 1st observatory with no previous experience... the one most common regret is, "I wish I had made it bigger". When we are accustomed and practiced to observing and imaging outside --- an observatory suddenly reminds one of how constraining/confining walls are.    Tom


  • R Botero, BobT, PETER DREW and 1 other like this

#10 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 24 June 2024 - 09:24 PM

If this is your 1st observatory with no previous experience... the one most common regret is, "I wish I had made it bigger". When we are accustomed and practiced to observing and imaging outside --- an observatory suddenly reminds one of how constraining/confining walls are.    Tom

Yes, this is my first, and I have a tendency to overdoing things but like you said I don't want to regret not going big enough. At first it was one pier with a cover, then why not use both mounts, so build 2 piers. Now a full observatory with 2 piers. I just need to nail down the dimensions...



#11 pgandy

pgandy

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 335
  • Joined: 12 May 2015
  • Loc: South Florida, Lat 26.34

Posted 24 June 2024 - 09:57 PM

If you go the all-concrete pier route, Dan's Pier Plates makes a 12-inch pier plate that fits the G11T MAL (native) and they offer an adapter for the G11 MA as well as the AP mounts. https://www.pierplat...ducts_2600.html

 

Its pricey but very well machined, sturdy, and....it fits. I went with the 12-inch plate, which includes 3/4" SS J-bolts for the form, for my G11T. There are other custom fabrications that you can consider for the plate.

 

Mine is under construction, trimming off the J-bolts now and lowering the mount:

 

Paul

 

Mount test.jpg pier plate 1.jpg


Edited by pgandy, 24 June 2024 - 10:02 PM.


#12 TOMDEY

TOMDEY

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,351
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 24 June 2024 - 10:05 PM

Yes, this is my first, and I have a tendency to overdoing things but like you said I don't want to regret not going big enough. At first it was one pier with a cover, then why not use both mounts, so build 2 piers. Now a full observatory with 2 piers. I just need to nail down the dimensions...

I eventually wound up with a 24-foot dome with a 36-foot walk-around deck and railing. On the plus side --- I've shoe-horned a 36-inch telescope inside.    Tom


  • Kitfox likes this

#13 EFT

EFT

    Vendor - Deep Space Products

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 6,440
  • Joined: 07 May 2007
  • Loc: Phoenix, AZ

Posted 25 June 2024 - 01:22 AM

Give yourself an 8 x 8 foot space for each pier.  Six feet will get cramped.  To save money, forego a warm room.  Spend the money on the more important part of the observatory.  Unless you plan on cuddling up with your scopes, hiding from your wife, or like living like a convict in a little room, just control everything from in the house.  You will be a lot more comfortable.  If you are going to build an observatory, then make sure you have equipment that doesn't need you to be sitting there next to it babysitting it all night.  The Mach2 will not need to be hovered over.  


Edited by EFT, 25 June 2024 - 03:09 PM.

  • R Botero, geothomas and dally like this

#14 R Botero

R Botero

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • -----
  • Posts: 5,430
  • Joined: 02 Jan 2009
  • Loc: Kent, England

Posted 25 June 2024 - 02:29 AM

It can be done in a very small space - mine has two piers in a 6x10' ROR (https://www.cloudyni...?fromsearch=1)- but make it as big you can afford/have space for.

Roberto

#15 MHamburg

MHamburg

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,834
  • Joined: 21 Jun 2006
  • Loc: Brooklyn, NY/Berkshires, MA

Posted 25 June 2024 - 02:51 PM

sized_PICT4520.JPG I liked the look of a dome so I went for that classic design. However, being in New England, I could no longer tolerate the cold, the damp, nor the squadrons of flying insects. I built a warm room which has become my refuge. I was able to remove one facet of the octagon-sided observatory and build the warm room as an attachment. My original source for the iron pier was a local junkyard and then I had a top plate fabricated by a local craftsman. Much less expensive. See next post for images.

Michael


Edited by MHamburg, 25 June 2024 - 02:51 PM.

  • dally likes this

#16 MHamburg

MHamburg

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,834
  • Joined: 21 Jun 2006
  • Loc: Brooklyn, NY/Berkshires, MA

Posted 25 June 2024 - 02:58 PM

Interior of warm room and exterior shot in winter. Now if I could only get above the clouds!

Michael

Attached Thumbnails

  • sized_PICT5009.JPG
  • PICT5007.jpg

  • Skywatchr likes this

#17 macdonjh

macdonjh

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 8,476
  • Joined: 06 Mar 2006

Posted 25 June 2024 - 04:38 PM

What's the dimensions of the observatory? How long is that scope?

In round numbers, 10ft x 10ft.  If I'd made it 12ft x 12ft nominal, I'd have saved a lot of cutting.  My design goal was to have 30" walking room all around my scope.  Until I started storing scopes there, I had that much.  I don't remember how long my scope is.  Probably something like 42"-48", maybe longer with the imaging train now.  

 

 

If this is your 1st observatory with no previous experience... the one most common regret is, "I wish I had made it bigger". When we are accustomed and practiced to observing and imaging outside --- an observatory suddenly reminds one of how constraining/confining walls are.    Tom

+1.  

 

A little more analysis, though: if you plan to do visual observing, you'll want quite a bit of room.  30" would have been enough for me, but not me plus other scopes.  If you want to host guests, allow for more room.  

 

However, if you'll be imaging, you only need enough room to maintain your gear.  At least once you get your gear operating reliably.  I'm still wandering around checking things in the middle of the night, so I'm glad I built my observatory for visual observing.  I also don't bump my scope often when I come in or go out.

 

Expanding on TOMDEY's comment about, "constraining/ confining walls are": one of the reasons I'm glad I build a roll-off instead of a dome is my entire building is open to the sky.  Just this last weekend after I had given up trying to get my imaging gear fully working, I was laying there trying to go to sleep but instead looking up at the sky.  TOMDEY laughs at me when I complain about wind at our club's site, though.  


  • TOMDEY likes this

#18 TOMDEY

TOMDEY

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,351
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2014
  • Loc: Springwater, NY

Posted 25 June 2024 - 06:59 PM

In round numbers, 10ft x 10ft.  If I'd made it 12ft x 12ft nominal, I'd have saved a lot of cutting.  My design goal was to have 30" walking room all around my scope.  Until I started storing scopes there, I had that much.  I don't remember how long my scope is.  Probably something like 42"-48", maybe longer with the imaging train now.  +1.  

 

A little more analysis, though: if you plan to do visual observing, you'll want quite a bit of room.  30" would have been enough for me, but not me plus other scopes.  If you want to host guests, allow for more room.  

 

However, if you'll be imaging, you only need enough room to maintain your gear.  At least once you get your gear operating reliably.  I'm still wandering around checking things in the middle of the night, so I'm glad I built my observatory for visual observing.  I also don't bump my scope often when I come in or go out.

 

Expanding on TOMDEY's comment about, "constraining/ confining walls are": one of the reasons I'm glad I build a roll-off instead of a dome is my entire building is open to the sky.  Just this last weekend after I had given up trying to get my imaging gear fully working, I was laying there trying to go to sleep but instead looking up at the sky.  TOMDEY laughs at me when I complain about wind at our club's site, though.  

The walk-around outside is superb for guests and taking a break from those others observing. Another consideration is access for equipment in and out. That's the rolly-door on the up hill side. The (full height!) personnel door is on the other side... no bumped heads. My domes never get dew or frost on the inside --- only the outside... even with no heaters on anything.   >>>    Tom

Attached Thumbnails

  • 192 24-foot dome Tom's 20231026 60.jpg


#19 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 26 June 2024 - 06:15 AM

Interior of warm room and exterior shot in winter. Now if I could only get above the clouds!

Michael

Very nice



#20 dally

dally

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 135
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2020
  • Loc: Erial, NJ

Posted 26 June 2024 - 06:28 AM

I'll be using it for AP, I have a pad in the yard I use for visual when I do it but here in the NE visual is very limited in my Bortle6+ skies. 



#21 Skywatchr

Skywatchr

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6,543
  • Joined: 03 Jun 2006
  • Loc: North-Central Pa.

Posted 26 June 2024 - 07:49 AM

Interior of warm room and exterior shot in winter. Now if I could only get above the clouds!

Michael

When I built my roll-off, I also built a separate well insulated small "shed" still big enough for the wife. flowerred.gif  I didn't want it directly connected to have "heat plumes" introduced every time I went to the scope for something. It also had A/C for those hot summer days and nights. Unfortunately I had to leave the empty buildings behind when I moved.  But someone has a great little "shed" now, plus the larger one. lol.gif



#22 EFT

EFT

    Vendor - Deep Space Products

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 6,440
  • Joined: 07 May 2007
  • Loc: Phoenix, AZ

Posted 27 June 2024 - 12:17 PM

Having spent too much time inside an 7-foot Astrohaven with a relatively large system at all times of year, I definitely don't recommend the small a space.  Even when you just need to do some maintanence, ducking under equipment to move around is absolutely not fun and full of opportunities to wack your head good.  A 10 x 10 roll-off room or 10-foot dome are the minimum for comfortable use, even if you don't go in there very often (you will end up in there more than you think.)




CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics