Planning to Build an Observatory

I decided that I will build a backyard observatory. My reason for wanting an observatory is pretty typical of why any amateur astronomer builds one. Having to set up in the field for every observing session consumes considerable time dragging equipment out, assembling and configuring it for the session, and getting a precise polar alignment for photography. At my skill level, this could take two hours, and I still might not be satisfied with the alignment when I finally throw in the towel. An observatory changes everything! I would be able to walk in, open the roof, turn things on, and I’m ready to observe or image in five or ten minutes. The equipment is always there, and only needs minor configuration before use, and an excruciatingly precise polar alignment is preserved from session to session.  Still researching piers…steel on concrete vs all concrete, building type, electrical considerations and several other details. I will probably settle, and break ground when it gets a little warmer.

5 thoughts on “Planning to Build an Observatory”

  1. Sorry about getting you all worked up, but I decided not to build it. As I did the research, it quickly became apparent to me that one must work toward the final outcome up front, instead of taking an incremental approach. This is because the things that must be built or bought are expensive, permanent, and the only upgrade path is a do-over. For instance, once a cement pier that is sufficient to support a 4″ reflector is set in the ground, the only upgrade path is to build another cement pier. My final objective would be to house a 16″ reflector. This telescope size drives all of the other observatory design requirements. It requires a mount that can maintain precision while carrying that load, and the pier and building would require heftier specifications. I estimated the total cost of such an observatory to be somewhere north of $60,000! The sticker shock caused me to quickly rethink. Although an observatory would be the among the neatest things that I could think of, sitting alone in a small shed in the backyard is not why I resumed the hobby. I want to be with people, and that is absolutely the neatest thing! I am now going to do some serious thinking about improving my mobile/field capabilities. More to come.

  2. It’s tight, but the Honda Accord holds all of the equipment that I have and take to the field when I go mobile. It will not hold much more, so I must think bigger – perhaps a Ford Explorer class vehicle. Something like this would give me the additional benefit of being able to get to places that the Accord will not go.

    Not thinking about astronomy, I went to the DC Auto Show a few weeks ago to consider a Toyota FJ Cruiser. I wasn’t as impressed as I thought that I would be, so I looked at Ford Explorers and similar trucks. To be honest, I was more than a little underwhelmed. So, I looked at the Jeep Wrangler. Now that thing spoke to me.

  3. On a whim, I stopped in the Rockville Carmax to look at Jeeps. There were three on the lot. I especially liked, and drove, a 2011 JK Sport (2dr) with 13,000 miles, and almost half the price of a new 2014. Really, really thinking.

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