Thursday, June 18, 2015

Our new "Gemini" two seater.

As some of you know, Traci and I are building an airplane in our home hangar here at Crest Airpark.  Do we ever have enough projects around here to work on?  In addition to building the new Astro-shack, working on growing a home business, maintaining the yard, and managing a bunch of cats.
Our latest addition to the airport home is a 1973 Cessna 150L that we just picked up from Prosser last week.   The plane flies great, has a strong engine with fairly low time, and best of all will get us airborne and make us feel like we fit in with our other flying neighbors around here! 
It does need a little cosmetic work mainly replace cracked panels in the cockpit (very common with these vintage planes) and some other improvements.
Eventually, we may add commercial insurance so I can do a little flight training in it, but that's later on as we work out ideas and get a few projects done around here.

Jet thinking of the bird hunting possibilities with a C-150

Everything Gemini

Just a fun thing I stumbled across in the aimless internet wanderings.  Actually, this showed up on Facebook on one of the many space geek groups I'm in.  
Kind of a fun interactive page full of diagrams and stuff from the Gemini spacecraft.  If you look at the main pane images, click on some of the buttons and controls - a new page pops up with a short description of the control that you clicked on.  I think a lot of work has gone into this web page! 
There are a lot of diagrams that I haven't seen before. Fun stuff!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Big Blue is home finally

Big Blue finally was dragged out of storage on the same wagon as the cement, pier and rocks dug out of the hole.  (It's a useful thing around here!).
The scope is about 80+ lbs but Traci and I together were able to get on each side of it and lift it up on the pier.  The height in relation to the dome opening turned out perfectly.  As expected (yes, even with the low Hobbit sized door) a raised floor or platform will be needed to reach the scope easily.  That's one of the next projects on the list.  
Scope is in new home

As planned, the height and the hole lined up just right

A floor platform will be needed

Danger - black hole where not even eyepieces can escape

Dangerous hole!
I realized once this was installed that I had a very dangerous situation that could result in a very difficult retrieval.  The hole at the top of the pier could easily attract and suck in telescope mounting nuts, eyepieces, evening observing snacks, cell phones...or anything that fits in an 8x8 inch opening!
Safely covered
Fixed that problem with some scrap and covered up that danger.  Later I did paint this black.

Test fitting the wedge

Drilling the holes for the bolts

Drilling template
After a lot of discussion, thoughts and other positive negatives about how to mount this thing, we figured that the best thing do do would be do use anchor bolts to hold this thing to the ground.  The last one I built I had threaded rods embedded into the cement as it was poured.  The bolts used were 1/2 inch diameter and about 7 inches long.
A template was cut out to match the base holes on the pier and used as a guide for lining up the hole properly.   A hammer drill with masonry bits was used to drill the holes.  Drilling cement is surprisingly easy, just make sure to wear eye, ear and lung protection from the noise and dust that seems to squirt up in your face when pulling the bit out of the hole!
A straw taped to the hose of the shopvac was used to suck out the dust from the hole and clear it for the bolt to be pounded and then tightened down.
One bolt ended up not quite perpendicular, but with a little effort the pier did drop down right where I wanted it to be!  Success!
Drilled and sucked out with vaccum

It fits!

Moving the pier out to the Astro Shack

Moving day
The monster has moved from the hangar finally.  We used the garden wagon to haul this thing out across the yard to the observatory.  I think the whole thing is over 130-lbs total and if you drop it on your foot, it would be a bad day.
Centered and marked 
If you review the previous posting, the rebar was arranged to carefully avoid where the bolts would be drilled in.  Again, drilling the holes and hitting rebar would also be a bad day.
The pier was placed into the center of the slab and carefully centered.  I used a big marking pen to mark it on the cement for later.  

Cement base poured - and a memorial.

Ready for cement
A little bit of Alex in there
Again, a long time since I've updated this, so here is some catch-up on the construction of the Crest Astroshack.  We finally got the base cement mixed and dumped into the hole.  The hole wasn't quite as deep as I hoped, but digging in our backyard really, REALLY sucks!
It's probably just under 2 feet deep, but with all the pebbles, fist sized rocks, and the 75 lb boulders down there, I figured there was a pretty good surrounding foundation for anything there.
Rebar cage was constructed and suspended in the hole so the horizontal parts would stay in the middle of the slab.
As a tribute and permanent memorial to our late friend, construction supervisor, and helper cat - Alex - we mixed in some of his ashes into the base and put his name on it.   He'll forever be an observing companion.  We miss him terribly, but know he'll always be out there!

Mix and pour

Alex forever

Friday, February 13, 2015

Shutter and dome rotation completed.

It's been a while since I posted progress on this.  Finally got some warmer weather the other day and I figured it was time to take a break from indoor work and do some more on the observatory.
Long story on the fun and frustration of hooking up the cables that open and close the shutter, I'll post that fix another time. For now, here is the dome functioning as it should.  Ok, I still need to make sure it rotates a full 360 degrees - both ways - without getting stuck.  When I got the rotation motors running a while back, it was getting stuck in one direction.  I'll get to that too!

Here is a video from the outside showing the shutter opening, some rotation and closing again.  I did grease the tracks also, so I'll have to remember not to lean on that now or mess up my shirt!

This next video is the inside view of the dome rotating and closing.  it has two small electric motors that drive 4 wheels with a rubber belt.  It seems to work fine, I was fearing that I would need to replace all those since they were slipping in the old location in Renton - but then again, I've learned and improved on this one from my previous mistakes!  
The cable winch or jackscrew can be seen at the back of the dome wall.  That is a real pain to get working, and I DID get it working without any kinks or binding this time. I think I may have had the cable too loose previously.  Just need to grease that up good too. 

I'm still hoping for "first light" sometime in the spring.  I have to tie up some cables in the dome that are hanging all over the place, then I think I can call that completed.  Next, is the rebar in the hole and pouring concrete. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Just a pretty video that came out earlier this month, but figured it was a good Christmas "ornament" type thing with the cool graphics.  Can never go wrong with Carl Sagan anyway.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunny day - primed and painted. paint

Coat of primer.
After the cold spell of weather the last couple weeks, then a windstorm, we got a somewhat warm and sunny day that was in the mid-50s.  Warm enough to put some paint on the pier.
The thing is a beast to drag out of the hangar, but managed to "walk" it out and put on a tarp to paint.
First a layer of primer - the pain said it wasn't needed, but couldn't hurt anyway.  Then I sprayed it with a 'textured' black paint that gives it a smooth but bumpy texture.  It turned out nice!  The second photo doesn't show the color too well since the sun was behind a tree and was getting dark.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Motors installed and pier constructed.

Power supply (right)
Dome control (with open door)
Now that there is power to the observatory the motors for rotating the dome were installed.   The two motors were mounted as well as the power supply box and the dome control circuit.   I put the to electrical boxes in the same orientation as they were in the old observatory - mainly since the wires were already cut to right length to reach both motors from that location.
One of the motors. 
Last weekend one of our neighbors that I met in the local EAA group helped me weld together the parts for the pier.   He had some good ideas also that he contributed to the construction.   He had some scrap metal with a 90 degree bend in it that was a very nice fit (after cutting to shape) which worked out very nicely for a support on the top of the pier.  This will easily allow a wrench in under the mount to tighten wedge onto the top of the pier and make needed adjustments if needed later.   I should add that a plasma cutter is one of the coolest tools. Ever.  I got a chance to try his out, and it was amazing how easily it cut through solid steel.  It's like "lightning in a hose"!
I bought some primer and paint for the pie
r, so next thing is to paint the thing to keep it from getting rusty.

Very solid pier.  I don't think vibration should
be a problem - just dragging it out will!  (ready to paint).

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
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!