Observatory - Construction

Building my Roll-Off Roof Observatory

Before construction could begin, the first order of business was having three hugh trees removed from our lot. That was the only part of the project that I didn't do myself (with occasional help from the wife/kids/friend). So, after much planning the process started in July of 2010 with digging the footing for the Pier.
The hole was three feet square by four feet deep, and it was a hot sunny July day, so you can imagine how much fun that was! A couple of weeks later we poured the footing and pier in one day with the help of my step-son, a friend, and a rented concrete mixer. As we poured, several pieces of 5/8" rebar were added in to strengthen the concrete.

The concrete pier consists of an 18" square lower section (for strength) and a 12" diameter upper section which ends up just above floor-level. J-bolts will hold a metal pier from there up.

Then, we dug the eight footings for the posts that hold the structure, filled them with concrete, and placed a J-bolt in each for the post brackets.

So now, we were ready to start building! You can see the pier under the raised cold-room floor. All lumber used at this point is pressure treated (including the plywood deck).


And finally, here we are framing the structure and sheathing it:


Each side has five of these 600# rated V-Groove casters:


Over the winter of 2010-2011.
The structure is 10' x 15', the roof will roll off of the first 10' and remain over the warm room when in-use. This will eventually house my 10" f4 Newtonian reflector on a GEM of some sort - perhaps a used CI-700?


It was still pretty cold out when we got the beams that the roof rolls off onto up this March ('11).
It was a relief to see everything work as planned. My assistant (wife) was very helpful for setting this up as it's quite tricky holding everything in-place and securing it.


We went with the LP Smartside siding so it matches the look of our garage. I finally got a framing nailer and that helped speed things up, should have bought it before starting this.


And here's the door and trim done. I cut the door jamb lumber and trim out of 2x8's. I used oil based primer on all sides as this is just pine and hopefully that will help it last a good long time. Took a while to cut and build all of this, but it helped pay for that nail gun. The door, 2x8's, etc. for this part of the project we had around and cost nothing.


Over the weekend of April 30th I picked up insulation and drywall and finished the warm-room.
I installed a window so I can see what's the telescope's doing from the warm-room then I ran the wiring, insulated, and put up the drywall. It's fairly cozy now. I still need a bat of fiberglass r30 and some foam-board insulation to finish off the ceiling.

Warm room photo one Warm room photo two

On the weekend of June 11th I finally finished the pier extension and attached the LXD75 GEM and my 10" scope.
I don't have a picture of the pier yet, but it's fabricated from a large 1" thick pipe flange at the base with a 5"x5" square steel tube welded to it (gusseted). The top has two 8"x8"x3/8" steel plates (w/bolts near the corners for leveling); one is welded to the tube and the other has fixtures welded on to accept the Meade tripod head for the LXD75 mount. I just did a "rattle can" paint job on the pier and still intend to unbolt it and properly paint it - someday.
The roof just clears the rig when it's swung to the correct position. I did a rough polar alignment but didn't get to use it.

On the weekend of June 25-26th I ran conduit and connected power to the pier from the OCS (Observatory Control System).
Progress has slowed down a bit, staying up all night star-gazing AND working on the observatory during the day can't both happen on the same weekend.

On the weekend of July 16-17th I painted the warm-room.

Warm room desk Warm room stairs

Also, I finished the soffit trim, so the observatory is sealed up pretty well against insects getting in.

Soffit trim

Also, a big concern is managing the heat buildup during hot summer days. I left a screened 1-1/2" wide soffit vent that runs the full length on each side and here I add Gable vents. I got a small (5 watt, $38 on Amazon) solar panel and installed it on the roof, then ran the wires down to a 4" computer fan ($6 on Amazon) and installed that in one of the gable vents. I then insulated the ceiling and that should help keep the inside of the observatory cooler. I might add a battery to the mix to keep the fan running into the evening to make sure the attic reaches thermal equilibrium.

Gable vents

8-6-11, Carpet/trim/etc:
I was really surprised at how long this finish work took... adding trim around the windows and baseboard, laying carpet in the warm-room, etc.

Once spring arrives I still need to do the following:

Add the posts/beams/rails that the roof rolls off onto. (Estimate 1 day)
Install the door and windows. (Estimate 1 day)
Add siding and trim. (Estimate 2 days)
Trim under soffits (Estimate 1/2 day)
Run wiring inside structure. (Estimate 1/2 day)
Fabricate and attach pier extension (Estimate 1/2 day)
Finish the inside of the warm room, including insulating it. (Estimate 1 day)
Finish interior stairs between warm room and cold room (Estimate 2 hours)
Sand spakeling and paint warm room (Estimate 4 hours)
Put down floor/carpet in warm room (Estimate 2 hours)
Install foam-board insulation/ceiling (Estimate 2 hours)
Molding around door and floor (Estimate 1 hour)
Finish automating roof (Estimate 1 day)
Rework pier in observatory cut down 12" install new top plate, paint (problem fix, Estimate 3 hours)
Install higher power MOSFET in OCS (problem fix, Estimate 1 hour)
Install new mounting blocks for chain drive (preventative fix, Estimate 1 hour)
Hang door between warm room and cold room (Estimate 2 hours)
Molding around windows (Estimate 1 hour)
Paint outside (Estimate 1/2 day)
Refinish desk in warm room (Estimate 2 hours)
Run electrical (and Cat5E network cable?) to structure (8 hours)
Finish exterior stairs (Estimate 4 hours)
Put down carpet in cold room (Estimate 2 hours)
Paint cold room (Estimate 2 hours)