Project: Observatory – Preparation

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April 30, 2015 – Ethernet checkout.

The observatory is almost 300' from the house, and the Ethernet cable to it from the basement network closet is longer – close to the maxium length specified for Cat-5 cable. Consequently, we decided to check if a computer at the observatory site can communicate with the Ethernet switch in the house.

Mike put connectors on both ends of the cable, then connected it to the computer and the switch. Thankfully, the network connection works fine.


Roof opener plan

We plan to use a garage door opener to open and close the roof. This is a general plan showing how the opener will be attached to one side wall and the roof.


November 18, 2016 – Casting the telescope pier

At last we've started working on the observatory! Today we cast the 12" concrete pier to hold the telescope mount. The drawing above shows where the pier will be located inside the observatory.

We began by using our power auger to bore a 16"-diameter hole 28" deep. We rented a concrete mixer, and Mike secured it to the tractor's front-end loader so we could lift and tip it to ease the work. Here it is ready to pour concrete for the footer into the hole.

After the footer concrete set slightly, we placed the 12" tubular form on it and used large wedges cut from 2x4 stock to shim it plumb (second photo below). Then we filled it with concrete. In this case, we shoveled the concrete out of the mixer into the form because we didn't want to dump it and risk spilling outside the form.

The pier has a long 12"-diameter base and a 10"-diameter top that is 18" tall. This smaller top will provide extra clearance for the telescope's imaging equipment when pointed high in the sky. The top of the 10" section is four feet above the ground, which made shoveling the concrete into the form a challenge.


November 19, 2016 – Pier complete.

The concrete hardened overnight, so Mike took a look at the pier today. The top section appears tilted slightly, but this is a cosmetic flaw only, as the black telescope mounting plate on top can be precisely leveled with hex nuts beneath it.

Mike wrapped the pier with R30 fiberglass insulation to keep the concrete from freezing while it cures completely. After this photo was taken, he draped a tarp over the insulation to shield it from rain.


December 8, 2016 – Pier unwrapped.

The concrete pier has cured for nearly three weeks, so today Mike temporaily removed the insulation, then cut and unwrapped the cardboard form around it. He also backfilled the hole around the pier with dirt.

The pier looks pretty good, but the top section has some voids where we didn't stir the wet concrete well enough. These voids don't impair the pier's purpose of supporting 200 pounds of telescope and mounting, but we'll probably patch them later to improve appearance.

Mike replaced the insulation and tarp to allow the concrete to continue curing in cold temperatures.


March 26, 2017 – Burn pile cleaned up.

Ever since we moved into our new house in January 2011, we've been meaning to burn the brush and debris left on the burn pile by the contractor. A couple of weeks ago, we paid a team of workers to clean up debris along the driveway, and take the rubble from the burn pile as well. They took a lot, but left some partially rotted branches and stubble.

Earlier this week Mike clamped pallet forks to the tractor's front-end loader, and used them to carry the leftovers into the woods. Today he used the tractor and landscape rake to drag the rotten wood to the same spot, then smoothed the burn area.

Louise spread grass seed, but weeds are likely to sprout. Either way, Mike will be able to mow this area the same as the rest of the observatory clearing.


May 22, 2017 – Observatory project approved

Our rural subdivision has a property owners association with an Architectural Control Committee (ACC) that must approve any construction, even as minor as our 10' x 14' roll-off roof observatory. The ACC met this evening and approved the project based on plans and descriptions we submitted last week.

Now we can buy materials and begin construction (if it ever stops raining).


June 2, 2017 – Roof opener test

Calculatons indicate the roof will weigh about 400 pounds, so it's important to know if our garage door opener will move it (if not, we might need to build a smaller observatory).

We tested the opener on a patio by securing it to a 6x6 post and attaching the trolley to a dolly loaded with five 80-pound bags of concrete mix. (The attachment is hidden by the concrete in this photo.)

After a couple of glitches related to the optical obstruction detector (we won't use this, but it must remain connected), the opener moved the 400-pound load in both directions. Now that we're confident it will move the roof, we can start to build the full-size 10' x 14' observatory as planned.


June 6, 2017 – Framing lumber and hardware

Today we hitched the trailer to the pickup truck and brought home the lumber and hardware we'll need to build the foundation and frame the deck (floor). We bought:

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Updated November 14, 2017