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  #1  
Old 23-06-2016, 05:39 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Balcony Observatory

Heya all,

Looking for help with ideas for setting up an observatory ... I initially thought dome, but no, too big and obvious. Then Roll Off Roof!!! However not so well suited for my space.

I have a balcony approx 1.5m deep by 3m wide, from scope/chest height it has 360 degree views of the sky, all approx 20-30 degrees off the horizon, on the North side of the house.

Ideally am after some kind of roller door roof idea, which folds back in on itself ... but am a bit stuck on where to start looking for ideas, examples, etc ... I keep gravitating back to the sliding roof designs, which are great, but only if you have the space it seems.

Any help, greatly appreciated,

- Daniel
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  #2  
Old 23-06-2016, 06:59 AM
I.C.D (Ian)
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G'Day Daniel
How high are you and have through about vibration when walk around ,if not have a look at Daine042 thread he build small roll away shed just big enough to keep the weather out. It may give you some ideas

Ian
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  #3  
Old 27-06-2016, 05:28 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Hey Ian,

Thanks for the reply.

The balcony is about 3 metres off the ground, with concrete pavers.

Will have to test for vibrations. When I first started astro work I was shooting on top of a wooden deck. This was like being on a trampoline. Every time I went from leaning to sitting up in my chair I'd shake my scope and ruin a sub. I've learnt to sit still while taking subs, hahaha.

Only recently moved houses and balcony seems very stable so far. Will test it out with walking around the scope, as well as inside the house, maybe even jumping!

I checked out Daine042's thread, very clever idea! I kept thinking I need to be able to sit inside the "observatory" but the goal is to weather proof a permanently setup scope .. it's sparked a few ideas, so thank you!

- Daniel
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  #4  
Old 27-06-2016, 07:11 AM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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I'll be keeping an eye on this thread. Thinking of doing something similar, but in a small backyard. Currently renting so we have to be semi-mobile.

I have been considering making a small weatherproof telescope box that can be easily wheeled into place. It would be no bigger than the telescope, computer and tripod with a single hinged roof - sort of like the absco pool pump sheds but purpose built and more mobile. I have a semi-automated setup so I can be warm inside with the family while the telescope acquires data.

The idea is that all you need to do is open the roof, boot the computer and start shooting. The box would stay in place (wheels removed) for weeks at a time, to maintain reasonable polar alignment. You'd need to insulate, ventolate and perhaps add a dehumidifier and a power lead but it's not an insurmountable task.

Would that strategy work for you too Dan?
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  #5  
Old 28-06-2016, 05:15 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Hey Tim,

Yeh, that kind of thing sounds like the best solution so far. I tried making an acronym for it, as everything cool in astronomy has an awesome acronym, much like RORO (Roll Off Roof Observatory) ... what do you think of this:

SWeaT Box (Small Weatherproof Telescope Box)

Hahaha.

- D
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  #6  
Old 28-06-2016, 07:00 AM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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HAHA brilliant. I'll keep you posted on my plans and progress. Wife and son are away for a week and a half visiting family so it's a golden opportunity to complete the project.

Thus far:
- I'm going for a wooden frame. It's the easiest and cheapest to construct with my skills and tools.
- It'll be about 1.2m square, treated pine frame and weatherboard exterior
- I'll have to figure out some way to insulate and water proof behind the weatherboards.
- I have a few lengths of very heavy straight cut macrocarpa that I'm thinking of using as a floor.
- The base will have to be about 0.5m off the ground.
- Roof will likely be a single piece, hinged with corrugated plastic, insulation and weatherproofing etc...

The biggest problem at the moment is I'm not sure about how to mount the telescope. The easiest I can think of is to just place the tripod inside and use the leg adjusters to level. The issue is that my tripod is quite tall and it would make the box too large. I can replace the tripod legs with a shorter length of steel, supposing I can find the right diameter.

The alternative and more expensive approach would be a purpose built pier or steel tripod mount bolted to the floor.

I'll get power into the box with an extension lead to the house to run the dehumidifier, 12v power supply etc...

I think that's most of the important things covered. Still not sure how to seal all the cracks and gaps that inevitably result from my below average woodworking skills. I guess that expansion foam would do the trick for most??

Open to suggestions... :-)

When it's done, I'll do a talk at our local society. Seems like it's a common problem for semi-mobile people.

Tim
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  #7  
Old 18-07-2016, 05:28 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Hey Tim,

How'd you go, any updates/pics? Or have you started a new thread, if so, can you link it here?

- Daniel
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  #8  
Old 18-07-2016, 05:35 AM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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Hi Dan,

Yep, plenty of progress but have been snowed under with life in general. Basically, everything is done and I just need to assemble it outside. The frame was much heavier than I thought but it's mobile with two people lifting. Roof went on perfectly and the industrial sliding rails work brilliantly and very little effort to open and I can open it from one side (important for the electric gate opener position).

I'll post pics tonight if I get a chance. Still have to assemble the floor, pier and door.

The most important thing... it can be moved!

Hope that's enough of an update.
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  #9  
Old 18-07-2016, 04:19 PM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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Well, since the moon is out in full glory tonight, I have some time for a quick update - see pictures attached.

I was actually surprised at how much the structure wobbles when the roof is open. I had two options for the flooring - keep it solid and simply put the tripod inside or cut a hole for each tripod leg and mount on a bessa brick to the appropriate height. Needless to say I'll be cutting the spaces in the tongue and groove decking next opportunity.

Just added the door this afternoon - single swing not shown in photos.

Things to complete:
- the floor!
- weather seal the gaps in the ROR with some foam
- weather seal all other gaps with expansion foam.
- add a layer of plastic on the inside of the roof to catch dew drips
- wire up an extension lead from the house
- install my wireless webcam inside so I can watch for clouds and rain.
- add a lock and bolt for the roof (interrim)
- ultimately, add an electric gate opener and if I feel lucky, write an ascom driver to liaise with an arduino nano so that SGP can control the roof directly.

A neat idea I had last week - I bought a powerline-ethernet adapter to network the intel NUC to the home router. So, now I can wake the NUC from inside the house without having to head out. My next problem was how to turn on the rest of the gear via my 12V lab power supply. I bought a programmable energy saving power board that I can now use to switch on the rest of the gear when the NUC powers up. And, it all switches off when the computer does at the end of the session.

I'd say more than half way to a remote back yard observatory! All I need is another week of holidays... :-)

Tim
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  #10  
Old 02-08-2016, 05:23 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Hey Tim,

Thanks for the updates! Awesome progress, congrats so far!!! Looking good.

It definitely looks very solid, surprised to hear it wobbles. As long as the scope isn't touching it doesn't matter though.

Also interested in your automation, haven't even thought about it at this stage, still in the planning (procrastinating) stage.

Keen to hear more after your next holiday, or "unexplainable week long sudden cold"??? Haha. Good luck and can't wait to see more updates!

- Daniel
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  #11  
Old 03-08-2016, 08:50 PM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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Hi Dan,

Sorry for the late reply. Busy with work and life again. It does wobble but only if I put my full weight into it - the legs aren't exactly secure on the ground and I simply have them up on concrete blocks. Tested out the floating floor tonight (first clear night in about three months, no kidding). Zero movement in the scope with more wobble than I'll ever get with wind so it seems to work.

Too late to take pics but I'll do so at the next opportunity to show what I've done with the internals. Hope it gives you some inspiration for your build!

Automation is only via windows remote desktop and a computer mounted in the box. I'm trying to source a gate opener at the moment but not high on the priority list just yet.

I have to say, it's a real dream not to lug all the gear in and out each night. Plus, I actually felt I could spend the time polar aligning the scope perfectly. My guiding was the best it's ever been. REALLY.

Tim

Edit: forgot to say that the upshot of all this bad weather we've been having is I really got to test my weather proofing. Sideways rain and hail, not a single leak!! All that silicone and expansion foam must have done something... :-)

Edit 2: My 3yr old son has christened it the 'vegetarium' because it's a 'planetarium' near the vege patch. hahaha.
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  #12  
Old 24-08-2016, 05:08 PM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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Should post an update. See attached photos for a recent image. Only difference is now if have my RC8 ready to go when all of this rain clears... in another two months :-) . I'll post my four panel mosaic of the IC1274 region near M8 soon, taken using the scope/observatory last month.

Should also say that I decided the easiest solution to isolate the structure from the scope was a 'floating' floor. you might see another set of legs at the bottom of the obs, this supports the floor for scope and tripod. I could have built a pier but this took me all of 2 h on Saturday to build and erect and it completely removes any movement from wind.

Having said that, I probably will build a proper pier at some point but this solution works well enough. light foam to seal around the edge.

Edit: Dan, any updates?? How much longer do you plan on procrastinating for exactly? :-)
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  #13  
Old 27-09-2016, 05:37 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Hey Tim,

Firstly, nice work on your scope's SWeaT Box (though can probably rename it now to SWeeT Box now)!!!

Secondly, bahaha ... I haven't even started planning my procastination yet! I've actually been going in circles with this and the concept.

We actually have an L-Shape balcony, which has 3m running North-South, then at the northern end, runs 3m East-West. I had written off the N-S part as that is prime real estate, infront of the study which catches lots of arvo sun, faces the street, and I foolishly thought 'I want as much East-West' view as possible, etc.

Also, embarassingly, my approximation of the view/Field of View was a little off ... the space I was looking at using for the scope is actually blocked by the house on the Southern side, so I'll only get about 10 degrees South past Zenith, unless I jack up my scope to pivot at my eye level, haha.

I had intended a permanent type setup, in the part that is 3m 'East to West', however my genius wife said "wouldn't it be better round the corner?". This would allow great views from North to South, about 15-20 degress off the horizon however there is a slight overhang of the roof which means I cannot see much East past Zenith.

So last night I had an epiphany ... instead of the permanent location, why not maximise on my HEQ5 mount and use any part of the L-shape I like pending on the seasons/projects?? So it'll be a roaming / nomadic observatory!!!

I realise the whole point is to have a permament setup, and over time to perfect the polar alignment ... however, if I use Daine042's roll off box idea, but much more compact so it only houses the mount, then I have greater coverage of the sky ... does this sound crazy?

If moving annually proves too counter-productive, there's always the possibility of getting a second mount

Keen to hear thoughts, concerns, etc ... or if anyone else has used this approach?

- Daniel S

P.S Will sketch up the rough balcony plans and box design to make it clearer if the above ramblings are too vague
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  #14  
Old 30-09-2016, 05:31 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Sketch of balcony attached, approx 1.5m from edge to house, 5m East-West and 6m North-South. Balcony height is about 1m, so whatever I make will be visible from the street, unless I get a low pier?

North is up. Blue roof line showing approx overhang to contend with.

Orange numbers, as below:

1- best spot, however it's in the way/blocks access
2- my initial thought for placement, great East-West view
3- option for North-South view

Click image for larger version

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Size:	177.5 KB
ID:	205029

Still thinking about the box design.

Any thoughts, comments welcome!

- D
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Old 30-09-2016, 05:39 AM
tim.stephens (Tim)
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Hey, looks great. Sorry was meaning to reply but have been very busy with life and work generally. Sounds like a good approach for the obs. What FL are you imaging at? Our local observatory notices movement @2500mm on a huge isolated pier from people walking about in the foyer, 15m away. How stable do you think the balcony is?

I notice wobble with moderate wind on mine at 1200mm so I'm planning to mount the entire floor on concrete cinder blocks at some point in the near future. When we find a more permanent housing arrangement, I'll concrete in the observatory and build a proper pier.

Have you seen this one on CN?
http://www.cloudynights.com/topic/47...y/?hl=+balcony

Last edited by tim.stephens; 30-09-2016 at 05:55 AM.
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  #16  
Old 30-09-2016, 07:39 AM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
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http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/s...d.php?t=126403

The "convertible top" box idea would be great for the balcony solution....
Just make 100% sure the manager agrees before you start!
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Old 30-09-2016, 09:38 AM
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ZeroID (Brent)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by legoman_iac View Post
Sketch of balcony attached, approx 1.5m from edge to house, 5m East-West and 6m North-South. Balcony height is about 1m, so whatever I make will be visible from the street, unless I get a low pier?

North is up. Blue roof line showing approx overhang to contend with.

Orange numbers, as below:

1- best spot, however it's in the way/blocks access
2- my initial thought for placement, great East-West view
3- option for North-South view

Attachment 205029

Still thinking about the box design.

Any thoughts, comments welcome!

- D
After spot #1 your Nth\Sth (3) is the best spot to cover all the sky. Many of the Sthn Hemispheres best targets are in the Sth, And if you can see both Nth and Sth and to the West eventually every target will pass overhead during the course of a year. I wouldn't even consider #2 spot.

It's what I've had to do for my OB. I have no eastern sky at all, limited Northern views but good Southern with the SCP and reasonable Western. I just have to be patient and wait for things to clear the eastern trees. Besides which the CBD glow is over there anyway.

Without seeing photos to get a better idea of options is it possible at all to tuck the scope setup right down at the end of the 3 spot ? I did surprisingly well just putting marked spots on the driveway for the tripod to stand so it was almost aligned at setup. Yes, I had to setup each time but it was so much easier with a designated and marked location.
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Old 06-10-2016, 05:46 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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Thanks for the comments and ideas!

Tim: I had seen thr cloudyNights thread before, very cool and very well engineered. Regarding wobble, need to test it further. I have a 480mm refactor, sometimes add my 4x TeleVue Powermate (when I'm feeling crazy, haha).

Merlin: much simpler box idea is great, though think I'll hit the same cosmetic issues you did. Though if the obs is not visible from the street I'm in the clear.

ZeroID: Thanks for the input on the positions. I realise spot #2 is sub-optimal but I was thinking it's the best chance of a permanent setup. Spots 1 and 3 would take up prime real estate, though best views.

That being said, my scope is currently on wheels on a timber T-frame, I had a thought last night, if I cannot get a box-type outdoor cover (which my wife rigthly pointed out, with my skillset, probably won't be 100% water/weather/insect/animal proof) ... I could try modifiying the T-frame, to add some bits to allow we to push it up against the western wall of the balcony, so I have 'good' alignment everytime? I've tried markings before haven't been able to get it right.

Will keep you posted, thanks again!
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Old 09-10-2016, 05:50 PM
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ZeroID (Brent)
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Originally Posted by legoman_iac View Post
Thanks for the comments and ideas!

Tim: I had seen thr cloudyNights thread before, very cool and very well engineered. Regarding wobble, need to test it further. I have a 480mm refactor, sometimes add my 4x TeleVue Powermate (when I'm feeling crazy, haha).

Merlin: much simpler box idea is great, though think I'll hit the same cosmetic issues you did. Though if the obs is not visible from the street I'm in the clear.

ZeroID: Thanks for the input on the positions. I realise spot #2 is sub-optimal but I was thinking it's the best chance of a permanent setup. Spots 1 and 3 would take up prime real estate, though best views.

That being said, my scope is currently on wheels on a timber T-frame, I had a thought last night, if I cannot get a box-type outdoor cover (which my wife rigthly pointed out, with my skillset, probably won't be 100% water/weather/insect/animal proof) ... I could try modifiying the T-frame, to add some bits to allow we to push it up against the western wall of the balcony, so I have 'good' alignment everytime? I've tried markings before haven't been able to get it right.

Will keep you posted, thanks again!
If you can do a solar noon plumb bob shadow for your Nth\Sth line and you are more than half way there.
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Old 11-10-2016, 07:35 AM
legoman_iac (Daniel)
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If you can do a solar noon plumb bob shadow for your Nth\Sth line and you are more than half way there.
Oh great idea. I think I've read about this in the past but had to search to read up on it. Will try that out, thanks ZeroID!
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