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Jan 312014

So, it all started back in 2004. I was starting to get really interested in astrophotography. I had been taking my telescope out on clear nights, weekends only because of set up time, and setting up in various points in my yard. It would take a couple of hours just to get set up for an imaging session. And since I live in Washington State, Where the skies are grey for about 360 days a year, I didn’t get out as much as I wanted. So the idea was born to build my own observatory. The idea being, with a permanent setup I could get out more often and image, as well as let it run through the night while sleeping.


I first perused the internet to search for idea’s. There were many different design with the results. Most were either too elaborate or too simple. I wanted something that would look like a normal shed, that had a roll off roof. I also wanted a warm room for those cold winter nights. So I decided to design my own observatory. Now I don’t have a lot of training in design and building of houses or other buildings, but I do have a good basic knowledge of woodworking and buildings. So I set out to find some software to draw up the plans. I ended up getting a home made program called Cadstd( http://www.cadstd.com/). With that I drew up some designs until I was happy with the results.

cadsidecadendcadtop These are the drawings I worked with. There were several layers, each a portion of the building. I would print off a layer and calculate the needed material, buy it and do that part.


The drawings are pretty busy, but I wanted to show all the layers at once.


Next was to find a place in my yard, where it would look nice and have some available skies. I live in a small city in a nicely wooded neighborhood. The backyard was the only place I could put it, so I found a spot that had open skies to the east and north.





This is a look to the west of my backyard. Lots of wonderful trees! And to the South, my home.







This is the view to the north from the same spot. I have the ability to see the north star for alignment.

So as you may have guessed, I do most of my imaging from the east. I figure that is where most things rise from, and I can track them across the sky for long periods. By the time they get to the point where I need to flip for the meridian,  I stop imaging that object.

Now I have plans, a spot to put it, with the wife’s approval, so onward!





This is where it all begins. The post holes.

First I laid out the post hole centers with string and stakes.

I used 10 inch sonotube, and dug down 32 inches minimum. I dug these down 32″

and placed 4″ of drain rock into the bottom of all 6 holes. The posts were 10 round.”




Once all the post holes were dug, I dug out the pier hole.

Here is the pier hole. It is about 32 inches square by 32 inches deep.

Posts poured. It took 3-4 80# bags of quick crete per post.

Wheel barrel covering the pier hole. Wouldn’t want the local deer to fall in as they pass through the yard.






Pier poured. I poured the bottom first, I raised the base to 16″ above grade.

After letting it sit for an hour as I set up the quick tube then I poured the main shaft of the pier.

The main shaft is a 12″ quick tube. I used 23 80# bags of quick crete.

Nearly a ton of concrete.




Things go faster now that the concrete is poured. The main beams are in and the floor joists are coming together.








Main deck is on now, started framing the box girders for the raised floor in the telescope room.

Box girders completed, telescope room floor has been installed. The Telescope room floor is 2 feet above the main floor.


Another angle of the raised floor. Notice the openings on the end. I plan to use this space to store garden tools.

I put a box around the pier so the tools wouldn’t be able to touch it.


Yet another angle of the floor. Notice the steel pier on top of the concrete pier.

I want to be able to change from a wedge mount to a GEM mount in the future, and decided this was the easiest way.






One last angle of the floor.