Creating the Observatory

Through the summer and fall of 2008 I felt my mount improvements had progressed to the point where I started actually practicing techniques: drift alignment, guiding, exposure balancing of LRGB , etc. Although very satisfying, it was also frustrating. In a typical 4-hour available evening slot, the time would go something like this:

8:00 – 9:00 Setup while darkness falls.
9:00 – 10:00 Drift Alignment
10:00 – 10:45 Mount alignment, target acquisition, guiding setup, filter setup
10:45 – 11:45 Imaging
11:45 – 12:15 Putting it all away, work tomorrow.

This isn’t practicing astrophotography, it’s practicing equipment assembly.

Now I understand why all of my acquaintances who have developed some level of skill in astrophotography have permanent installations of some kind. Time for an observatory. It won’t change my poor skies into good skies, but it will change my 4 hours of free time into 3.5 hours of useful astronomy.

I spent the winter of 2008-2009 looking at options, knowing I wanted:

  • A sturdy permanently-mounted pier to leave the G11 mount set up and drift-aligned.
  • An observatory structure to protect the pier and equipment when not in use, and provide some shelter during use.
  • Ground cover of some kind for comfort and further protection.
  • Small footprint and inconspicuous appearance to minimize visual impact on the yard and magnetism to thieves and vandals.

This article is the journal of the project.

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