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My astronomy project:
Building an Observatory
(or a playhouse for big boys and girls)


Making of an Observatory

Part I, Frame

  1. Introduction
  2. From wood to observatory, bottom frame
  3. Corner pillars
  4. Lower protection panel
  5. Swedish red color panel
  6. Snow and water protection
  7. Stairs to heaven
  8. Building a stable base to the pillars

1: Introduction

Note:
I take no responsibility or liability for what are written here, you use the information on your own risk!

For us who are interested in astronomy photography there has always been a dream to have somewhere to have the mount permanently setup and in an observatory house.

Some of the reason are:
In a fixed place you don't have to polar align the mount.
The equipment is normally very heavy and it's not safe to climb up on hills with it. You can broken your legs or damaged your equipment.
You save a lot of time in every observation/photographing.

At our summerhouse we have a small hill that is perfect for a observatory. Previously, we had a children play house here, but it was very old and had rot in the wooden frame. The new house will still be a play house, but now for older boys and girls, almost exactly the same dimension. It's just 30 kilometers away from a big city so it's not perfect dark but much better than in city of course.

I have collected a lot of leftover materials under the years and we also have materials left from our summerhouse project. I try to reuse as much material from other projects as possible so this is a green environment project.

Here I will show you how I have constructed the observatory house, it's a very minimal house, just 2 x 2 meters. There isn't any need to be inside the observatory, it's remote operated from outside. It shall just hold the telescope and it's peripherals. In the beginning it will hold a EQ6 mount and a 5" f/7 refractor with camera. Maybe I can squeeze in a EQ8 mount with a 10" f/5 Newton, but not sure. Anyway, it's not very difficult to modify it to handle that.

It's just my own ideas adapted to what equipment I have and the place where I have it. I don't take any responsibility for it. You must construct your observatory for your own needs!

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2: From wood to observatory, bottom frame

Bottom frame

The pier is already in place, it's not a flat surface under it but it's rock so no problem with ground stability. Here are my wooden studs that will make up my bottom frame. They are 1.95 meter long and 45 x 70 mm wide, maybe a little bit weak for some parts but that's what I have too work with. And it's better with many small ones than a few heavy ones.

If you haven't read about my pier build project you have it here:

One of the corner poles

Here is the first wooden pillar in one corner bolted together with the studs. The angles must be exact 90 degrees.

The bottom frame in place and one corner pillar.

All corner pillars in place. Maybe I cut off the legs later and replace it with stronger 100 x 100 mm wide legs.

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3: Corner pillars

Now I have come to the part where I need to stabilize the pillars, they must be holded in exact position.

Stabilisation studs

Here are the pillars bolted together in the bottom frame. This was my first attempt, later I have cut the pillars down to let the telescope reach lower altitudes. Maybe I can come down to about 30 degrees above the horizon, in southern direction even lower than that.

Leveling frame

Before bolt the upper end together you must have the frame in level, I used a spirit level and adjusted the base like this. There are two wedges that you put together or apart.

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4: Lower protection panel

I live in Sweden and some years we can have a lot of snow in the winter. The lower end of the wall need some protection from snow.

Lower panel

At the lowest 0.3 meter I have used plywood as a wall panel. I will protect it from water/snow later. Now you see that I had lower the walls.

Lower protection panel

In the beginning I will us my EQ6 mount, it will just reach the rim of the upper frame when I mount it with a distance atop of the pier.

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5: Swedish red color panel

Have your heard about the famous red color (Falu Rödfärg) that our old houses and still today in Sweden are painted with? Well, I will used it on the observatory to let it fit in with the other red houses here.

Red panel

Red panel and the door opening to the left. The red panel is a donation from my girlfriend :-)

The red panel and the weather protection. One red panel is 0.1 meter high so you get the proportions. At right the southern direction.

The backside and it's here the roof will slide down.

From the inside and a view out through the door, the door height is only 0.88 meter and 0.7 meter wide. To the right is the opening towards south. I'm not sure if I did it right here, should I had a plastic film inside of the panel to get a more dust controlled environment inside? Or will it just give me humidity problems inside?

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6: The hatch towards south

I want at least reach the horizon in one direction and this hatch is in the direction of south. Maybe when I start to build the roof I will have part of it connected to this hatch.

This hatch will tilt all the way down later, it lower the rim with 0.2 meter and that's what needed to reach the horizon. We have the planets at highest position i south. I'm not very interested in planets and today my telescope isn't built for that purpose, but maybe it will be in the future.

Hatch in closed position, maybe I will have it titled in future and mount a solar panel on it. Then I can charge 12 volts batteries and then I don't have to be connected to the power grid.

The slope of the roof must be enough to let the snow fall off. The roof surface will be of plastic material so the friction will be low. I hope the snow will fall of by itself.

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7: Stairs to heaven

How does it look from downside?

This is my stairs to the top of the hill and my heaven. Not so easy to climb up here in the dark and winter with all snow. Now at least I don't have to move the heavy mount up and down the hill.

I will come back with the roof construction later in part 2.

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8: Building a stable base to the pillars

Reinforce legs

The long pillars on the northern side have to be reinforced, a diagonal stud fixed that. I got a question about these bricks, it's just a temporary solution.

To have my observatory in correct position I must have it standing on a stable platform. Today I will make that base.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

First I have to center the observatory building around the pier and have one wall in south direction. From the center of the pier to the closest wall I have 0.95 meters, it's a small observatory but there is no need to stand inside it.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

In our garden I found this big concrete tiles that I can use.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

First I make a stone bed that the concrete tile can rest on, very carefully get it in level.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

And then place the concrete tile on top of the stone bed. Checking that it's still in level.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

In one corner there is no rock underneath, just a lot of stones.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

After moving around the stones I got it stable and in level. Then I also have to have the observatory in level. Small wooden wedges make it. Later I have to match the high of the observatory building to the mount and telescope I will have installed into it.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

These small stones will move away if I don't fix them in position. I will pour concrete over them.

Observatory, concrete base to the legs

First I have high viscous concrete around the rim, later I lift the concrete tile and pour low viscous concrete under it that flow out between the stones.

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To the second part, Roof

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