The purpose of my observatory is to allow me access to clear skies whenever the opportunity arises. In the UK the skies are very unpredictable, what can appear to be a promise of a clear night can too often turn cloudy, or worse still rain.

Setting up a telescope on an equatorial mount can take about half an hour, but setting up for astro imaging requires the mount to be accurately aligned to the northern polar axis, which needs to be done after sundown, once the north star, Polaris is visible.

Setting up the cameras and a laptop computer also takes time, and at the end of the evening, all this equipment has to be taken down before you go to bed.

All this setup and breakdown time is non-productive to astro imaging, as you really want to spend as long as possible with the camera shutter open recording photons of light from distant galaxies

So there is my reason for building a permanent observatory, to totally remove the setup time to maximize the time when I can enjoy observing and photographing the skies

In the observatory, the mount is permanently fixed to a 'pier' which replaces the usual tripod, this pier is a concrete and steel construction which has a large concrete base sunk into the ground below floor level, this provides the 'rock-solid' stability for the mount and telescopes

The equatorial mount then sits on top of the pier and is permanently aligned with the north polar axis, and the telescopes are mounted on top of this allowing the mount to rotate at the precise speed to counteract the revolution of the earth, this allows the telescopes to 'track' a sky object as it moves from east to west throughout the night

The mount is controlled through a computer which has planetarium software installed, I simply click on an object in the sky simulator and the mounts motors take the telescope to where I want to look

The observatory has a roll-off roof to allow access to the sky, and also drop down walls to the east and south to allow observing of objects which would otherwise be obstructed by the wall horizon

The roof has roller wheels to allow easy opening and slides back on top of the rest of the observatory roof, the walls are simply hinged to allow them to be lowered once the roof had been rolled away

 

The control room houses the PC which controls the mount, main imaging camera and also the guide camera, as well as an electronic focus control device

I can have the observatory up and running within 5 minutes, and takes about as long to close down after a late night observing session

The observatory is equipped with 2 telescopes, a 200mm (8 inch) Newtonian reflecting telescope and a 80mm (3.25 inch) apochromatic Refractor

The Newtonian is used primarily for imaging deep sky objects with a digital SLR camera whilst the refractor is used for wider-field imaging of larger deep sky targets and also for planetary visual observing

The refractor is also used as a guiding telescope using a web camera which sends signals back to the mount via the PC to correct for any minor errors in the mechanics of the mount

Observatory Build Project

 

 

 

Why an Observatory?

I spent many years lugging my telescopes and mounts in and out of the house, setting up on the patio, polar aligning the mount, connecting cameras and computers, only to watch as the clear skies fill up with grey cloud, often without even seeing a single star.

For this reason I had long yearned for a permanent setup, with everything set-up, ready to go in an instant, so in spring 2008 I set about building a home for my equipment, which would allow me to make the most of any clear skies, and remove the hassle of setup and breakdown for every observing session.

Me in the observatory

The Observatory closed-up

Observatory closed

Roof rolled open and telescopes pointing north

roof open

South & East side walls open

sides open

Inside with roof closed and scopes parked

Inside

The control room with hatches closed

warm room

The control room open

warm room open

Inside the control room

inside warm room

The 200mm Newtonian and 80mm Refractor on the EQ6 Pro equatorial mount

Telescopes