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Observatories that I have visited:
Michael's observatory at Torö, Sweden

A visit to Torö South of Stockholm where Michael has his observatory

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

More than a year ago I came in contact with Michael, we had a common friend who gave me Michael's contact information. We corresponded by email and telephone and discussed different things about astronomy. Michael told me that he had built an observatory. Very interesting I said, people love reading about observatories at my web page and have tips how to build them. Michael invited me for a visit, I got a lot of delay but in 2023 I did a visit.

Michael's Astro-story:
"I always had an interest in astronomy and built my first telescope at age 12. However, I also had longer periods when I didn’t have time or resources to engage in my hobby. When we purchased a small summerhouse in Stockholm's Archipelago for ten years ago, I finally took my chance and built an observatory. Initially it was manually operated, and I used it for visual observing. However, I am also a photographer, so it was a natural thing to point the camera to the skies, and after doing so there is no return – you get addicted! The sky is fascinating in many ways and you can choose what you like most (e.g. astrophoto for esthetical purposes, or even for scientific goals as exploring variable stars, asteroid occultation, study NEOs and much more). For now, I focus on developing my astronomical and photographic skills, but I’d like to do some “backyard science” later."

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

You have to travel at least 50 km South of Stockholm to experience darkness. Here you find Bortle Class 4 places which is very good to be in Stockholm. That's where Michael and his family decided to buy a summer house. Here we have just arrived and Michael gave us a round trip over the place. More than just the observatory but of course that's what interested us the most.

It's a compact built observatory, the diameter is just over 2 meter. It has a real dome, that's what makes an observatory to shine. Real observatories have domes !


Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

Michael built the foundation for the observatory from blasted rock left over from other works on the land. Rock solid so to speak. The pipes seen here are, water drainage from the environment control. Other pipes protect the electric cables that power the observatory and communication cables.

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

Walking around the observatory to the front side where the entrance is placed. A stone staircase leads up to the entrance.

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

A first glimpse into the observatory, a big white device meet us.

Environment control:

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

At bottom and a closer look at the white device, it's the environment control Michael told us.

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

The control panel of the dew controller. It is important to control the humidity inside the observatory. Too high and the equipment can start to rust, it can also start to grow fungus in the optics. It is mostly during spring and autumn that this creates a problem.

Telescope, camera and mount:

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

The heart of the observatory is of course the telescope, camera and the mount. This is a short focal length telescope, 350 mm at f/5 with a full frame camera, it's a four lens design and no need o flattener. It can handle wide field objects like big nebulas. A monochrome camera needs special filters to come to its right. Here is a filter changer that can hold different filters. There is also a tilt adjuster, very important when having big sensor cameras and high lens openings. Michael has found some indication when he analyzed his pictures that the focus plane is somewhat tilted, something he will adjust at the coming nights. To get out most of it the focus must be controlled to a high precision, and it alter during the night when temperature and the telescope's altitude changes. The mount is the popular SkyWatcher EQ6-R.

I asked Michael to tell something about his equipment. Here has Michael provided some links to his equipment:

Some comments from Michael about above equipment:

  • Mount: Is 8 years old by now, works well. Advantages: reliable, reasonably precise, easy to serve. I give it 4 points out of 5
  • Telescope TS-70: Newly purchased (first light) – fast aperture f/5, good optical quality except of small tilt which I will try to fix (quite difficult!). Points 4/5
  • Focuser: Reliable, accurate, unexpensive, some backlash. Points 4/5
  • Filter wheel: 3 years old, works well. Needs to rotate in one direction for best results. Points 4/5

Dew heater:

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

Below the mount is the lens dew controller, the front lens of both the guide telescope and the main telescope must be free of dew. That's the reason to use this dew controller which is connected to heating band around the lenses.


Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

Advanced equipment like these are normally controlled from a computer. This is the box that hold the computer, keep it protected from the outdoors harsh environment. It's a Windows machine and the nowadays popular software N.I.N.A. controls the devices.

Michael's comments:

  • PC Windows 11: HP ProDesk 400 Desktop Mini Core i5
  • Astro software: NINA (Nighttime Imaging-n-Astronomy)
  • NINA software: Amazing, there is no better, also free (!). Points 5/5.

More information about N.I.N.A:

Weather monitoring:

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

When operating the observatory during the night it's very important to overview the weather. If it starts to rain or snow the equipment can be damaged. This device is connected to outdoors sensors and give signals to the computer of what's going on about the weather.

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

The weather outdoor sensors. It monitoring the temperature, rain and the wind speed. Too heavy winds make the telescope to shake and ruin the astrophotos. If the weather goes out of the limits the computer power down the observatory and close its openings.

Here is more to red about CloudWatcher:

Dome control:

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

The dome, maybe one of the more exotic parts of the observatory. It has a hatch that must be open, preferable operated by a motor. The position of the opening must also synchronize to where the telescope is pointing. That is what this device do. The motor that rotate the dome is behind the black box to the right. It's a friction wheel that act on the dome's rim. The dome has been imported from UK.

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

Another motor operate the hatch, it slide upwards when it opening. One problem, the dome rotate and it's difficult to have electric wires up here to power the motor.

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

This is how it's solved, by induction power is transferred over to a receiver on the dome. It can only transfer power when the dome is in its home position. In home position it charge a battery that can operate the motor. Very elegant solution.

Here is more to red about Pulsar observatories:

Telescope monitoring:

Michael's Torö observatory, Sweden 2023

The last device, a monitoring camera. When operate the observatory during the night you should not be inside the observatory. The heat from your body disturb the photographing of the weak objects. It's operated from outside, when doing this you must be sure that nothing hit each other when moving and destroy your equipment. This camera is positioned to view the telescope and how it moves.

Afterwards we sat down and discussed all about astronomy and how Michael has built this observatory, after a while Michael's wife arrived and participated our meeting. Very nice day and a beautiful weather. Thank you a lot Michael for the invitation to your observatory !

I have asked Michael to send over a photo or two that he has taken from his observatory. These are taken with a bigger telescope than above.

Soul Nebula IC1848:

Soul Nebula IC1848, Michael 2023

Soul Nebula is a beautiful and relatively easy object to photograph. I used TS-106 telescope with monochrome cooled camera and narrow band filters for Ha- and O3, total exposure approximately 6 hours. Image taken a cold February night with very clear skies and good seeing.

NGC5353 and Hickson Galaxy Cluster:

NGC5353 and Hickson Galaxy Cluster, Michael 2023

NGC5353 and Hickson Galaxy Cluster in constellation Canes Venatici. This is the most distant object I ever photographed, at a distance of 100 millions ly (for comparison, Soul Nebula is 6500 ly away from us).

One more hobby for Michael is nature and photographing: Photality Studio

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