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Old 12-09-2011, 10:05 PM
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jones (Salvatore)
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Espoo, Finland
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Post Just testing the water with a proposal for a challenging project


I haven't posted in this forum for a while, and haven't actually posted much at all, but some people will remember me as the guy from Finland. I have also been chatting on the chatroom.

I'm sneaking in again because I would like to discuss a proposal. This is nothing that I'm planning to put together right away, but perhaps in a year or better two. In the meantime I'd like to hear your opinions and suggestions.

As I'm more and more unsatisfied by the quality of the sky and the amount of clear nights in a year in my country of residence, plus of course the quality of the pictures I can take with the equipment I can afford, I would like to start the planning for a remote observatory hosted at a facility such as New Mexico Skies, Sierra Nevada Observatories, Reverland Dingo Observatory and so on.

The problem, of course, and the reason why I'm writing this, is that I can't afford this all alone.

So I got the idea of planting the seed for the creation of a partnership between me and two more people. After a lot of searching and contacting people, I have determined that the ideal site is that offered by New Mexico Skies.
Allegedly, they have 250 clear nights per year, a 1.4" seeing, and the darkest sky in North America. And the fairest fee I found (except a hosting facility in Canada, which, though, offers a much worse sky and a lot fewer clear nights in a year).

For telescopes under 14", the rental of a spot will cost USD 1000/month, that is of course USD 333,33 when split among three partners.

I was thinking long about the best way to protect the safety of the partners and guarantee the seriousness of the applicants. I'd like to use your advice here, but the idea I got was that of forming a non-profit joint-share company in the USA. Each partner would own exactly a third of the shares, thus guaranteeing that no single person owns anything.

If a partners were to need to withdraw from the engagement after some time, it would be their priority to sell their shares to another party. In practice, of course, this would mean finding a replacement. Owning shares (always one third, ideally) grants the right to use the equipment.

Given the huge amount of clear nights per year at the New Mexico Sky's site, I doubt there'll be any fighting about splitting the minutes

Now let's talk about the costs. I went through a very quick and dirty estimation, and with the purchase of a Paramount ME (USD 15000), a Planewave 12.5 CDK (USD 10000) and an Apogee U16M CCD (USD 10000), plus of course all the accessories and computer, we should stay within the USD 50000 mark, that is to say around USD 16-17000 each (remember: three partners.)

For the Australian readers here, the change from USD to AUD is almost 1:1, but the equipment would be purchased in the US and it would stay in the US, so there would be no shipping or custom cost. That sounds very advantageous, in my opinion.

I'm sure that many of you, just like myself, could sell their current equipment and get back a large chunk of that USD 16-17000 (for me, I'd manage probably half of that.)

After the initial investment, each partner would pay USD 333,33 each month for the hosting of the equipmant, plus insurance. I haven't checked thoroughly, but I believe that should be no more than USD 25 or 30 per person per month. So we're talking of something like USD 4200/year in fees.

This would buy each partner something like 80 clear nights a year, from amazing skies, and equipment that they couldn't probably afford by themselves.

In conclusion, I'm just laying my thoughts down here, nothing concrete yet. Myself, I'm not ready to start this for another year, and ideally I'd like to put my money where my mouth is two years from now. I'm not aware of how much it'd cost to setup a non-profit joint-share company in the USA, but knowing the sense for entrepreneurship of our American friends, I suppose it's not that much. Moreover, there will be some work needed in terms of details, writing a contract, some bureaucracy and so on.

If anybody else here in the same situation I am, and would like to get much better results than what they can get today with a financial investment that is sure greater than what you're spending right now, but not so insanely much, also considering your future purchases (aperture fever anyone? ), I'd like to hear your ideas or critiques about the feasibility of such endeavor, and perhaps we can plant the seed for some partnership!

Thanks for reading so far!
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