Friday, August 29, 2014

Foundation - finally!

Truck and guys filling the form. 
This last week we had some contractors come in and do a bunch of concrete work in the backyard. We extended the patio, the ramp in front of the hangar to get rid of a gravel area between the grass and concrete, and had the pad for the observatory made.
The pad is 5 inches thick and I left a 30 x 30 inch square hole around where the pier is going to be mounted.  The idea now is to make a rebar cage down in the hole, pour some cement down there (make this ourselves) then drill 4 holes for the bolts later.  Plans may change, but that seems to be the idea that could work well, I just want to make sure the holes are good and deep for some fairly long bolts.
I finally feel something will happen now. 
I had the PVC come up through the cement as seen in the photo.  This will lead inside the wall of the observatory and to a few outlets later.
The bolts around the edges are 8 inch L-bolts that the walls will attach to.  Hopefully this weekend we'll start fabricating some walls.  Possibly on the floor of the hangar if the predicted showers happen.

Conduit installed and buried.

Power out of the house
The ground here at Crest is horribly hard and rocky, I'm sure I mentioned that.   Finally, got a trench down to an average of 12 inches.  Possibly not totally code, but we are using conduit as well as a GFI protected outlet on the end so nothing will blow up for sure.
Covered with gravel
I took a bunch of the "rock garden" area and dumped that into the trench to hold the conduit and also act as kind of a warning if ever dug there in the future.   That PVC glue stuff is nasty, stinky gunk, turn your head into the wind to breathe when using this that MEK stuff goes after brain cells!
Two conduits were run.  Electric and another for internet cable.  I'll probably go with wireless the first year, then next spring work on running a cable.  It's just a huge pain to find a connection from the network cabinet to the crawlspace and I want to get this done.
I ran the power to the kitchen outlet circuit (non appliance outlets), down the crawlspace and out the side of the house to a box that will soon have a GFI outlet.
Finally - filling the trench!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Yes, more trench digging.

I'm down close to 12 inches now and I think I'm going to call it good.   After that, I'm NEVER digging another hole in this yard again!  The ground here is horrible and it's like trying to dig through a freeway.  Time to look for a good deal online for power cable and some CAT6 (or possibly 6a) cable.  I feel so far behind with this project.
Here is a low angle, dramatic shot (makes it look really deep).

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pier has least parts.

Yesterday we went over to Pacific Industrial Supply in Seattle to find something to use as a pier for the scope.   I found pretty much what i was looking for.  The metal tube is 4x4 inches, 1/4 inch thick, 4 feet long, and weighs 130lbs.
I got a 25x12 inch slab of metal also that will be cut into two 12x12 inch plates to weld onto the pier for the bottom and top supports.
The old mounting plates
The other photo shown is my old mounting plates from the old observatory.  The plate with 3 holes was mounted on the top of the cement pier, and the one with multiple holes was the top plate the telescope was mounted to. Reviewing polar alignment I did remember that it doesn't have to be perfectly level since all you are doing is pointing the axis of the rotating mount toward the North celestial pole.  So with that fact, I'm thinking I'll do away with the double plate mount I used on the old one.  Sure, I'll get the pier as level as possible, but it's not critical unless you are using an Alt/Az mounting  - which would be foolish for imaging anyway!  The observatory will be pretty much perfectly aligned with true north, so the pier will be mounted nice an symmetrical on the floor.
Traci has a coworker at her doughnut machine factory who is an expert welder and is willing to help with welding, cutting and drilling, so we are in good shape with that.
Total cost so far (before welder friend's labor) is $160 for pier parts.   Commercial piers of this size are easily $800+.
Now back to working on the power trench....

Won't even jiggle in a 6.8 earthquake!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trench digging for power and internet

Pick, pick, pick...
Finally some more progress on this thing.  We debated a long time about renting an excavator or some kind of trench digging machine.  I tried poking at the hard ground a bit, and despite being very nasty to dig through, it is possible.   I stopped at Harbor Freight on the way home last night and bough a pick-axe that was on sale for about $16 with a 5 lb head on it.   A few whacks with that I realized this is the tool I needed!  It will be sweaty work, and we have had a lot of 85 degree days too.  A couple hours after work (and even after dark) and I feel I've made good progress.
I think by the weekend I'll have the trench dug, and possibly have conduit in place for power and internet.  I'll need to find some CAT6a cable on the internet as well as power cable and put in an order for that.  I think that can just be pulled through that easy enough.
Toward observatory site
Next, a trip under the house crawlspace is in order to track down the power cables and make a splice for that and a hole in the wall to run it outside.  Also, I'll probably just run a cable from the internet/network closet directly outside near the power, but with about 12 inches apart.  150 feet of that should be more than enough.
Looking toward house. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Just a reminder....

With the crap going on in the world the last few days, just remember one small thing...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pier hole digging.

Truck not needed. 
Progress on the observatory is moving along slowly.  I finally close on the sale of my old house in Renton and got a nice check which went directly to the bank.  I'm still wondering if the new owner even opened the door to that "shed" in the backyard and saw that his mower will have to park next to that pier in the shed?  :-)
I have plenty of funding now to put into this new project.  Lately, I have been slowly digging through our very rocky yard to get down a few feet for the pier foundation.  Not too hard to do, but I keep running into large rocks that need to be dug around and pulled out.  Originally, I was going to put in a 12 inch sonotube for the mounting, but looking at the firmness of the surrounding hole I may just fill it with cement and put in a welded base with the threaded mounting screws.  I'll think about that more as I go along.
Pier hole digging.
Yes, that pathetic tree still needs to move.  We have had very hot weather into the 90s lately and the tree is drooping now, and it's just too hot to work on this.
Yesterday we went to Home Depot and bought some 12 foot pieces of wood to build the outer form for the cement slab.  Traci was sure we could use my car, so I kind of reluctantly agreed to try it.  She was right, anytime you put a little red flag on the end of something you can make anything fit in a Toyota!  I do miss having a truck though.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Foundation is dug out (almost!)

Digging the hole in the ground for the Astroshack foundation was delayed last weekend by some hangar painting work - and we just had too many heavy showers passing through that I would have been digging mud.
I did some more work tonight and dug out the foundation area down to the gravel level under the backyard.  The yard was basically a filled in area years ago when the house was built, and I think I'll have some tough digging for the pier ahead.  I hit a lot of rocks about 8 inches down so at least I'll have a solid "bedrock" to construct on and not have it sink into the ground or anything!
The tree will move soon, I just need Traci to move that since she's a skilled gardener and I can only grow weeds.
I'm thinking of doing a cement slab maybe 10 inches thick.  I have to start some drawing soon to figure out the next steps once digging is done.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

RNT vs. S36 Astro-shack sky comparisons

Today I used the Observer Pro app on my iPhone to plot out the local horizon at the new location for the observatory.  This is a really cool iPhone program that really helps a lot with imaging certain objects in our cloudy skies and helps plan out imaging.  Try it if you have a smartphone!
So I used the software to trace out my new horizon.  I compared it with the old location at Renton, you can really see that I had a crappy northern view since I had a big fir tree blocking that part of the sky.
Renton Astro-Shack horizon
Crest Airpark Astro-Shack horizon
Sure, I could see most things I wanted to view or image, but I would often have to wait until certain parts of the year.  Even with circumpolar objects (M81 and M82 for example) I was limited by this tree in the way.
So, now we move over the the new location at S34 (this is the airport code for Crest Airpark) and I take a plot of the horizon here.   As you can see, I have a LOT more sky to play with here!
Crest Astro-Shack is just on the
border between bad and better.
I have a lot more sky to play with here, a good horizon in all directions.  I'll have a nice shot in the summer months toward all the neat gassy nebula stuff in Sagittarius which will just clear those tall trees to the south with no problem.
Next, we move on to the light pollution improvement.  When in Renton, I had sucky light pollution from the city down the hill as well as light from Seattle about 7 miles to the Northwest.
Amazingly, I was able to still get through this crap with a CLS filter on my camera.
Renton.  Red zone light pollution.
Here at the location for the Crest Astro-shack, we are on the border between the red and the green area.  Location is just to the left side of the runway in this image.  I do notice a big improvem
ent when looking up at night.  I actually see about 103 stars vs. 75 stars at Renton! (yeah, exaggerating - just a little bit).  Milky Way hasn't been seen yet here, but I'll keep searching.  I do see stars between stars here tough, so that is promising.   So far living out here in the sticks surrounded by an occasional redneck isn't too bad.
(click the images for full size as always)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Let the digging begin.

I always see these goofy photos and videos on the news of politicians "working" when doing a groundbreaking ceremony for some fancy new building - or in the case of Seattle this insanity called the "viaduct tunnel".  I won't get into that!
I couldn't get any famous astronomers to come over and break ground with a golden shovel, so I just simply started cutting out the 11 x 11 foot square.
The turf in the yard isn't very deep, and there is a layer of rock underneath.  I'm sure this is going to be a painful process, but gotta do it.
That tree in the middle is a peach tree with some small peaches that don't seem to grow very big. That will soon be dug up and  moved someplace else in the yard.  
After the square is cut, the next thing to do is dig a hole in the middle for the pier.  I have some ideas on how to do the pier this time.  Mostly with a steel pipe bolted down to a deep foundation of some type. More on that later, and more photos as work continues.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Astro-shack ver. 2.0 (Crest Airpark Astro-shack)

It's been a while since I posted anything here.  Just been extremely busy buying a new house, fixing up the old house, moving, moving more stuff, then moving even more stuff.  Eleven years can really make a big pile of crap!
Pile 'o dome parts.
It was a bittersweet afternoon when I pulled the dome off the Highlands Astro-shack and loaded the parts in the truck to move. The new location is about 14 miles southeast and has much better skies.  Still not super dark, but a big improvement.
First task was to clean up the dome parts.  I had 2 years of Renton "fallout" on the dome and had to give it a good scrubbing.  Also, there was some tar gunk on it that I never was able to remove before.  I worked on that some more with a heat gun, Goof Off, oven cleaner and lot of scraping.  It came off ok finally, but left a brown stain on the flange.  I cleaned it up well, put some primer and paint on the parts and it looks as good as new now.
Painting the parts to make them pretty. 
I have done a little observing with the 17.5 inch "clown cannon" Dob.  It's so much easier to move around on the pavement than rolling it around the old and very lumpy backyard lawn!   I took a moon shot with my iPhone.
Scrubbing the dome. 
I then assembled (just finger tight) the dome parts in the hangar to line up all the holes.  I met some new neighbors across the taxiway who were finally able to ask "what is that?!" after seeing it sitting there for a while.
Open the pod bay doors Hal.
The next thing to do is to figure out where to put the observatory.  I already picked out a part of the backyard where it will go.  Light from neighbors isn't much of a problem her, so I don't have to worry about that again.  I just have to watch out for visiting Cessnas that may have wings swinging over the fence when pivoting around on the ramp.  I measured 6.5 feet from the fence which seems about right.
"Catadioptric" telecope mount?
I'm planning on a
smaller, lower, and more efficient observatory this time where I'll avoid all  (or most?) of the mistakes I did before on the old Astro-shack.  This one will be 10x10 feet, walls about 5 feet high with the dome on top.  I'll have a lower cement pier just under floor level, and then have a metal pipe/pier type of thing on top for the scope.  I'm still looking into how to do that.  
Next....drawings of ideas.

Not bad for a cell phone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Curiosity does some planet imaging.

Just another one of those amazing images that make you stop and think of the tiny blue dot we stand on.  Curiosity turned its camera toward the sunset and captured a bright "star" in the sky.
That star is US! Everyone we know, will know, used to know, everything in history that happened, dinosaurs, wars, disasters, even a few football games (now that will really make the Superbowl look like nothing!), and everything else.  All on that tiny dot.  The moon is visible also in the image, over 40 years ago humans traveled to that other tiny dot just below the brighter one - never any farther than that.  But then we see this photo taken from our rover sitting on Mars looking up the night sky.
Just another one of those photos that will make your brain go *ping!*.