Astronomical Observatories

5 years 6 days ago #103560 by scfahy
Astronomical Observatories was created by scfahy
I am new to Astronomy and working through the constellations at present with a pair of 8X42 Nikon Aculon binoculars. I will be purchasing a Telescope later in the year, and would be interested in setting up an Observatory In my Back Garden.

Ive been looking around at some of the commercial Sites, and was surprised at the high cost of the domes relative to the cost of starter telescopes in the €2000 range. Domes are starting at €5,000 upwards which is beyond my budget. I had a look at Skyshed but again the cost from the UK is considerably more expensive than they would be available in the US.

I was also looking at Tents designed for Astronomy or modifying existing tents, but im guessing with the Irish weather wouldn't be suitable for leaving outside during the Irish Winter.

Ive looked at home made Roll on Roll off observatories and home made domes, but they all look like you need a fair bit of DIY skills to get right. My DIY skills would be around Computers and Electronics.

Im wondering if anyone has done a simple home build or made use of existing Wood or Metal sheds to become home observatories, and if you could share your experiences on what was involved with some photos

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5 years 6 days ago - 5 years 6 days ago #103563 by paddyman
Replied by paddyman on topic Astronomical Observatories
Hi Stephen, welcome to Irishastronomy!

Thankfully there is an enormous wealth of information available on astronomy forums. Most astronomers are very happy to share their knowledge and experience, many document very detailed build threads with step by step photos. There are a number of build threads and topics on observatories right here you can search for, and two other larger forums have dedicated observatory forums that you could spends months reading through learning almost everything about observatories!.

There are others sites as well. A few of the professional companies have literature on their sites as well that provides a lot of information to potential customers.

Observatories come in all shapes, sizes and budgets depending on what you want and whether you want to be automated or not. Domes are a lot more than €5k to get setup and running, a roll of roof would be cheaper, both types have advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your location and again what you want, it could cost a lot just to get and base made for the observatory with a pier + comms and electricity ran to it, before even factoring in the observatory cost itself and then security for it. Many people do as you suggested and use wooden sheds and modify them.

Do more research and do up a budget, try make it as detailed as possible. I would say most observatories start out simple but over time get more and more complex as the astronomers requirements grow.

I am not trying to dissuade you, but one more thing to consider is if you really need an observatory?, what is the reason you would like one?. Is it the setup and tear down?, are you doing imaging that requires a lot of time prepare? Perhaps just setting up an permanent pier out the back garden could suffice?.

Its a great adventure to embark on just make sure its right for you.

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5 years 6 days ago #103565 by scfahy
Replied by scfahy on topic Astronomical Observatories
Thanks for the reply, and certainly a lot to think about. The idea of a permanent pier looks like the way to start, but I am quite new so maybe I should just start observing from the back garden, and take it from there.
I do some Photography with a Nikon D70 so would be interested in Astrophotography,and starting off with Short exposures which wouldn't require more expensive mounts, wedges etc.


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5 years 6 days ago #103566 by martinus
Replied by martinus on topic Astronomical Observatories
Not that I'm an expert in these things but I can say that I've had my EQ6 outside over the winter with no ill effects. I put two black binbags and a bike cover over it* - they're held on with those little spring clamps. After checking periodically I noticed a tiny bit of corrosion on the screws holding the plate with the power and control ports on it but nothing else. I wiped them down with a bit of WD40 on a clean rag periodically and they've been fine since.

I don't leave my telescope outside but a few other people on the forum here do with no reported ill effects. There are dessicant caps designed to reduce the moisture inside the telescope that fit into the focuser.

To mirror Paddy's comments I think it's better to take small steps rather than dumping a lot of cash into it and finding that you don't have the time to enjoy observing.

* I tested this arrangement for a few weeks during the end of the summer when the weather was more clement to verify it wasn't totally silly.
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5 years 5 days ago - 5 years 4 days ago #103578 by KevinSmith
Replied by KevinSmith on topic Astronomical Observatories
I am going to copy the Keter shed design. You can search for it on YouTube 'Keter Observatory'.

I would agree with the others, first understand what it is you may be interested in if you have the Astronomy bug - there may be many other things ( usually expensive things ) you want before an observatory.
Setting up and aligning quickly just in time for the clouds to roll in and then having to pack up quicktime before it rains gives you a good skill anyway : )
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5 years 5 days ago #103579 by Skygazer2013
Replied by Skygazer2013 on topic Astronomical Observatories
Hi Stephen,

I think you are getting good advice here, but I wanted to throw in a few extra thoughts as someone who has only just completed an observatory (built last October). Like all things in life, you need to be clear on why you want this...this is a big & expensive project. For any observatory to be effective, there are minimum quality considerations to be taken into account and these will drive the costs involved. It is up to you to decide (before hand I hope), if those costs are worth it.

Like you, I was constrained by budget and am also severely constrained by geography (my backgarden is in a housing estate surrounded by other buildings, trees and street lights). I am interested in astro photography and have been doing this from a tripod on my patio for over 10 years. But deep sky is my passion and a temporary setup was not effective.

I am an engineer by profession and an adherent to the engineers motto of "measure twice, cut once". I was convinced I could do something very cheap and effective. I won't take you though the crazy thought processes I went though, but suffice it to say that in the end I bought a roll off roof observatory and put it on a concrete foundation and a separate plinth for the pier.

I paid just over €4000, but I was disappointed I couldn't do it for half that. Disappointed is the wrong word...I assumed I could have done the whole thing for a fraction of that price...but I mentioned quality at the top of this essay! Quality (conformance to specification & fitness for purpose) is a huge issue in astro photography...if the quality was poor the observatory would not be effective and therefore be a waste of money.

To build an observatory to the standard I needed for the kind of photography I wanted to do, 4k was the cheapest I could do it. I should say, I am very pleased with my observatory. I am jaw dropped by some of the photos I get and therefore, I consider it money well spent. After 6 months of operation, I feel this observatory will meet my needs for at least 10-20 years from now.

Anyway, enough about me! Back to you. My advice is to be clear on what you want to achieve, then work out what kind of setup that will require. This will then enable you to work out a cost, then you can decide whether or not it is worth the cost!

As you are new to astronomy, I would suggest that you would be better served by spending the money on your scope. The advice I give above applies equally well to that subject. Picking a scope is a surprisingly complicated and (in my opinion) a delicious process. What you buy, will have a huge bearing on your enjoyment of this amazing hobby. I've enjoyed every second of this adventure...I hope you do too!

Clear skies

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5 years 5 days ago #103586 by albertw
Replied by albertw on topic Astronomical Observatories

Budget was my main issue as well. But I didn't want do be to cheap as to build something that wouldn't last or be fit for whatever I might try in future.

I built a 10x8ft roll off roof observatory for a little over €1000 including the steel pier and concrete base for the pier. The cost was basically for the materials. Some details are at the bottom of .I've since got electricity put in (paid an electrician to do that).

I had the drills and saws from various small DIY projects but I'd never built anything like this before. Still, by having a look at the skyshed designs and planning it out in detail I didn't find it too problematic, though it took many weekends of work.

So doing it yourself, if you need to buy the materials and buy/rent the tools, you won't really do it cheaper than €1500.

But don't go for an observatory yet. That money will be much better invested in optics. It took me about 15 years to go from my first decent scope to building an observatory :)

Good luck!

Albert White MSc FRAS
Chairperson, International Dark Sky Association - Irish Section
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5 years 4 days ago #103592 by scfahy
Replied by scfahy on topic Astronomical Observatories
Ive been getting good advise on the various types of Scopes from my Brother who also has a keen Interest n Astronomy and owns a Williams Optics 80MM APO Triplet TMP Refractor which Im hoping to purchase as he is upgrading to a larger aperture Refractor. Im going to Start of with a Manual ALT -AZ mount and maybe look at a GOTO GEM if my interest in the Hobby persists. Thanks guys for all the recent advice on Observeratories and might catch up with some of you in the future


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