The Ashton Observatory at Johnson Farms

observatory-iconMy observatory is mostly a flat piece of ground at the western edge of my back yard. The only development that is semi-permanent is a bench, and an alignment board. Everything else is dragged out of the nearby cottage at the beginning of an observing session, and dragged back indoors when I am dog tired and frozen after staying up too late. I have a clear view of the horizon down to about 35° in every direction except for the east, which is blocked by a huge, beautiful oak tree. n the mount, camera and laptop for more lengthy observing sessions, and I have Wi-Fi access to the home Internet router.

During the Fall of 2015, I built a fenced in garden adjacent to the observatory site. I put a taller fence post in the ground at the corner nearest the observatory, and I placed a weather station on top of the fence. During the Fall of 2016, I ran underground electrical wiring out to the post to power a double outlet, and a switched flood light that I can turn on during tear down after an observing session. I also close enough to the house that I have wi-fi access, and I have even ran a session on my laptop from my desktop in the basement.

Site Overview

Very simple. Farthest away from the camera is a bench, and just in front of the bench is the alignment board that point to true north. Working off of this board, which I use as an aid to quickly rough align my mount.


Alignment Board

The purpose of the board is to aid in getting a close alignment of the telescope mount. After aligning the mount on this board, I usually find Polaris within a degree of “perfect” alignment when it gets dark enough to see Polaris in the alignment scope. This is a time saver for me, and it results in a pretty good daytime rough alignment for solar observing. Read more…


Site Ready for Observing

Below is a late afternoon image of the site set up and waiting for darkness to fall. In this view, the TeleVue NP101 is the main scope, and the Vixen Sf80 is the piggyback guide scope. I have the Canon EOS 60Da mounted on the main scope, and a Celestron NexImage 5 on the guide scope. The mount is my Losmandy GM-8, and you may notice the laptop on the table set up for image capture. The alignment board can be seen extending from the northern (leftmost) tripod leg toward the right. The long shadow falling away from me as I snapped the photograph indicates that the view is to the east.


Observing Site Data

Johnson Farms: N39°08’43.07″, W77°00’27.8″, El 510′

Alpha Ridge Park: N39°19’13.28″, W76°55’1.51″, El 542′

Carr’s Mill Park: N39°19’05.66″, W77°03’14.14″, El 565′

Clear Sky Chart
Johnson Farms Weather Station


Observer’s Toolbox

© James R. Johnson, 2014.

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The Astronomical Musings of Jim Johnson