View Full Version here: : My own little New Zealand Observatory
09-03-2012, 09:22 AM
Having a large shed already here, which used to contain chickens, I'm planning on turning part of it into something much cooler, a little observatory for my telescope (Meade 8" LX200).
Looking at doing astrophotography, I've been reading a lot about piers, but still can't decide to go concrete or steel. There's already a concrete floor (although not hugely thick) in the shed, but it seems that'll have to be partly removed to build a solid concrete base no matter which style of pier I choose. I have the Mitty Euro wedge to attach on top of the pier.
Plans are for the pier will be 1m high at the moment, and given the height of the walls, it seems at worst I'll be able to see as low as 30 degrees on most sides. I'd love more, but being very new to all this, it's already quite complicated. Hmm.
Being not far from the house and with an ethernet-over-power adapter, I'm looking at controlling a little computer out there from inside the house. Being away from the telescope during photography seems ideal; warmer indoors, less vibrations than if I moved around the scope, and I can ensure there's no lights on around the scope (which in this area, would attract moths).
I remember reading online about modding the Meade scopes so the wires don't get tangled as it turns, which will be essential if I'm gonna leave the scope on its own.
Anyways, having enjoyed other people's threads, I thought I'd create my own showing the progress of construction :) Plus being a newbie, if anyone thinks I'm making any mistakes, they might be nice and point them out before I do, hahaha.
1/6th of this shed will become the telescope observatory (the part with the blue tarp hanging inside on the first photo here).
(EDIT: I'm not sure why the images below don't appear as they do when I preview this thread, doh!)
09-03-2012, 11:48 AM
Hi Graham, looks like you've got a bit of work cut out for you. I am also attaching my pier down to a concrete slab but I'm building a false floor so I can walk around the pier without disturbingi t and I can set the height to maximise my horizon limits.
You probably don't want to see too much below 30 Degrees due to atmospheric distortion but the SCP for me is at 37, yours about 40+ I guess without consulting the maps.
Looks like you'll have darker skies as well than my Auckland so take advantage of whatever you can for viewing.
Keep us posted and if you need any advice or help etc there are plenty of people on here who will offer you their assistance, even if it just moral support. ;)
09-03-2012, 12:27 PM
Thanks :) Having setup the telescope in there to see what angle of the sky it will be able to see, I figured out I can stand and look through the eye piece when it's at its highest. But a false floor might be very handy, combined with a gas-lift stool. At the moment if the floor was higher, I wouldn't be able to stand up in one edge of the building. But I'll think about it yeah. I'll look into what height stools are too.
Outside of Christchurch (here in Tuahiwi) the skies seem quite good yeah. In between Rangiora, Woodend and Christchurch. Although that spotlight of a full moon lit up the skies well last night!
Thanks :) Wow, that's some fantastic sounding gear you have up there!
09-03-2012, 09:37 PM
This is something I made up recently too, which will be a handy chart for inside the observatory or on the computer there. Using NASA's webpage http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/mrst.php I put together all the data for 2012 & 2013 into Excel.
This tells me when each planet rises, peaks and sets, and is lit up blue if that happens when it's dark. This goes off the beginning of dawn / end of twilight. The maximum altitude of each planet is also shown, and gets lit up greener the higher it'll be in the sky (starting at 30 degrees). The Azimuth is also shown in there too, just shrunk down a bit.
Pluto is in there too, off to the side of that screen shot. I'd feel bad leaving him out ;) Then the Sun's information is off to the side too. Thanks to Iconka for the cute planet images :)
09-03-2012, 09:43 PM
Just go for it Graham ... live your dream mate.
Put up some pic's when your done. :thumbsup: for all to see. !!
Flash :hi: :hi:
11-03-2012, 06:10 PM
I'd make a steel pier and bolt it to your existing floor first, and see how that goes.
If you won't be in there whilst snapping shots of the sky, then you won't have to worry about transmitted vibration etc.
If it doesn't work out, then you can always dig your hole and re-use the steel pier anyway, no loss...
11-03-2012, 06:11 PM
I love the chart!
12-03-2012, 10:02 AM
For Astro I'd be setting the scope as high as roof clearance would allow (+ a few inches clearance of course). Just make sure the pier is solid.
Fantastic gear ? Just a lot of numbers, it's pretty average really. Couple of Newts and an Achro Refractor, binocs and some bits. Mine is cheap and nasty compared to many others. It's more what you do with it that counts and to be honest I haven't gotten anything decent out of it yet. This Astro photog business is a demanding mistress but like any mistress a fascinating obsession as well. I'll get there, hope to start my ob build in about 2-3 weeks. Funds are ready to go. :thumbsup: :D
12-03-2012, 02:05 PM
Took the roof off today, plus the netting and such from two walls. Wow it was dusty!
Here's two photos. The roof will be on caster wheels, and tracks for it will go off in the direction of the second photo. I'll have them go further away from the Observatory so they'll get slightly less in the way of viewing, and I should get slightly more of a viewing angle. Also about 40 cm (16 inches) of the walls on both sides shown here will go with the roof.
So they'll be about 40 cm of wall attached to the roof, and the caster wheels will be under those. This is to try and get a better viewing angle range.
(the first shot is blurry because I took it through wire netting)
Love the chart? Thanks :) :) I'd love to offer it online or to other people, but it has custom data for where I live of course. Anyone good with programming could probably make it work though :)
That sounds like a good idea about the pier. I'll bolt an iron tripod (we have some iron available!) and bolt that down. As you say, I can always dig a hole and such later if it doesn't work out.
Yep the scope will be just a few inches under the roof, when it's resting at a 90 degree angle. When it's pointing up, it won't fit under the roof.
Ah, nothing wrong with cheap and nasty gear :) When you do get decent results out of it, it'll be even more impressive knowing what you did it with. That's great that you'll get to build an ob soon!
13-03-2012, 09:48 AM
You hit the nail on the head there, 'when you get the results'.
Ain't been no results yet. Mind you weather has NOT been very cooperative or I would have been out quite a bit more and probably made a lot more progress. Seem to spend more time in the garage planning, building and testing than outside under the skies.
Thanks for the pix, keep us posted. Nice to see someone making some progress. :thumbsup:
14-03-2012, 10:16 PM
Hopefully it's just a matter of time :)
What I've been up to today is pulling apart more of the framing, and planning where the scope will go. This should work out ok :) On the left is the wall, and on the right is the wall plus where the roof slides along. The part sticking up on the far right is where the roof will push off to. So they'll be nothing before that to block viewing.
Doing this allowed me to figure out where to place the telescope in the room for the best viewing angles, and I can get a maximum of about 22.5 degrees in all directions This is measured by knowing where the bottom middle of the scope will be.
I calculated that by figuring out what will be a good height for the eye piece while sitting on a chair, what will fit under the roof (of course) and what will give the best viewing angles. Hopefully (!!!) this is all correct. haha. So the "pier" will be 1m high, and the roof (taking part of the wall with it) will go 1m away from the observatory as well.
(the lighter grey on the left is because the room isn't quite square, but it's close, so I can use the measurements to know how deep into the room to place the scope too)
15-03-2012, 08:01 PM
Today construction actually began! Up until now it's all been taking stuff down, but today the first thing (part of a frame) went up :) This is how it looks now...
I snapped a photo of my Grandad using the chainsaw too:
16-03-2012, 07:26 AM
Sounds good Graham
That's a nice pic of your granddad, captures the "action" well
16-03-2012, 08:11 AM
looks like a great pad to set up. I was going to mention some sarking nailed down first to the roof frame will help keep the dust and moisture out. You can paint the underside black afterwards as it usually comes in that reflective silver/aluminium coating . Your lucky to have the land for these projects. I love a good project :):thumbsup:
16-03-2012, 11:19 AM
Thanks :) It's in my parents place, but hopefully one day I'll be able to buy similar land myself.
Ah, is sarking like building paper? We got a 25m roll of that yesterday to put under the roof to help weather seal it.
16-03-2012, 01:39 PM
Yeah, i should have said sisalation or building paper. Sarking is what we used to call it on site.
Looking forward to seeing some progression pics :)
16-03-2012, 02:58 PM
Ah, excellent, so we're using the right stuff :) Good to know.
Yep we're slowly but surely making progress. Couldn't get much done today, but managed to get the frame we partly put up yesterday straight and finished, plus all the grass behind it gone so we can later nail it from that side. Plus we got part of the second frame up :) It's tricky going on top of pre-built concrete, because it isn't flat.
Probably won't get any done in the next two days, or maybe just a tiny bit. Looking forward to more on Monday though :) Oh and today some strips of red LED's I ordered arrived, which I'll use for lighting out there.
04-04-2012, 05:03 PM
Construction is still going ahead :) The rollers, which will hold on the roof and part of the walls are up too. Little by little, it's getting closer to being complete.
Sadly the clutch on my telescope broke. It no longer holds the scope in place. So I ordered the "EZ Clutch" replacement online and will install that.
04-04-2012, 05:21 PM
Its coming on well. In pic 3 above,(dOQmA), the black ends on the cross beams, are they metal and do they hook over the upright and the cross beam to hold them together?
04-04-2012, 10:03 PM
Hi John, ah those are just plastic stapled into the wood. They keep rain from getting into the ends of the wood, where it's absorbed the easiest.
05-04-2012, 10:31 AM
Ah, ok thanks for that.
05-04-2012, 11:26 AM
It looks like it is coming along nicely. :thumbsup:
18-04-2012, 09:17 AM
Lots more progress has been made lately :) There's now a roof and some walls!
I've also ordered some solar film too, so I'll be ready for the Venus transit. Looking forward to being able to check out the sun via telescope! It's amazing what we can do with some $40 film over the front :D
18-04-2012, 10:29 AM
Its looking really good. looks like you'll have plenty of room too.
How will you secure the roll off section from blowing off?
18-04-2012, 11:19 AM
It's pretty heavy with the iron on top, but just to be sure we're going for a few large padlocks to keep it down when it's closed. There will also be stops on the end too, so it won't roll off when it's open.
18-04-2012, 04:52 PM
I'm thinking something along the lines of these would be quick and easy http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/TRAILER-LATCH-BRAND-NEW-X-2-/221001953192?pt=AU_product_Trailer_ Parts&hash=item3374be2fa8
A couple of these along the side and end would be pretty secure, and can be locked if needed.
16-05-2012, 01:31 PM
Thanks for the link there. I had a look for similar things after seeing that, but in the end because it's connected to more of a building, we were able to use long bolts that go through the wall to keep it in place.
The iron tripod, lol. It's built using triangles for strength, and will be bolted into the concrete. This may be replaced with a pier but it'll be interesting to see how it goes:
My solar filter so far. Bit messy looking, but holds firmly onto the scope even without being taped down (but of course I tape it down anyways) Basically I'm going to make a second hole for Baader Astro Film. The current film there is similar but lets a yellow / orange color through. I'll have covers for each film, so I can use either one at a time.
The bolt shown below will stop people opening the roof from outside. There's also long bolts going into the rest of the shed further down, which will stop the roof from blowing off in heavy wind:
There's a door here, which just needs a padlock now:
marvelous! great project! fun to read, too! thanks for sharing, Graham!
22-05-2012, 02:39 PM
Glad it's fun to read :) :) It's fun to make too :D
I created a mini solar filter today, for my guide scope. I got MUCH further this time, and actually took some photos. I couldn't seem to get the guide scope and main scope aligned this time, but it was close enough to help me a great deal.
I see what people mean by atmospheric conditions now. I found it extremely hard to focus with the microfocuser because it was constantly changing on its own. No matter what I couldn't seem to get it any sharper than the photos I took below. My DSLR with T-Mount was as far inside the microfocuser as it would go (I assume that's how it should be?)
Any tips before the Venus Transit would be a huge huge help :D
Baader Solar Film (white balance pushed up turn it yellow) at 1/500, ISO 1000, 5D Mark II:
Seymour Solar Film at 1/80, ISO 3200, 5D Mark II:
I wasn't able to get any better focus with the Seymour Solar Film. It was also much darker, so I had to use a much higher ISO and much slower shutter speed (that would have resulted in more blur too) to snap a photo.
My solar filter, before I added the cardboard flaps over each filter (so that I can use just 1 filter at a time without having to un-stick the entire thing from the scope):
I used Live View to look at the sun and take the photos using burst mode.
Comparing the solar films more, the Seymour film was much easier to cut. I didn't have to worry about cutting causing crinkles in the film like I did with the Baader stuff. For photography however, so far I much prefer the Baader film. For purely visual use though, the Seymour film gives that nice orange look I expect.
29-05-2012, 07:29 PM
Received my 3.8 ND Baader solar photo film over the weekend, and put the third film into my solar filter today. I also put silver colored tape over the flap of that one, as a reminder for when I'm using it, that it's different and not to look through the scope when that one is open (photographic use only).
There's a gap on the top there, where it fits around my dovetail rail.
I took some photos today, although they aren't what I'd call sharp. Also the bottom of the sun kept going darker when the sun got lower in the frame. I wonder if I made the off axis filter for the photographic film too big. I can't think of any other reason, because it doesn't happen with the other filters. Easy fix though, just make a smaller ring to go on top of it. I'll try that tomorrow.
I'll give Registax 6 another big go with these photos and see if I can figure out how to use it this time, hehe. Will post the results :)
05-06-2012, 12:06 PM
EEK! The weather for New Zealand is not looking good at all for tomorrow... snow / sleet / cloud all over the place. Here it's gonna be a high of 5 degrees with "Rain, turning to snow. Bitterly cold southerlies.". Yet Thursday is sunny and fine. Doh! Today there was some clear sky towards mountains near here, but I'll have to hope for the same tomorrow.
Recently I figured out how to get the scope to track the sun, so that's a big help. Also I learned a bit more about how the microfocuser works (I can see it physically retracts or extends the tube).
Wasn't able to figure out why the bottom of the image gets darker though. It doesn't look like that at all in Live View, only when I actually see the photo it took on the screen. Reducing the size of the filter hole didn't seem to help. Hmm.
Quite happy with the focus on this particular shot (YAY!!!!) but it also demonstrates how the bottom is darker. Since that's where Venus will be, I'm hoping to figure that out. As a last resort though, I can try and adjust to compensate for it in Adobe Lightroom.
1/4000th Shutter Speed / ISO 640 / 5D Mark II
06-06-2012, 09:21 PM
Despite being surrounded by snow when I woke up today, my quest to see the Venus transit was an interesting one, hehe. I posted a photo here http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread.php?p=860804#post860804
13-06-2012, 09:24 AM
Have just seen all this for the first time, what a great read! Well done. I really like the iron tripod pier thing what a piece of art :thumbsup:
I'm just about to start my own wooden tripod for my 6" frac that will be 1.8 metres tall and I thought that was going to be large and heavy until I saw your set up. Hope yours is finished soon.
13-06-2012, 05:02 PM
The never say die approach to problems faced and D.I.Y'ness to get out of trouble goes a long way in this game.
Good on ya:thumbsup:
26-09-2012, 08:14 PM
Thanks guys! Matt, hopefully your woodern tripod has gone well?
Things were pretty quiet on the observatory front over the winter, plus I was kept busy with other things, but… now at last I’ve been able to do more on it, and it’s nearly finished!
Yesterday the iron tripod was bolted to the concrete. Two drill bits later (oops!), and after a fair bit of levelling, the iron monster was attached to the ground. The Mitty Euro Wedge was then attached, followed by even more levelling. Ending with the bubble meter almost perfectly centred, I think we did pretty well. I’m sure it’s not pointing exactly north yet, but it’s within a few degrees, which is adjustable on the wedge. After all that, finally the telescope was lifted up to its new home!
Sitting high up there, it looked good, it looked very good! Plus there was enough room above the scope to close the roof safely. Phew!! Our measurements were correct.
I took off the Orion 80mm ShortTube that I’m going to use as a autoguide scope and put the Meade finder scope back on. Pointing it towards a little water tower down the road, I lined it up with the main scope. To be honest I expected that part to be harder, but the adjustments on the finder scope worked well. Then I decided to point it at something more interesting, and had no troubles finding the moon up there in the blue afternoon sky.
Even in the daylight, seeing such a close up view of the moon with my 26mm eyepiece was literally a real eye opener! I could see each crater like I’d only ever seen before on TV, but this time it was with my very own eyes. Seeing the rough surface, I thought about what it would have been like to see the moon being slammed into by such huge asteroids. Switching to my 10mm eyepiece, I was amazed again at the detail I could see, this time around the edge of the craters. As the sun went down and the stars came out, I stood there just watching the moon.
The setup worked really well, and knocking on the iron tripod did cause some vibrations, but they dissipated very quickly indeed. Attaching a camera and taking some photos will be a better test, but so far it looks promising.
The next step will be filling up gaps in the building with filler, to keep rats out. One left a nice little (well, not so little actually!) gift for me on the shelf the other day. Then a few last touches, like a lip on the shelf to make it more earthquake safe, and a dew guard for my netbook to sit under.
Telescope wise, I have the challenge of polar aligning it next. I’ll have to read up on how to do that.
Last year with my DSLR, a 400mm zoom lens and a 2x tele-convertor I was able to just make out a couple of dots that were moons around Jupiter, but the planet itself was just a white blob. There’s not much to see planet wise here right now, but when they do come out, I can’t wait to see their colors. Then of course there’s all sorts of other targets to set my eyes on.
I’ve dreamed of having a telescope since I was a little kid, and now with one here, I can explore the universe… from an old chicken shed :)
26-09-2012, 09:37 PM
:thumbsup: Kiwi Engineuity, ;) at its best Graham . I have been following this from day one , Great job .
Enjoy mate .
26-09-2012, 10:40 PM
Thanks very much Brian! :)
I certainly will enjoy, for years to come. I'm sure I'll excitedly post any astro photos I take on this forum somewhere too :D
27-09-2012, 03:43 AM
NOT good mate.....
some more cross bracing needs to be welded on
apart from that well done :thumbsup:
27-09-2012, 08:15 AM
I don't intend to be in the Observatory when it's taking photos but I assume the motor in the telescope causes vibrations down the 'tripod' and back up it as well then?
If they can be greatly reduced by more cross bracing though, that's no so bad. I was worried if this didn't work, I'd have to dig the whole thing up and go the pier route. But for the price this cost, it's worth a try.
When you knock on the pier or tripod or such, should I be expecting to not see any shaking through the eyepiece?
27-09-2012, 08:55 AM
Hi Graham, looking good, that is certainly an Iron Monster !! Any pier will have some residual vibration factor unless it weighs about a million tons or something. It's how fast it will be damped that is the real question. Surprisingly wood dampens vibrations better than steel hence a lot of astro's replace metal legs on their tripods with nice solid wooden ones or use old surveyors tripods etc.
The motors on the drive for the scope are very unlikely to create enough vibration to affect the scope. My concrete pipe pier tensioned down to the concrete slab will 'ring' if i give it a bump but it damps out within half a second and as it is isolated from the ob floor then I don't have a problem.
If you want to reduce the ring effect even more you could add more steel, more bracing, more mass but you could also try some sheet ply panels firmly attached over a few of the triangular sections of the Iron Monster. 17mm ply maybe bolted on will brace and absorb. might be a bit of a mission to drill all the holes but could help a bit if you think its a concern.
My suggestion: try the system as it is and modify if you have a problem. It looks solid enough so I think you'll be sweet.
27-09-2012, 11:52 AM
Your setup looks really good. I like the pully system. Nice and simply. Does it work well.
Looking forward to the first images.
27-09-2012, 09:41 PM
Thanks :) Yeah the pully system works really well. And when the roof is closed, there's a couple of bolts that come through the walls of the observatory. I put a nut on each of those when it's closed, and it's not possible for anyone to open the roof from the outside.
I'll have to look again and see how long it takes to damped the vibrations. I'd heard that vibrations and poor seeing actually look almost identical, so I might think I'm just getting poor seeing, but it could be my iron monster lol.
That's good to know though, because yeah I'll give it a go as is first, and can always go for one of those ideas in the future as my skill improves too. I imagine it'll all be a pretty huge learning experience, with modifications along the way.
I'd love a "thud" instead of a "ring" if possible, so I imagine I'll go for adding more things to it at some point.
27-09-2012, 10:23 PM
:shrug: AHHHH! an aussie welder ...
Long time no see bro.
Brian ( the boilermaker )
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