Building a Backyard Observatory: What You Should Know

Building your own observatory is a great way to enhance your enjoyment of getting out under the stars. Whether it's a simple cover for your tripod-mounted telescope, an easy to build roll off roof on a shed, or a beautiful clam-shell dome with all the bells and whistles, having an observatory can increase the amount of time using your equipment while decreasing your stress level.
In this episode Dustin and Tony discuss all options for creating a personal observatory to house your equipment and offer advice and tips for making your observatory easily and with minimal mistakes.

Timestamps for Building a Backyard Observatory: What You Should Know

01:00:00:03 - 01:00:27:20

Tony: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another episode. Today, we're taking advice from you guys and listening to the ideas and suggestions you've given us in the past four episode ideas, and this one comes from our listeners who've asked me and Dustin several times. "Would you guys do an episode on Backyard Observatories?" And this is it. We're going to talk about backyard observatories, of which I think both of us, both us have a great deal of experience, so I'm kind of excited about this one. How are you doing, Dustin?

01:00:28:19 - 01:01:00:22

Dustin: Good man. It's so nice to be back doing these again after our summer break. But Backyard Observatory is a deep dive because it can mean a lot of different things. And you know it, it really ranges people. People invest tons of money into observatories where they're actually buildings all the way, you know, down to where it's basically just a permanent setup that's covered that you can leave outside all of the time. And you don't really have to think about as much as you don't have to go out and pull their line and do all of that.

01:01:01:00 - 01:01:10:03

Dustin: But we're going to go through the entire thing and talk about, you know, where to get started and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that I know I've experienced. I assume you probably have to.

01:01:10:05 - 01:01:11:04

Tony: Tony. Yeah.

01:01:11:13 - 01:01:18:02

Dustin: And we'll we'll try to help you avoid some of those because observatory mistakes can be expensive, to say the least.

01:01:18:17 - 01:01:56:01

Tony: Yeah. And we're going to spend as much time talking about what not to do as what to do because we can cut the amount of effort and heartache and headache that you can save by listening to others experience, I think, would go a long way. So I think that's the first thing, though, that most people need to do. And you could tell me what you think, Dustin. But I think most people need to think about how they observe and why they would want an observatory. And for me, I've seen people make observatories everywhere, even places that have light polluted skies in the middle of cities and things like that.

01:01:56:10 - 01:02:30:00

Tony: And I think the overriding consideration for building an observatory is simply convenience because we all know what a pain it can be to set up a lot of equipment, especially if you're an imager, especially if you've got a lot of, you know, instrumentation that you connect every time you go observing. There's nothing like thinking about going up and doing something and observing session, walking into your backyard and just turning on some switches and you're observing 15 20 minutes later versus having that hour long setup ahead of you.

01:02:30:02 - 01:02:41:15

Tony: Chances are, sometimes you might just say, you know what? It's cold out. I'm going to stay inside unless you really, really love going out to the under the night sky. So I think conveniently, we supply a lot and

01:02:43:15 - 01:03:16:04

Dustin: So much of this hobby is about setting yourself up for success on the front end if you have equipment that you're constantly struggling with. You know, we always tell people to buy above the frustration curve because people that struggle with their equipment all the time exact same thing happens. It just ends up in a closet. And then it never comes out because you don't want to run the risk of investing your time. You know, obviously time is limited for everybody. And so you don't want invest that time and then not be able to do what it was you thought was going to be an enjoyable experience.

01:03:16:06 - 01:03:53:15

Dustin: So you just leave it in the closet and you don't deal with it. The same thing happens for so many people when you try to set up, you know, you experience this in Florida. You know, when I'm in Alabama, I experienced the same thing, which is, you know, the cloud. You go out there and you start setting up and then the clouds roll in and you spent more time setting up than you were, you were able to do anything else. And that's where, you know, observatories can really come in. When you're trying to define your why is on in some parts of the country? It doesn't matter as much, but when you're on the eastern side of the country, you really have to take that stuff into consideration that you may not get clear nights, you get clear pockets of night.

01:03:54:01 - 01:04:30:10

Dustin: And you know it can be the difference in whether or not you get to use those two or three hours that you got or if you spent those two or three hours, you know, setting up, tearing down, doing all of that stuff. So it really I mean, observatories make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons for people that are really committed to spending a lot of time out under the night sky. But I think the why for people can change depending on location and obviously the type of astronomy you're doing for, you know, a lot of a lot of different things can change it. But we'll go through each scenario and really talk about depending on the why, what, what the recommendation would be, where to start.

01:04:31:01 - 01:05:09:22

Tony: Yeah, I think a lot about that question. Why do you want an observatory and what kind of observing do you plan to do with it? There's so convenience is one reason to do it. Another reason to have one is stability, right? If you don't have a lot of money, let's say you you've you've bought a telescope with a tripod on it. Tried. These tripods that are coming out these days are very stable and lightweight, but they still vibrate. So just something as simple as a concrete pier poured from one of those tubes you buy at. Lows and then, you know, fill it with concrete bags and mix it all up and then fill it up that way, that goes a long way to addicts adding stability.

01:05:10:00 - 01:05:40:12

Tony: So that's another real good reason. Also, alignment is another good reason you don't have to fuss around with, you know, polar aligning an equatorial wedge, for example, which is still a task that has to be done if you want to do any kind of equatorial mounted guiding. So that's another thing that, you know, even if all you had was a peer with a wedge on it and covered with a cover that we're going to talk about later, you could take your telescope tube assembly, just hook it on that wedge and you're out observing.

01:05:40:14 - 01:05:49:07

Tony: So that's another. So stability, I think, is another good reason. Boy, I don't know. Can you think of any others a reason for doing this?

01:05:50:01 - 01:06:23:06

Dustin: Yeah, yeah. Well, stability is a big one, but you can also avoid a lot of the issues. So no place, at least that I that I've experienced is perfect on every clear night. You know, even even landers. We have several observatories out there. You know, when you look at it on paper, it looks like a wonderful location. And it is I mean, it's very dark skies and you know, it's out there. It's remote, it's got power, it's got everything you need. But the thing that you don't think about is the one thing that's going to come up and it's going to take, you know, let's say on paper, it's 300 clear skies are clear nights a year.

01:06:23:21 - 01:07:02:10

Dustin: You know, you don't think about, well, how many of those are going to have wind that's lower than 15 miles an hour each. And that stuff comes up. And so you might think, Well, I'm OK, I don't need to do it. I'll just spend the hour setting up out here each time. But then you get out there and you lose the majority of your nights because at some point in the night in the desert, those wind gusts are going to kick up. And you're, you know, if you have a portable system with no wind breaks, you know, it's going to move that thing around. And especially if you're at long focal length, it's going to be unusable. So having even a small observatory where you have those four walls acting as a windbreak for you, it's going to be the difference on whether or not you can run the entire night or you had to shut it down.

01:07:03:03 - 01:07:33:21

Tony: Yeah, that's great. I'm glad you brought that up because wind protection and direct ambient light protection is another two other really good reasons to build a whiteley's and enclosure of some kind. Because huddling behind the wind, especially if it's a laminar wind flow, you'll be able to get some pretty good observing, even though it's very windy out. You're protected from it makes you less miserable. And if there's a streetlight directly across, we talked about this last week a little bit. If there's a streetlight directly in your face, this will mitigate that glare from that as well.

01:07:33:23 - 01:07:54:01

Tony: So that's that's two more good reasons for doing it. So I don't know. That's why you might want to do this. And maybe we should we should break up the next part of this into two segments. There's a there's the DIY. I want to build one myself part and then there's I want to go out and buy a system that's already set up to do this. So that sounds good.

01:07:54:20 - 01:08:25:01

Dustin: And I think just, you know, we should cover. Also, it shouldn't just be an observatory is a structure that somebody builds in order to put this telescope inside. And generally, they're they're very permanent. These are actually buildings that are designed for this purpose. We're not going to we're going to open up the definition a little bit to even cover more portable systems that are setting there, and they're meant to be there for long periods of time. So we'll call a backyard observatory, even if you just set it up on your tripod in your backyard.

01:08:25:07 - 01:08:50:06

Dustin: But it's meant and it's set up in a way that's meant to be left outside. Instead of torn down every night and set up the next night, we're going to open up the definition for these purposes, even to systems starting at that level. So, you know, I think because that is where most people start, and that's actually where I recommend most people start to just kind of get a feel for it to make sure that it's something they'd want to do before you build a permanent structure in your backyard or in a remote location.

01:08:50:18 - 01:08:57:00

Tony: So, so what do you what do you mean by that? Do you mean like a building, a shed that's kind of temporary or...

01:08:57:10 - 01:09:28:05

Dustin: It's what a lot of people do. I mean, you have even these little plastic buildings. I've seen a lot of people, you know, that are designed for yard tools. I've seen so many people put up these plastic buildings that you can go buy at a hardware store and then put the telescope inside in the roofs lift up because they're designed for yard tools and things to be able to pull that stuff. Oh, yeah, I know. Yeah, yeah. The roof lifts up, so they just pop the roof open and then they have the telescope sitting inside. They're getting wind protection in all of those benefits, you know, stray light protection.

01:09:28:12 - 01:09:59:05

Dustin: But then at the end of the night, they they closed that back up. So it's shielded from, you know, rain do everything else and it's just a little makeshift observatory building. But you know, it's a starting place. It works really well, obviously, as you know, because of the nature of them, they have a lot of issues. They're not going to be as perfect as something that was designed specifically for that purpose. When wind hits the side of the building because it's all connected, you're going to get vibrations through the entire system. You know, you're going to have issues with the building, moving and stuff like that.

01:09:59:07 - 01:09:59:22

Dustin: But.

01:10:00:22 - 01:10:20:15

Tony: Yeah, yeah, they'll be the ones that have the floor in them, right, they come with the floor. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you could you could maybe cut that out somehow or just not install it and fix the walls onto the ground. Somehow, that would be a better way to go. But you're right. Yeah, if you just want minimum effort than building one of those, you're still going to have vibration.

01:10:20:17 - 01:10:55:03

Dustin: And I've seen it done a lot of ways. I've seen people even just drill holes in the bottom to the trophy. The tripod feet stick through the bottom so that it's, you know, essentially floating. It's not touching anything, but, you know, a building if it has any weight to it at all and it's shaking on the ground right there next to it, it's going to move the tripod. And so, you know, there there are a lot of starting places. But yeah, why don't we? Why don't we start with the bare minimum that people do to say, because the biggest problem people are trying to solve? Stepping back is I don't want to set up and tear down every single night.

01:10:55:05 - 01:11:06:11

Dustin: I think that's problem number one. If you solve that for convenience sake alone, you're going to do a lot more imaging or a lot more observing. Yeah. And let me would you agree? Do you think there's a bigger problem that people

01:11:06:21 - 01:11:43:21

Tony: Nope, that's it, you know that's just getting out there, especially if you've got a lot of equipment and gear? There's no. It's like I said, it's not like just flipping switches and you're observing the but. But but let me also mention that I think the two most important characteristics that a any observatory needs to have. And Dustin just alluded to this, and I want to really drive it home, is that an observatory needs to do two main things. It needs to isolate vibration of the telescope tube assembly and the mount system. So it needs to be isolated from the rest of the structure and it needs to not have thermal mass.

01:11:43:23 - 01:12:14:01

Tony: It can't have a lot of, you know, if it's sitting in the sun all day long, gain gathering heat and then it gets dark outside. You don't want it made out of certain materials that would radiate for hours after the sun goes down. I'll just give you a dome saying, and you're way worse off. So whatever you built, those two things need to keep in mind. So that means don't attach your peer to the floor unless and I would even do it in this way.

01:12:14:03 - 01:12:39:05

Tony: If all you do, if you're laying out a concrete, let's say, a pad somewhere on your property or in your yard and you've got a, I don't know, eight by eight pad. Try and pour it such that the center part is not connected to the rest of the pad, if you can, because you want to isolate that pier or that telescope from the floor that everybody's walking on. Every observatory in the world does this, and you'll be very glad you paid attention to that one detail.

01:12:40:03 - 01:13:16:01

Dustin: You have to, you know, I've got I've got some funny stories here to kick this off to say why that's so important. But you know, we we built our observatories by hand. The first four, we started with four and then one of the guys that was building with it, he decided to go with a different plan and to slow his bill down a little bit. And so we ended up building three of them by hand. And you know, the first stage is we had to build the foundations in the concrete and you have to plan all of this out because exactly what you're saying, you have to have the pier, the piece that the telescope is going to be sitting on in a permanent structure, you have to have that isolated.

01:13:16:03 - 01:13:26:06

Dustin: It can't touch anything. So it's essentially floating inside. The building away from the floors look like they're right up against it, but they're not. Nothing is touching the concrete pier at all.

01:13:27:21 - 01:14:07:02

Dustin: And so you build the building quite literally around where the telescope is going to go. And so when you're building the foundation, you essentially build this box, this square around this center point, that's going to be the concrete tube. As you mentioned, you put a tube in the ground and fill it with concrete and then, you know, whatever pier you choose is going to sit on top of that. But the the square that sits around it does not touch it in any way. And so when we were out in the observatories, you know, we were working through the summer in the Mojave Desert and it was me and good friend Charles that we've had on this podcast is still a great friend and and somebody that helps me keep all the observatories going.

01:14:07:07 - 01:14:37:16

Dustin: One of the smartest guys I've ever known. But when we were out there, he was in charge of the concrete one day because I couldn't make it away from work to get back out to the desert. And we just you get delirious out in the sun when it's that hot and you're there day after day after day. Yeah. He had the concrete truck pour all of our peers and then pour the box around the foundation and nothing was supposed to touch. The problem was once they had finished, we had paid for all this concrete that was still in the truck.

01:14:37:23 - 01:15:08:17

Dustin: And so he's like, Well, what am I going to do with all this concrete? I don't want to just waste it. So he told them, Just fill in the box, just dump it in. You're not thinking, Oh no, because it was just so, oh no. So I go out there next time and the pier and the foundation of the building are. All just a gigantic block of concrete, one big block of concrete concrete for three different observatories, which would have been absolutely unusable.

01:15:10:11 - 01:15:41:20

Dustin: You know, it's so extreme that we have an example of somebody in San Diego that was trying. They had their telescopes set up in the street. There was a speed bump like 300 yards away. And when trucks would hit that speed bump, they would lose an image because it would, you know, the vibrations would be, you know, shot to the concrete and you would see that bounce in the image. And and so, you know, they were it's it can really like those vibrations can really be a problem. So when you have that much concrete there and it's touching the period, it's not isolated.

01:15:42:06 - 01:16:17:00

Dustin: You're going to see every time somebody steps, every time wind hits the building and shakes it. Every time anything happens, you're going to see those vibrations in your image. And so we got out there and Charles is looking at this mistake and he's like, Oh my God, what have I done? We had to go rent jackhammers, man. And we spent like the next three days out there, both of us with jackhammers chopping up entire foundations just to get just to isolate a circle around this piers. Because had we not done that and I mean, it was, it was the worst man doing that in 100 degree weather.

01:16:17:13 - 01:16:43:12

Dustin: You know, it was the absolute worst. But had we not done that, these observatories would have been unusable. You know, 90 percent of the night or any time anybody was there in person, there was walking around, you know, so it is that important. It is that critical that it happen. All right. But yeah, it's one of those things that you don't think about always when you're building one, so many people make that mistake. Even with professional observatories. Yeah.

01:16:44:05 - 01:16:45:22

Tony: Yes. I've got a story about that in a bit.

01:16:46:22 - 01:17:04:21

Dustin: Do you? Yeah, I think everybody does, because it's just not something that even, you know, architects or engineers. If you're not building these things all the time, you wouldn't think it would be, especially with that much concrete that it would be an issue. You know, you just you wouldn't assume it would be a problem.

01:17:05:03 - 01:17:40:09

Tony: Concrete is a blessing and a curse, and the one hand it's very stable. But on the other hand, sky high thermal mass. So it's got the one thing, it's got one thing you want and one thing you don't want. I would, I would say, start with building. I don't care what, what style you end up building, or even if you buy one of these professional ones that are available commercially. Start with the pier. Pour the pier first, and I tend to use those eight inch forms that they have at Lowe's. They get down if you live in a place where it's cold and the ground heaves, you need to go deep, deep as deep as you can go.

01:17:40:11 - 01:18:11:12

Tony: Because that ground will start to with the seasons changing, it will heave and ho. And before you know it, you're you're your peer is pointing in off axis way and you've screwed everything up, so you've got to go deep. I'm lucky here in Florida, I don't have to worry about that. We don't have to go. We don't have pipes freezing. We don't have any problems like that here. Right. But if you do live up in the Northeast or anywhere in the northern latitudes, you definitely want to dig deep below the frost level, whatever that is for your area. And then once that's set, go ahead and think about what you want to do around it.

01:18:11:14 - 01:18:41:11

Tony: I would actually discourage a big concrete pad because especially if you're not going to build any, think over it because it's going to sit there and act like a solar collector during the day and radiate it around you for hours after it gets dark. So I would I would a deck. A wooden deck is really good for that because, you know, if you want to walk off the ground and keep it, don't touch the pier. You can walk all the way around and it has very low. Wood has very little thermal mass. So that's why I would start.

01:18:42:00 - 01:19:12:08

Dustin: Yeah. And so the way like the way that arms are done is it's actually just a shell. So it's cinderblocks filled with concrete in a, you know, basically just the shell of the square. And then inside that is all wood and the wood floor is floating around the pier. So yeah, I mean, we you try to limit all of that. You possibly can. And then of course, we also have air conditioning to keep it to be able to keep it cooler, knowing that as the night comes, that stuff's going to cool off very quickly anyway. So we try to get it roughly to the temperatures it's going to be.

01:19:12:10 - 01:19:43:14

Dustin: And I mean, it's something you really have to consider all of these details. And if you miss anything there, there can be a problem where you're you're starting over. When it comes to these big things, I won't say anything but these big things like pure isolation. One more pretty crazy quick story, and this is a professional level observatory. This is the owner, one of the owners of MLB baseball team. We didn't Observatory for Out in Southern California. This is one of the most beautiful observatories I've ever seen. Two level observatory.

01:19:45:00 - 01:20:21:09

Dustin: It's one of the big, you know, $100000 dome, just absolutely gorgeous observatory. And the whole idea was on the bottom floor. It should look like a movie theater, you know, like TV's all around, so they can see live in seats pulled from a baseball stadium that they own. So you can sit in there and you can watch the images come in, live for whoever's a guest and wants to see this gorgeous spiral staircase up to the top, the pure running the whole way up the middle. And then at the top, it's like a metal mesh floor that you can walk around and then just a massive telescope up there.

01:20:21:17 - 01:20:56:00

Dustin: Just beautiful. I mean, you couldn't do it any better, just gorgeous. And, you know, really, really thought through the problem came in where in the reason they called us, because they did all of this with their architect before they called and the architect was really smart. I mean, he isolated everything except the stairs had three attachment points to the pier going up, and then the metal mesh had to attachment points to the pier. And those attachment points were probably the size of like a half dollar, you know, like.

01:20:56:04 - 01:20:58:01

Tony: So he used the pier for support

01:20:58:13 - 01:21:37:23

Dustin: At the very top he did. And so any time anyone was in that building, they were like in. So the only way they could test it was when they were in there, they're up there walking around. They just believed the telescope doesn't work at all. And it wasn't until we showed them remotely look, the telescope's fine. But if anybody is ever in this building, even those tiny, tiny attachment points to this pier, it's going to be unusable. You're going to have to literally start over. You're going to have to rip this out in isolated and support these structures around that pier so that it's free floating or else you're never going to be able to have people in here and use this because every time they take a step, anyone in the building takes a step.

01:21:38:08 - 01:22:16:21

Dustin: Whoever's imaging or looking through the telescopes is not be able to see anything. So it really is something that I can't stress enough when you are building an observatory, if it's going to be a permanent observatory. Really think that piece through because I mean, these that mystique can probably be the most costly one if you build the entire thing and then you have to redo it. It's not cheap to do. And there's. Very challenging to redesign something that's already been designed where there's not much room left for, you know, making those changes, so that's the problem to avoid number one right there, attach anything to that pier.

01:22:17:07 - 01:22:51:18

Tony: That's right. So we've made so yes, isolate the pier. Don't touch it. Don't let anything touch it. The second biggest thing is what you build it out of, and this is where my story comes in professional observatories. If you've looked at all of the brand new observatories being built around the world, they do not look like the old, you know, grain silos of old where there was a cylinder with a dome, a mounted on top and inside was this large telescope that swung around. They don't build them that way anymore, but for a very good reason, the said.

01:22:51:20 - 01:23:01:05

Tony: To illustrate my point, I'll talk about the University of Colorado. When I was attending, they have the Summer Squash Observatory, which has two DFM engineering,

01:23:03:13 - 01:23:40:08

Tony: 16 inch Cassegrain telescopes. Well, actually a 269, a 20 inch. And they the university has a policy that all buildings on campus have to be built out of this beautiful red Colorado flagstone. It's absolutely gorgeous in every building. There is amazing looking. And the course they built the observatory out of that. Well, as I just pointed out earlier, it it was the seeing inside that dome. This was the air currents that were generated as the stone released its heat into the observing area.

01:23:40:15 - 01:24:12:16

Tony: All you could see were shimmering, no matter what the outside of seeing was in Boulder that that night, whether it was half arc, second, whatever it was inside the dome, it was well into, you know, into the arc minute category. It was so bad the swirling air currents, so they had to go to great lengths with to install fans that went out through the coude room and the coude Focus's room is where, no matter where you have the telescope focused or pointed. The image playing comes out in one spot. It was they went out through the coude room.

01:24:13:01 - 01:24:45:10

Tony: The airflow had to go out. They had to suck it all out with these powerful fans. So when you were observing in the observatory, all you felt like you were in a wind tunnel because they had to get that air out and they had to make it laminar, in other words, really smooth so that they could observe halfway decently and modern observatories. Now the ones you see on top of Monaco and the top of the Andes Mountains in South America, they all look like big boxes and they all have big louvres in them and big vents that open up because they want it.

01:24:45:22 - 01:25:20:06

Tony: About two hours before they start observing, they open up the observatory. Everything, everything that can be opened is opened. They also have fans in those as well to get that rid of that dome, seeing they're also built out of things that are very low thermal mass things like carbon fiber or fiberglass. Even so, they don't build up heat throughout the day. So if you're at home, the best material that you have available to you to build is just would two by fours and plywood have a very low thermal mass? They're also very strong, and you could configure them in all kinds of various different ways.

01:25:20:22 - 01:25:46:03

Tony: But if you use cinder blocks to build up a big thing, I mean, Dustin was talking about cinder blocks in his, but those were low and they were protected from the direct sunlight. Then you're going to be fine. So that's an example of the problems faced with. You don't want it, and you don't want to make things worse for yourself by introducing Dome seeing, especially if you live in a city where you're already battling light pollution, why make it worse?

01:25:46:23 - 01:26:24:13

Dustin: Right? And in the desert, you can get away with a little bit more of that because it's buried. And as you start digging into the sand, it gets very cold, very quickly underneath there. So you're not going to you're not going to be releasing all that heat energy because it's very cold under the sand. And so we don't have that issue. But yeah, man, that problem is one that I've seen a lot and and I don't want to scare anybody away because, you know, the problems we're talking about, these are professional level observatory problems. And most people do not start there. So let's go back to where most people start and they don't involve any of this stuff because these are these are the problems that come along with.

01:26:24:21 - 01:26:59:12

Dustin: I want to have a massive telescope in a permanent observatory where I'm going to be at 3000 millimeters of focal length and anything that goes wrong at all is going to be amplified drastically. Right. So if you're shooting in your backyard and you know what we're talking about expanding the definition of observatory to mean, let's talk about where it just really starts. And this is where I started and this is where I see most people start. I mean, I see this happen multiple times every single week where people make the leap to, I'm not going to tear down and set up every night.

01:26:59:14 - 01:27:25:00

Dustin: I'm just going to leave it set up. And generally, what happens is you set up your equipment exactly how you would normally you find the best spot in your yard for it, which means you want to find somewhere that's not going to collect a lot of water. So I can be sitting in water and shifting, you know, because water sits there under the telescope's own weight. You don't want the tripod feet sinking into the ground, so some people even put the feet up on blocks or something that won't sink as easily.

01:27:26:16 - 01:28:00:21

Dustin: You find the best spot. We're going to have the most available sky and then you set everything up. You get a perfect polar alignment, really. Take your time to do all of this. And instead of tearing down at the end of the night, it's as simple as buying something called a Tesla. Gizmos cover a 360 five cover. We have them on our website. We always keep a ton of them in stock. And you know, these are meant to do several things. For one. It's meant to keep the Sun directly off it if you live in a hot area. They have little thermal protection on the inside, you know, also UV protection.

01:28:01:18 - 01:28:32:11

Dustin: But then they also keep the rain and all the other other elements off of it just snow, whatever is going to hit it. But I've left telescopes out for years at a time under these covers, and they've been completely fine. I know people that are leaving them out under covers, you know, through the winter and in Virginia and even Wisconsin. So, you know, I know that they work and they work very well. I've left them out through rainstorms. The biggest thing is that you've got to make sure that if your system is top heavy that you don't use a cover, that's going to just turn that into a kite.

01:28:32:22 - 01:29:10:02

Dustin: You know, the only worry you really have with that is making sure that the wind is not going to tip it if you have a really top heavy system. But as far as protecting it from the elements, it it works extremely well and most people leave them out for the majority of the year. If you have extremely harsh conditions, it's still recommended, you know, bring it inside for that period. But maybe now you're setting up a few times a year instead of every single night, and you throw that cover on there and at the bottom, it has a little cinch that that wraps around the tripod legs and keeps anything from, you know, any rain or do or anything else from getting in there.

01:29:10:14 - 01:29:45:16

Dustin: And it really is a simple, elegant solution to not having to pack up and tear down every night. Obviously, your concerns change a little bit. You got to make sure that you know you live in a place that's secure that you, a lot of people put up like a Nest Cam or something. They can keep an eye on it to make sure that nobody's out there messing with it. But it can save you a ton of time. If you live in an area with a secure yard and you know, good, good sky visibility, you know it can save you a ton of time not having to go out there and bring all your equipment, lug it out, carry it back in every single night.

01:29:45:18 - 01:29:59:11

Dustin: You get a lot more time under the sky by just going out there, hitting a switch, turning it on. And then most people even do their imaging from remotely inside because it's on your home Wi-Fi network, you know, so you don't have to go outside with it.

01:30:00:07 - 01:30:14:00

Tony: So I am looking at this now on the website, and I did not know I've just now before we started recording learned about these things. Well, it has got a bright sort of a mylar outer cover. How thick is it?

01:30:15:01 - 01:30:37:04

Dustin: They're pretty thick, like they're not. They're not light covers. So it's not, you know, and it's hard to tell in the in the pictures because it just looks like a tarp. And that's not at all what it is. You know, we've had a lot of people that like, What can I just use a garbage bag? Well, no, no, that's definitely not going to work for one, it's going to be it's going to rip up the well and it's not going to have the same effect

01:30:38:17 - 01:30:52:15

Dustin: on the site. If you go to tell the gizmos, just TELE gizmos, you'll see what I'm talking about. But did they happen for basically every type, including, you know, even Dobson eons. So big telescopes.

01:30:53:11 - 01:31:32:19

Tony: Well, so what I've just decided in the course of recording this episode is I'm going to buy one of these the the ones that it's like the one for an 18 to a 20 minute, 20 inch trust of sodium, which is what I have. It's only a hundred fifty bucks, so I'm going to buy one of those. Yeah. Let me tell you what I go through every night with this Dustin and Opie have made available to me this 20 inch Sony and skywatcher. That's absolutely amazing. The problem is it weighs a couple hundred pounds and to go out and observe with it, I currently have it stored in my in my front porch, which is screened in and barely fits in.

01:31:32:21 - 01:32:09:23

Tony: And I take a hand truck and I go out with the telescope every night that I want to observe, and I just set it up on the ground. So what I'm going to do for my observatory here is I'm pouring a four by four foot square of concrete out by my solar panels right behind the word of where I have the best view of the sky. And what I was going to do was experiment with various tarp situations and wrapping it in like those blue tarps. But I agree I don't like. That idea, but this is even better, so I'm going to get one of these, I'm going to make a video about it and I'll I'll show you what I think of this.

01:32:10:13 - 01:32:23:18

Tony: You know, as I get it started, it started and set up, and I love this idea. And so. So let me ask you, Dustin, since I have the CEO of OPEC right here, the 18 to 20 inch one that's on sale here, that'll fit my telescope, right?

01:32:23:20 - 01:32:33:11

Dustin: Yes, it will. OK, yeah, it will. It'll be tight. And then you see, it has a strap around the middle so you can lock it down. But yeah, I mean, you have you have a massive telescope.

01:32:34:09 - 01:32:40:07

Tony: But I'm going to be honest with you tonight. I don't take it out, even if it's clear as just I can't deal with the weight, so I'll work.

01:32:40:11 - 01:32:41:06

Dustin: Yeah, it's a lot of work.

01:32:42:16 - 01:32:46:15

Tony: I want to ultimately build a shed for it. But this is a great interim solution.

01:32:47:01 - 01:33:10:06

Dustin: Yeah, exactly. Just I mean, then even if you want to get it up off the ground, you just build a really small platform just the size of the base. And now you're not even standing on the platform you're standing on because your telescope requires a ladder, you know you're standing with your ladder in the grass, the telescopes up on the platform. And you know, when you're done, it's what, ten seconds to throw the tarp over it and cinch it down?

01:33:10:18 - 01:33:41:17

Tony: Well, that'll make my life much easier. And yeah, I I'm only making a four foot square pad because this is a top Sony and it wouldn't benefit from a peer. So I'm just going to set it on the on the concrete pad itself. Now, if I lived in an area where the ground heaving was an issue, I'd have to dig a dig a really big hole and make a really big pad for this thing because I don't want the ground heaving, but here in Florida, I have to worry about it, so I'm lucky. So that's what I'm going to do to start. So that's a great I didn't know. I didn't even know about these until just now.

01:33:41:19 - 01:34:14:13

Dustin: Oh, yeah, they're they're game changers and they're not expensive. You know, most people like, you know, people with ATX 90s or even ATX 125, you know, I mean, there are like $30 a covers $30. And then they go up, you know, all the way to 12 inch seats you can get for sixty two bucks. I mean, it's really the price is so low. This is why I always tell people to start here because one, it gives you a chance to move the telescope around, you know, a bit and see throughout the year if you like where it's sitting before you build something permanent instead of building the building.

01:34:14:15 - 01:34:19:02

Dustin: An insane man. I wish I was five feet the other direction so I could get these targets this time of this

01:34:19:04 - 01:34:20:09

Tony: tree out of my way or something.

01:34:20:11 - 01:34:32:02

Dustin: Yeah, exactly. It gives you a chance to to move it around and to adjust things so that you really know you're exactly where you want to be. And I think all of them are under $200, even the biggest ones.

01:34:33:00 - 01:34:51:04

Tony: So one of the biggest is 150 bucks. So yeah, there's one, I think, here for $$295. It's like for it's a custom one. So that's about the most expensive one, I see. All of this is really affordable and they have different configurations. So you when something like a refractor, what's that?

01:34:51:12 - 01:34:53:10

Dustin: That one's huge 72 inch.

01:34:53:18 - 01:34:56:23

Tony: Yeah, it's yeah, six foot high by 36 inches in diameter.

01:34:57:01 - 01:35:23:16

Dustin: So that one's huge. But yeah, I think that because of the price point and because they work so well, you know, and they give you some solar protection to heat protection, that's important. It's a really smart place to start. And even if you're not going to use it and leave stuff outside, you're just going to use it as star parties. That's not a bad thing to have with you because you can never know, like when rain's going to roll in. It's nice to have this in the car and just throw it over it. And you're good. No.

01:35:23:18 - 01:35:33:13

Tony: Even if you have a roll off observatory or a dome or something, you might want one of these. Just just in case, just in case there's a quick downpour, you can quickly cover it up before you get a chance to properly close up the observatory.

01:35:33:23 - 01:35:56:00

Dustin: Yeah, I probably have three or four of them sitting here at, you know, at the house where I just I always do that because it does, you know, rain sneaks up on you, especially when you're in the south. It sneaks up on you. And and so it's nice having that there where it's like, Well, I can't get out there quickly to to tear the whole thing down, but it's it's so quick to throw a cover over something.

01:35:57:18 - 01:36:06:12

Tony: OK, well, let's talk about sheds for a minute. I shed designs you at landers. Correct me if I'm wrong. You guys have rolled off observatories there, don't you?

01:36:06:23 - 01:36:24:15

Dustin: We do. Yeah, the one in Texas is a roll off. It's a big roll off. So a lot of telescopes in one unit, I think there's like eight or 10 telescopes. And when one unit there and in the ones in landers are just one telescope per building, so those are 10 by 12 buildings.

01:36:26:21 - 01:37:01:15

Tony: If you decide that you've seen roll off, they're just basically a big square shed baby with an incline and the roof a little bit to let rain run off a little bit easier, but they just roll straight off the side. One tip that I did, I helped a friend build one of those, and he had a great idea in his backyard what he went, what, what he did for the roll off mechanism. You see all kinds of designs. People use golf balls for bearings or whatever it is. But the best idea I ever saw it, it worked really well was to get some garage door hardware off the tracks and the wheels that mount on a garage door and use that stuff.

01:37:01:17 - 01:37:22:13

Tony: It's really inexpensive and it makes a great mechanism for rolling the thing off if it's not too heavy. Really big. A really big one roof. This might be you might want to think of something, but more ball bearing actually action to it. But but that worked really good, and it was right there at the hardware store. So look into maybe using some of that hardware for your roll off if you do that.

01:37:22:21 - 01:37:37:10

Dustin: That's exactly how ours work is just some garage door openers. Two hundred and fifty dollars garage door openers that you know the tracks that you're describing. The they're like a hard plastic track, and some are still perfectly.

01:37:39:05 - 01:37:51:23

Dustin: Yeah, some are still not a it's not an expensive solution, and it doesn't take a lot. Those things have a lot of talk. And because of the way they're geared, they're not geared to be fast. So it opens the roof pretty slowly. But because it has all

01:37:52:01 - 01:37:57:12

Tony: I was just talking about just using the stuff and push them with your hands, I didn't even occur to me to use a garage door opener. That's brilliant.

01:37:57:21 - 01:38:33:17

Dustin: Yeah, the garage door opener is is what we use to controllers remotely. You put a garage door on there and then some kind of, you know, even just a little Raspberry Pi device that all it is is in one switch, open closed. And you know, a lot of companies make this like four four garage doors actually like Gogo Gate is one a gate controller. And because all it is is a switch you can access with your phone from anywhere. You know, I can control my observatory roofs from anywhere in the world with a $100 device and just literally one button open closed.

01:38:34:16 - 01:38:49:08

Tony: It just occurred to me. This is another reason we talked about reasons for building an observatory. This is another one. Automation didn't even occur to me to mention that. That's that's because it's such a new idea to me doing all of this automatically. So that would be great for an automated solution.

01:38:50:17 - 01:38:59:02

Dustin: Yeah. Well, in in whether it's in your backyard or it's like mine, you know, mine right now is 3000 miles away or close to 500. Maybe,

01:39:00:14 - 01:39:33:21

Dustin: you know, it's like it's nice just knowing that this thing is really simple design. There's not a whole lot as far as the the mechanisms that control the building that can go wrong because, you know, there's not much complexity to it. It really is just a single function on this thing, just open, closed and you know, even the stops for the roof, they're just the little magnets. And, you know, you can even use the same thing in a garage door. You know, the little lasers that if you break the lasers, you're walking out, it opens the garage door back up so it doesn't close on you.

01:39:35:20 - 01:40:02:12

Dustin: You know, same thing or car gates when you're driving through a gate. If it detects that the car is passing in, it won't let the gate close on the car. You can use the same thing by putting the lasers on the telescope so that if your telescope sticks out above the roof, if it's not down in the parked position and those lasers don't have, if they're not making a connection, then it won't let the roof close. And so really, a lot of this garage door stuff ends up being the best stuff to use.

01:40:03:01 - 01:40:05:17

Tony: It's off the shelf. It's a problem that's already been solved.

01:40:05:20 - 01:40:17:05

Dustin: It has. It has, and it's really inexpensive. So for automation, it's what a lot of people are using. I mean, most of the observatories out there. That's what people have because it's just it works and it's not expensive.

01:40:18:10 - 01:40:49:16

Tony: Wow, that's a great idea. So if you are going to build one of these, I would I would advise you to build it out of wood. Try and give yourself as many options for air flow as possible without while maintaining the light. The light shielding aspects of it. Just think about it creatively. But you building it out of wood will get what already solved 90 percent of your issues right there with dome seeing. And of course, a roll off roof is is you know why it expands. So chances of getting dome seeing in something like that are pretty small.

01:40:49:18 - 01:41:28:05

Tony: So that's that's a highly recommended way to go. But there are those who like domes. They just like domes and as they do DIY solution, look into if you're comfortable working with metal, go to farm supplies and look into silos. The silo domes make great observatory roofs. I helped a friend of mine build one of those for a school. He he he ran and he just bought a grain silo roof. I think it was 20 feet. It's huge, and I bought it for a fraction of the price of what you would buy from, say, observe a dome drop zones, a manufacturer of domes that professional has been around forever.

01:41:29:01 - 01:41:51:08

Tony: It's a fraction of the price. So look into a farm silo domes and even you can use. Although it's not great, they're made of metal. They do get hot, but like on a cold desert night, like what Dustin was just talking about. They do tend they don't have a lot of thermal mass, so they cool off relatively quickly. So but you will have to wait for them to cool.

01:41:51:17 - 01:42:27:06

Dustin: Yeah, in a lot of people use them because the other cost savings is massive if you do, but you have to be pretty good at the DIY thing because it is automation for a silo dome is going to be very challenging. Whereas automation for domes like something like an Astro Haven product, it's just it's already built in. It's really easy. They've already done all that legwork and it's made for that specific purpose, so it's going to hold up a lot better for all astronomy needs. So you really don't have to learn, but they are a lot more expensive and there are a lot more challenging to get to work with most software packages.

01:42:28:06 - 01:42:59:15

Dustin: They have they have some benefits, you know, like wind protection, for instance, it's a lot easier to control wind when they found a slit in the dome. Yeah, but then your timing with the telescopes looking at the speed that it's blowing, the dome has to rotate at that speed to keep it, you know, so that it can find where it is and that it gets there in time to plate solve. And all of that. Whereas a roll off is once the roof is off, it's off, you know, but you don't have the same wind protection. And in other things, it's just a much simpler, much way less expensive design as well.

01:43:01:22 - 01:43:38:00

Dustin: Either way, I would say you really want to start on the front end and say, like, what are you trying to do? How far do you think you're going to take this because you're going to have a lot of decisions to make when you're building something that's a little more permanent as far as like, well, how big of a telescope do you think you might eventually put in there? Because that's going to matter, and you can be limited like, for instance, over 10 by 12 Observatory, I'm limited to a 20 inch telescope, which is massive. That's a massive telescope, but a lot of people are put in twenty four or even, you know, 0.7 or one meter telescopes and observatories now even in their backyards.

01:43:38:11 - 01:43:59:18

Dustin: So I would say if you if you know you're the type that's never going to go above a certain size, then you can feel pretty confident in whatever it is you're building. As long as you you build it to that spec, but you have to consider, you know, where you're at now and where you're trying to go or where you think you might go, because again, you which don't want to do is have to rebuild the thing.

01:44:00:04 - 01:44:40:13

Tony: Yeah, ive it a lot of thought upfront. That's really good advice. Don't give a lot about thought about what you plan, how you envision yourself using it. But you know this. This highlights a difference in the two of us just because you approach things from this already a pretty advanced level with automation and stuff that didn't even occur to me when I built these domes. But I hope that's one guy built that. Oh, we were just pushing it around. Yeah, yeah. So this is good. This is the difference. That approach is, I guess, where we had somebody, we were going to put a drive mechanism on it, but it was going to be this big, clunky, you know, AC motor connected to a chain that was going to drive, have a drive wheel that pushed it around, which those things are notorious for getting out of alignment and jamming.

01:44:41:02 - 01:44:51:09

Tony: And that's what we were going to do about it to me that we just pushed it around the dome, starting to slip start to get out of the field of view. Here we got to, we got to move it over. So somebody move it, move it.

01:44:51:21 - 01:44:52:16

Dustin: Yeah, definitely.

01:44:52:18 - 01:45:08:14

Tony: Yeah, low-tech solution. But you know, you're right, that's even more important consideration. Domes suck when it comes to ease of automating this thing, you got to you. You have a very narrow area of the sky, so you've got to have a good automation system. It's not it for the beginner, for sure.

01:45:09:17 - 01:45:23:22

Dustin: So people start this way, they build this thinking, I just want to avoid the setup time. But then once you have an observatory in your backyard or somewhere. The very next thing you're going to be thinking is I want to run this while I'm sleeping. It's all set up now.

01:45:24:00 - 01:45:25:07

Tony: I don't want to go outside at all now.

01:45:25:20 - 01:46:01:07

Dustin: Why can't I? I mean, that's the next step. That's the obvious next step, right? It's like, Well, I don't want to stay up. It's all safe. I know it's secure. It the roof works. If I could just get it to close if clouds roll in, if it does that, one thing for me automatically I can go to sleep. And so it's really it's an easy next step. So I would say that, you know, people building these with automation in mind is really it's something you should consider because sleep is valuable and I can tell you my setup time like I'm running an image right now in the Heart Nebula and I my setup time I log into the observatory.

01:46:01:09 - 01:46:29:14

Dustin: I set up an automated run, takes about four minutes and I go to bed. I wake up the next morning and it's the telescopes laying down. It's done my flat's, it's done everything, you know, and I've got this data there. So it really is. It's the next step for most people, and you can do that from your backyard once you connect it to, you know, even your home WI. You don't have to go outside with it. You can sit inside and not be cold, and it spoils you real quick.

01:46:29:18 - 01:46:56:08

Tony: I guess. Yeah, I've never had that. So I but I can't speak to a lot of other streamers. A lot of people do that. You can't. Greg, I think, has something similar, although everything's automated, he goes. And of course, asteroid hunters we've had, we've had him on the program a few times. Asteroid hunters has an automated set up, too. So yeah, it's the I guess that's the way things are now. And I'm still because I'm old. I still do things the old way. But yeah, I definitely want to consider that from the beginning,

01:46:57:01 - 01:47:28:22

Dustin: Well people think you have to build these things in the dark, everybody, you know, I wouldn't say to everybody, but a lot of people that ask the questions like, Well, I don't have, you know, super dark skies or, you know, I thought you had to build observatories in Hawaii or Chile or, you know, Texas, West Texas. And it's meant you can't go to a city for the most part where you're not going to find somebody that has a backyard observatory of some type wherever it is. Even in, you know, New York City, you'll find people that have these little sheds, you know, in their backyard.

01:47:29:00 - 01:47:35:06

Dustin: Or I've seen people put these covers on top of telescopes on roofs of these, these buildings. You know,

01:47:35:19 - 01:48:10:18

Tony: if there are people who do successful astrophotography from balconies of of apartment complexes, there's people Mexico City. I've talked to somebody in cities in Europe, they don't have this option. And so they use what they've got, which are balconies, the worst possible place to observe. And yet they take precautions. They isolate the telescope as best they can and they make it work. So yeah, this isn't none of this is like sort of Bible gospel. We're just trying to give you advice on if you are going to build one of these some things to watch out for and what to avoid.

01:48:11:09 - 01:48:41:05

Dustin: And it really can be done at whatever price point you want to. Like I said, it can start with something as simple as a a $30 cover, and it goes up to observatories that are quite literally, you know, multiple millions. You know, it just really depends on, again, that initial question of what am I trying to achieve and what's my end goal? Not not the end goal for today, but where do I really think I'm going to take this? And can I build this with that in mind, you know, to prevent having to build it again later? If so, you'll save yourself a lot of trouble.

01:48:41:07 - 01:49:04:22

Tony: Yeah. And if you can maybe do it with expandability in mind, I don't know. I would maybe think about, well, I can do this now, or maybe later. I'll add something more to it. Then you can do that. I mean, for me, for my my whole thing, I'm planning on spending five hundred bucks and that includes this cover. I'm talking about getting for my telescope. So I'm not going to spend a lot, but I don't want to lug that thing out there every time I want to observe. So that's my that's my reason.

01:49:05:00 - 01:49:09:03

Dustin: I don't blame you. Just that mirror alone. 20 inch mirrors, heavy thoroughly.

01:49:09:10 - 01:49:21:07

Tony: It's hundreds of pounds this thing. So I got, you know, getting it out there and moving it in and out. That's not good for the scope you want to. You want to, you know, minimize damage to that thing, too. So that's why I'm that's my no, it

01:49:21:09 - 01:49:49:18

Dustin: It really needs to be set up and left an instrument, especially an instrument of that quality. It needs to be set up and left and not, yeah, not picked up, torn down. And, you know, every single day, if you can avoid it, it's going to you're going to get a lot more life out of it. And you know, you decrease the chance of actually you have accidentally damaging it in some way. People drop mirrors all the time, people drop telescopes all the time, and it's always like that sound. There's nothing worse that crunch hearing the sound of somebody's telescope hit the ground with a

01:49:49:20 - 01:49:51:07

Tony: cracked corrector plate on it.

01:49:52:06 - 01:50:15:17

Dustin: And I can't tell you how many times I've seen it, and it's disgusting. Every time hosts evil, it's evil. I know it's so sad, but yeah, I think that it solves a lot of those problems, and it doesn't have to be something that you jump into at, you know, fifty thousand dollars, you can jump in at a very low level. Like you said, five hundred bucks get you a lot.

01:50:15:23 - 01:50:31:14

Tony: Yeah, that's all I'm planning on spending. But having said that, though, let's go and talk about we got a few minutes left, you want to talk about some of the commercial solutions that are available out there and how much you can't say you don't want to build anything and you just want to buy it off the shelf, the stuff you can buy. You want to talk about some of that.

01:50:33:03 - 01:51:10:16

Dustin: Yeah, so definitely the first thing that people start looking at is, you know, it's generally not the dome or anything along those lines, it's generally control. And how are they going to control this and whether or not it's going to be remote? Most of the time now, I would say, you know, and I don't I don't know the exact number, but I would I would say at least 90 percent of the calls that I get involved in are people looking to do this remotely? Yeah, it's a very big thing now is is people trying to get the telescope somewhere where they can leave it trust that it's OK and have access to better skies than they might have at home.

01:51:10:23 - 01:51:41:10

Dustin: I see that all the time. And even if they're doing it at home, they want to run it from inside instead of outside, because not everybody lives in Florida, Tony or California. I don't. And so it does get cold and it does, you know, it can be very uncomfortable to be out there all night. So even just running it from inside is a huge step up in just comfort in. And again, solving those problems mean you're going to means you're going to do it more. It means you're going to be more likely to say, Yeah, that sounds fun tonight instead of. I don't want to freeze my butt off tonight.

01:51:41:12 - 01:51:42:03

Dustin: You know?

01:51:43:08 - 01:51:50:05

Dustin: Admit it, admit it. We all think that, I don't care who you are, if your temperatures start, you're strong astronomer, you don't. There's just a night, as do they have gold.

01:51:50:08 - 01:52:29:18

Dustin: There's a lot to be said for just being comfortable. And so the first thing is looking at that and knowing if it's going to be for imaging, like, how are you going to control this thing? And so most people look at the different devices available, whether the Raspberry Pi devices like the the ones ZWO puts out the ASI Air Plus that they have, which is an amazing unit, very, very simple, straightforward, easy to use or something more complete, like an eagle from Prima Luce Labs, which we've done entire podcast on. You can go back and listen to those if you're interested, but that's an actual Windows unit that is made to be in harsh environments and you can run any software package you'd like on it.

01:52:29:20 - 01:53:05:16

Dustin: That's windows driven, including all of the drivers. You can control anything. And that's what actually runs my observatories is those eagles currently. And so, you know, that's where most people start as they try to figure out, like, how am I going to control this thing and how much, you know, how much storage am I going to need because these new cameras are just so damn good and the resolutions are insane. Sixty sixty two sixty three megapixels on a lot of these cameras or more. I saw, you know, the Fuji files are 100 megapixel files, which are just massive files.

01:53:05:18 - 01:53:26:16

Dustin: So you really have to start taking into consideration things like storage. Yeah, big data. You're going to store all this. Yeah, it's a lot of data. So generally, the conversations I know it's not the the the sexiest part of the discussion is the telescope and everything else. That's fine, but those things are pieces that can make or break a project. So generally it starts there.

01:53:27:23 - 01:53:29:01

Tony: OK. Yeah.

01:53:31:00 - 01:54:03:00

Tony: I don't know, this is where I don't have a lot to offer in this regard because I've seen the professional ones that are out there and they range in and names like Observado in which I talked about that's been around for decades and decades. You could look up one of the earliest sky and telescope magazines from the 50s and see an ad from them. And then there's new ones like Astro Haven, there's an X Dome, there's Explorer Dome, there's lots of things you can go and do. All of them range. These are in the thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what you want it spent.

01:54:03:08 - 01:54:13:09

Tony: I don't have any experience with any of that other than the there was a clamshell dome manufacturer. I think it was explore a dome, but I'm not sure that a university

01:54:14:01 - 01:54:15:19

Dustin: Those are Astro Haven.

01:54:15:21 - 01:54:46:14

Tony: Are they? Oh, OK. And they were astro havens, and the University of Illinois had bought five of them for their undergraduate astronomy program. And they were just they were squat. They were just enough to hold the telescope. Nothing else. You couldn't go in them and they were mounted on the Quad and you use the telescopes for whatever they have for the astronomy labs, for the for the university. Those were great. Then they worked really good. They were sturdy, they were waterproof. They were secure because they were out in the middle of the Quad.

01:54:46:21 - 01:55:01:22

Tony: So you could lock them up and nobody could get at the stuff. But they were just the size just enough to cover the telescope itself. So these were remotely operated. That's my only experience with them, and I highly recommend that. It was a great unit. They were really well done.

01:55:03:11 - 01:55:25:11

Dustin: Oh, yeah, they're they're beautiful and with a clamshell, you know, I mean, we're talking about a completely different thing now we're talking about professional observatory level. These things go up to 20 feet, massive. You know, I think this will start at seven feet so you can get them smaller diameter people buy those and they put them on like trailers that they can pull around and make mobile observatories. Oh, we

01:55:25:13 - 01:55:27:17

Tony: should try that in just a minute. That's a great point.

01:55:27:20 - 01:55:55:08

Dustin: Yeah, yeah, it's pretty cool. But yeah, these things are are really pretty impressive. And when you're inside one, it's it's amazing, especially the big ones, but you have individual control of each side of it, so the clamshell can open in whichever direction you want. It can open just the narrow slit like a normal observatory. Or you can just put one whole face of the thing down and have access to that entire side of the sky. But they're they're pretty amazing. And do you know what

01:55:55:10 - 01:55:57:17

Tony: What are they're made of? They look like fiberglass.

01:55:59:05 - 01:56:08:22

Dustin: Yeah, it is fiberglass. OK? It is, but super heavy duty. I mean, these things are big and they're heavy. We've installed a lot of them in and they are

01:56:09:11 - 01:56:32:09

Tony: Like boat hulls. You know, they're massive. Yeah. OK, well, I was curious because that also has a little thermal mass, so that would be a good thing to build them out of. I suppose something you could do if you're good with working with fiberglass. So you brought up mobile observatories. I'm glad you did that. What do you think of those? These are things that, as I've seen them, their telescopes permanently mounted, bolted on to some kind of trailer. Have you ever used one of those?

01:56:32:14 - 01:57:10:10

Dustin: It's hard to argue with the concept for outreach. I mean, you're bringing astronomy to people instead of asking people to come to, you know, wherever the astronomy is happening, which I think is great. You know, obviously we do that. I mean, we we take it to New York City it. So yeah, I think that that is something that's really important and it does that the challenge is increase because now all the stability things we were talking about, you're literally putting your observatory on wheels, so everything becomes a lot more challenging. But you know, there are problems that can be solved and you're not going for an iPod every night with a mobile observatory, you're just trying to show people space.

01:57:10:22 - 01:57:29:04

Dustin: So, yeah, I think they're they're really great and there are a lot of people that have done phenomenal jobs with mobile observatories. They always end up being a little more expensive than you think they will on the front end because the problems they're there, especially trying to establish a really stable platform for it.

01:57:31:00 - 01:57:56:14

Dustin: But the people that that do them, I can say, you know, they're probably showing as many people spaces as you possibly can by actually bringing astronomy to people because again, it's just loaded up behind the truck and pull it to wherever people are. And you've got an observatory there. Now you can go to a, you know, any any gathering of people and pull your observatory up into the parking lot and show as many people species you want. So it's pretty awesome.

01:57:56:18 - 01:58:28:00

Tony: My first experience with a telescope mounted on a trailer was in the 1980s, and we had a 10 inch castle. Great. It was a cave. It wasn't a cave, a stroll. The telescope was not a Schmidt 'cause it was a castle great. And it was mounted. The Mount was a an old traffic signal control box. It was very sturdy, made out of steel, very, very heavy. And we mounted that thing on a trailer to take two schools to school. There was the school district had paid for all this and we were doing to drive it to schools and show people things like the Sun or do star parties in the parking lot, things like that.

01:58:28:02 - 01:59:03:05

Tony: It was a terrible design because kids had to get up on the trailer look through the eyepiece, which because it was a cast green, was down at the bottom, which was easy to get to. But every time a kid went on there, it just jiggled everywhere. So we had we came up with a gangplank that did not touch the trailer that kids could walk on. Now, imagine we had to come up with all kind of OSHA and safety designs for this to work handrails everything in the dark. You don't want kids climbing up on stuff, but I had to not touch the trailer at all, and it was very convoluted and we hated it.

01:59:03:07 - 01:59:33:15

Tony: So we stopped doing that after a while, if later on. Decades. Fast forward to several decades later, if you have a dub Sony in which you're going to need a ladder for anyway, then it works fine. Don't touch the trailer once it's set up, and you need those stabilizer things on all four corners to make it level. And that works okay. Or if you're doing things remotely or you have computers and stuff, set up your table well away from the trailer, no one's going to touch it anyway.

01:59:33:17 - 01:59:43:16

Tony: So that's the only way they work, in my opinion. But you're right, you make something big and huge and bulky, portable. It's going to be great for outreach.

01:59:45:07 - 01:59:53:06

Dustin: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, and it gets a lot of attention, which brings people to it, so yeah, they're effective, they are a challenge, but they're effective once they're below.

01:59:53:13 - 02:00:22:07

Tony: Yeah. And so OK, well, we covered a lot and I hope this is helping you guys decide on whether to build the backyard observatory. Personally, I say, go for it, get out there, build your thing, man. Do it, make it happen because you were the more anything that lets you use your gear, more is worth doing. And this is certainly one of those things you can do in your backyard or even on your balcony to various extents to use your use your your gear more than you ordinarily would.

02:00:22:14 - 02:00:31:21

Dustin: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, if you if it gets you out and enjoying your hobby or passion, then you know, it's hard to argue with it being being the right choice.

02:00:32:05 - 02:01:04:17

Tony: Yeah. So thank you guys for this idea on this episode. This was awesome. I had a lot of fun talking about it, so I hope we've helped you out getting getting started. At least I'm thinking about this project. If you have any other ideas, reach out to us all the social media things. I'm deep astronomy on everything, so just reach out to me and I'll be happy to to do it. You can reach anybody at OpEd with their questions as well on their website. They are here, but they have an outstanding support network there. So if you have any questions at all, they'll be there for you. They'll help you, so check them out and make use of those resources.

02:01:05:13 - 02:01:26:19

Tony: OK, well, I think we're done with this episode. So on behalf of Dustin Gibson, I'm Tony Darnell. Thank you all so much for listening and spread the word. Tell people that Space Junk Podcast is out there. Help us help us spread the word to get our get our audience even more amazing than it already is. So but I do want to thank you for listening. And as always, keep looking up.

We hope you found this episode useful and apply these tips to your next star gazing session!

For more Space Junk Podcast episodes click here. Want some extra astrophotography help? Check out OPTU for astrophotography tips, tutorials, and videos!

Leave a comment