Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hi, I'm Tom...and I'm a telescope hoarder.

Usually when going to Goodwill, there is often some piece of garbage refractor "Trashco" or similar there for sale.  Often missing something critical like a focuser or even the objective lens.  These things should be put directly in the dumpster rather than on the floor to sell.
Someone will buy it for their kid and wonder why they can't even see the moon through it, or even keep it pointed if there is a view that can be seen.
I was at Goodwill the other day looking for some socks, or something useful.   No, not used socks, but some nicely priced 6 pack or similar.  I walked past the furniture and this caught my eye.  $39 for an 8 inch home-made Dobsonian telescope!  I looked it over and it appeared to be nicely constructed, focuser was nothing fancy, and collimation wasn't too bad, but needed some tweaks. The mirror looked filthy, but it looked ok.  I drove home with it hanging out the back of my Toyota and put it in our hangar and check it out.
A total of 25.5 inches of aperture simultaneously sucking
photons.
The mirror was filthy, so I cleaned it up the best I could.  It could use a re-coating for sure, but it was usable.  We had some clear cold nights (rare when a telescope is brought home!).  I checked out the Double Cluster, M-1, Alberio and M42.  All views looks quite decent despite clear but poor seeing that night.  I compared with the 17.5 and clarity was similar but not as bright obviously.
I'm pleased with the find, and this is actually portable too!
Easy collimating screws.

Before - gunky and dusty. 


After - much better!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Comet landing.

A break due to power outages and 2 full days of cold weather - causing me to miss some shows to record about the Philae landing on the comet.  Anyway, I did stream NASA TV through my iPhone the other day on the way to work and heard the excitement when Philae confirmed the landing on comet 67 (I won't try to spell out the "official" name of that ice ball!).
An arm's distance view of a comet.  Wow!
Once there was confirmation of landing, I did shout a "Woo hoo!!" when hearing the ESA team cheering. This stuff to me is so much more exciting than what most people get thrilled about - football.  Bleah!
Today it seems that Philae has gone to sleep due to landing in a dark area and running down the batteries due to a lack of light on the solar panels.  It seems that the general public says "what a failure!" but the space geeks all know this was a historical moment in space exploration. We intercepted a comet, going 41,000mph, 317 million miles away to gentry -drop- a lander on the surface.  Freaking amazingly awesome coolness if you ask me!
The surface mission was shortened, but data was sent back to Rosetta.
Congratulations to the ESA Rosetta team.   Well done!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Power!

"Power transfer is complete - we're on internal power with the launch vehicle at this time."  
-- Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Jack King (Apollo 11)


Power - the light comes on!
It's been a few weeks since any progress has been done on the observatory.  I blame the darkness now that daylight savings has ended, frustration with work, and the commute home in the dark.  Kind of a motivation destroyer.   We took 2 days off work last week and completed a very nice 4 day weekend, so I was motivated to get the power connected today.
All worked well the first try once the cable were connected and the outlet wired in.  Flipped the breaker in the house - poof - we have power!  No big blue spark or anything.
House power comes up through the conduit. 
The weeks of digging that horrible trench, laying conduit, cussing, bleeding, sweating and wondering what I got into - all paid off when I saw the light come on.  Yay!
I attached three more outlets (one on each wall) that will be wired in next from the white cable seen over on the right of the photo.
Soon, I'll hook up the dome motors and the controlling electronics.  This is another big step forward from the last observatory which I shamefully powered with 2 extension cords for about 10 years that it was in operation.  Like I said before, I've learned from my past mistakes and improve on this one.







Looks like a cozy shack doesn't it?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dome tightened and tarp free.

This afternoon I put in some more nuts and bolts around the inside of the dome where all the parts come together.   I had them all just finger-tight and had to loosen them and jiggle things around to get all  (ok - most) of the holes to like up.   All the holes were drilled by the previous owner of the dome, so it took some work to get them all lined up and bolted together.
It was another stormy day today with showers, wind and even a bit of thunder.  I was out there working on the inside during a heavy shower and didn't notice any major leaks, so I figured I'd ditch the ugly tarp and see how it goes.  I still have to squirt RTV in the seams and maybe try some foam sealant in some of the bigger gaps, but I'll need a dry day.
Tarp on.

Tarp off - after proving it was fairly water tight.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Painted!

I spent most of today (we had a nice sunny 70+ degree day on Oct. 19!) painting the observatory since this is possibly the last dry day for a while if the forecast holds true.  I spent about 6 hours painting the observatory and pretty much got it done.  I think the walls could use another coat, but for now it's fine.  Maybe in the spring (or if we get another dry day) I could put some more paint on it. 
The next task is to seal up the gaps in the dome, add some new screws and get it all tightened down and water tight.  Then the tarp will come off and we can call the main structure done.   Door still needs to be completed too. 
Traci was doing some work on the roof today and got a "low aerial" shot of it.  We designed it so it matches the house and the existing shed.


Backside.
Front.  This was before the roof trim was painted.

Notice it matches the house and shed on the ramp. 








Siding - just a few short.

Oops.   Just 4 pieces short. 
I screwed up a cut on one of the 12 foot Hardiplank siding pieces.  WHY did I cut it to 43 inches when I did measure 73 inches?  I don't know, I just totally failed the "measure twice, cut once" rule - badly.   Anyway, even if I did cut it right, we only get 1 piece out of each 12 foot chunk anyway since it's slightly more than 1/2 the plank.  No matter what, it was still short 4 planks anyway.
At trip to Home Depot again with the Corolla "truck".  Twelve foot, fragile, floppy planks just won't drag behind the car nicely, so we had to improvise with some parking lot cuts to make it all fit.

Using the Home Depot public curb workbench.
These had to fit in the car behind me!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Full size door shortened to 4 feet tall.

Since we build the observatory low (yes, there is plenty of headroom inside) we had to make a smaller "Hobbit" door from a full sized door.   We looked for something at a window/door salvage yard nearby but they wanted a lot of $$ to cut the door.  Home Depot had steel doors pre-hung on a frame, so that was the answer - shorten it ourselves!
Reducing the door
frame. 
The top hinges were in the right place, so those stayed.  The frame was cut down and reassembled to the 4 foot rough opening height of the door opening.  Then the fun of cutting the steel door.  To make a long story short, just look at this web site on how to do it.  Pretty much what we did, but used a chisel rather than a router.  
Door frame in place.  It's proper style to wear an "Astronomer"
t-shirt when building an observatory. 
It all fit nicely when done!  The frame was mounted and then the door fell right in place.  The doorknob holes will be filled/covered with a kick plate later.  A hole will be made for deadbolt on the top of the door - probably get an electronic keyless thing with buttons. More on that later - I'll have photos of the process when it happens. 


It fits perfectly!  

I stood on a chair, for this photo. It's a short door, but
plenty of headroom inside. 


Window and siding (most of it) done.

Last weekend we spent a bunch of time cutting the siding and installing around the window and the wall on the west side.  I did get some of it done after work, but the time is getting so short with the early sunset these days.
It was all pretty easy, but took some careful cutting to make the siding fit around the bottom of the window.  The dome is still full of gaps and will leak when it rains this week, I'll leave that up there until I get the sealant done and the rest of the screws installed to hold it together.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Two walls of siding installed.

This morning we wake up to sunny skies and look out the bedroom window and see something out there  - an observatory dome!  Also, we saw a deer out in the yard nibbling on stuff on our grass.  Just another cool indication that we aren't living in the city anymore.
Dome, a deer, a male deer....
Another nice sunny day, sunscreen needed since we were out back all day in the sun. Today it was time to start installing the trim on the corners and the siding.  I was hoping to get all 4 sides done, but we had a learning curve to deal with when installing the Hardi plank siding.  Kind of weird stuff, reminds me of glued sawdust with cement mixed in.  Better quality than Ikea furniture, but but probably just as fragile. 
I look like a dork, but probably how I usually look after
whacking my finger with a hammer.  First side is done. 
I was really hoping to have all four sides done with the siding this weekend, but we just ran out of daylight once again.  We got the last siding plank installed after sunset in the dark on the back side of the observatory.  After it gets dark watch where you are hammering,  whacked my finger pretty good in the dark with the hammer and had Tracy pass me a cuss jar to fill. Ouch. 
Next week - probably buy a door with a frame and modify it for the 4ft tall doorway.  We are probably stuck until next weekend until we get the rest of the siding done.  
Work has a way of getting in the way of pretty much anything important.  
The last piece before sunset installed.



Wrapped and dome installed.

Window is in.
We had another rare sunny and nice October weekend this week. Temps in the mid-70s.  Again we did more work on the observatory, getting it closer to being completed - at least on the outside.
Window was installed after work last week in the brief daylight we have left in the early evening.
Yesterday we got the weatherproofing tar paper on the walls and got the dome installed.
Take the tarp off, and get dumped on!
It was a short and heavy shower.
The dome is just put up finger-tight right now, I'll need to get a few more nuts and bolts of the stainless-steel type, and a few springs that were rusting and leaving ugly stains on the dome.
The dome flange needed a little coaxing (and yes, a little cussing - that's a requirement with anything with astronomy) to get it all lined up on the flange.
With some tweaking and nudging, it fit on the square
support pretty well. 
Ring around the dome, and wrapped walls
Half dome installed. 
Once the flange was up, the dome ring with the roller wheels was next.   This was easy, but it always takes a lot of tweaking to get the rolling ring to line up and not stick in certain parts.  The dome halves went in easy enough, but will require some adjustments as expected to get a good smooth rotation.   Always a pain...I think I  mentioned that already?
I spent all of Saturday working on the dome install and other things with Traci's help.  She did all the tar paper while I was up on top.
Our shortening days (Sunset around 6:45) is really making this a race before darkness to get done.  As seen in the last photo, darkness doesn't stop me from the last few adjustments!


At least I'm on a short ladder this time.  The last observatory
I was balanced dangerously on top of the "don't step here" step
on the step ladder.   


Just one more attachment do to before putting tools away for
the night!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Astro-shack now has a roof.

After the marathon build of the roof panels, tar paper and shingles yesterday, we had 3 out of 4 of the roof sides done.  Today we had the procedure figured out pretty well and the final side was done this morning.  We got the edge shingles installed also and they look quite nice!
Traci had to finish the top shingles along the top square since I had to go into work for a few hours and assist with a software upgrade  *ugh*.
I made it home before dark and we worked on a raised edge that the dome flange will sit on, and some flashing for the joint between the dome and roof.   More photos of that later.
Rain forecast the next few days, so it's tarped over again.  Probably not enough daylight after work now to get much done, but next weekend's forecast is looking ok so far.  I'm hoping to have the dome in place and get started on the siding and maybe have that done.
Our engineering of the roof worked.  No inside support is needed. 

Close up view of the roof along the corner. 

Roof done, now the dome is next.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Roof nearly completed.

Traci and I did a marathon build today.  Our good friend Ryan even came down to assist with cutting wood for roof panels and measuring twice before I cut once.  
Wood panels were installed, then we did a trip to Home Depot and traded in some flashing that wasn't quite right.  (don't tell anyone, but the person at the refund counter screwed up and I got $90 instead of about $30.  I bit my tongue not saying anything, the ran down down the aisle with a big smile - woot!). 
Tar paper was quick and easy to staple onto the wood panels, the flashing installed, then we spend the rest of the time until the way-too-early sunset at before 7:00pm and got most of the roof shingles installed.  We are in a race again before the Monday forecast rains return.  
Adding the roof panels.

Tar paper and flashing installed for rain protection.
(and we get plenty of that in this area)
Traci watching a plane take off, while installing
the shingles on the roof.