flop-roof dormer observatory
I've been into astronomy for quite a few years now, but it was always a challenge to set up, observe, then take down the equipment. The majority of the time spent was in set up and take down. Every new piece of equipment added time and weight. I decided a permanent observatory would be the solution.
Our yard is in dense woods, many of the trees are over a hundred feet high. When setting up in the yard I would always pick the location that would give a good view of my target, but there wasn't one great location for all targets. The best location would have been right behind our garage.
When planning on adding a garage to our house, I decided to design an observatory to go along with it. The start was a 24 foot tall pier, set on a 64 cubic foot dense-cement anchor.
The pier is built on the anchor block with an 8-foot high 4-block section then transition down to an 8-foot high 2-block section. Finally topped with five half-blocks when it gets to the observatory floor height. The top block run several conduits for control and power.
I used lightweight cement-block and vermiculite aggregate concrete fill to lighten the mass of the pier. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but not every cavity is filled. The engineering behind the design keeps the center of gravity low to the ground. Part of the delay was waiting for the anchor block to settle completely before adding the pier.
I am using the observatory whenever I get a chance and the night sky is clear. I currently use an Orion HDX110 mount with a side-by-side setup. On the mount I have an f/5 Takahashi FSQ-106EDX3 Petzval Refractor and an f/10 Celestron 9.25 XLT Schmidt-Cassegrain. The two scopes give me a wide range of targets, large and small.
The pier is very solid; I've yet to see any vibrations transmitted from the garage or from wind. The isolation and wind-break design turned out great.
Eventually I would like to add a motorized system to open and close the flop-roof sections. It's not too heavy to handle, but making it more rigid and even easier would be nice.