Starlight Cascade Observatory

Page Created: 2003 September 03


Construction Details Construction Photos

Timeline of Events/Modifications

  • 20100408 - survived the winter very well with little or no snow being blown in, 17" LCD display is fine and the newer enviroboxes for the workstations kept the machines running well. Have the material for the new floor.. just have to schedule a weekend of time.
  • 20090904 - replaced flippy board with a single piece of 1"x6"x10' cedar; side tracking teflon fell off, replaced; roof getting harder and harder to move; north pier now loose and moves around a bit; the original deckboards are warping and becoming uneven. Time to bite the bullet: empty observatory, remove carpet, remove a few deckboards, repair the pier concrete footing, replace the decking, add 3/4" styrofoam and 3/4" OSB plywood and screw down level with channels cut for 110vac, 12vdc, and usb so that the floor is still level and smooth.
  • 200904 - LCD monitor survived the winter just fine. Need to build a bigger red filter for it as the surface area is larger than the CRT was.
  • 200811 - replaced 17"CRT monitor with 17" LCD monitor
  • 200808 - built plastic garden shed and placed underneath roll off roof assembly to store things that have accumulated in the observatory itself. Moved the allsky camera workstation out there as well to free up more room.
  • 200711 - added more insulation to roof (inside) to cover more of it to stop condensation. Rebuilt interior design, added 4' long work surface, moved workstation into corner with 17"CRT monitor
  • 20070114 Sunday - teflon pads and formica for a roof sliding mechanism has finally been deemed unworkable... today we added four dual wheel nylon low profile "furniture" coaster sets to the roof. Had to realign all of the roof-wind interlocks and add a "flippy board" to the southeastern roof segment to cover the gap. The sidewalls (southwest and northeast) still work not too bad (2"x4") but need replacing with 5/4x6" boards to extend down further.
  • 2007 January - built a housing for the new CONCAM SBIG237A allsky camera and rebuilt the housing for the older allsky camera Both housings have 1 watt fans blowing air into the dome from the housing.
  • 2006 December - moved computer stand out of corner and into middle. CRT now sits in middle with keyboard tray, mouse area and under stand lighting for keyboard. Added wooden boxes for the allsky workstation, the concam workstation and the robodome workstation. Internal temperatures much warmer now than when using foil bubble wrap last winter. The network switch and the video-usb adapater are also inside keeping toasty warm.
  • 2006 November - added 2nd computer workstation (robo733) to control the roboscope, and a 100mbps switch. Additional power runs out to the roboscope along with data lines in a 2nd conduit.
  • 2006 September - added 3" wide 4' long formica strips to top of rails, replaced small 1" telfon with 3" teflon pads.
  • 2006 July 17 Monday - Added two 6' angle irons bolted together to make a 10' support and installed into the roof. Works Great! Thanks to Norm for helping to cut off the naughty bits of the bedframe Angle irons. Added 3/4" pipe insulation tubes to the ceiling roof support struts to cushion blows to the head that we (I) were always getting. The roof is only 5-6' tall in various places. Also added one to the entrance way. Lastly, the outdoor varathane on the wood surfaces of the observatory did not weather well at all. So this past weekend the entire outdoor wood surfaces were sanded down and we have started to apply outdoor stain. First look: not bad at all... the wood looks much better protected and there are no more discolourations caused by the varathane wearing off, peeling, etc.
  • 2006 April 08 Saturday - The wall support across the door opening was sinking so much that the doors were very hard to move. Installed two 2"x4" supports on either side of the door and that fixed that problem. The doors now glide open and closed with a fingertip touch. Now of course the roof doesn't close very well because it too was sagging. We are looking at strengthening the support across the 10' span of the roof with either a solid piece of 2"x2" wood or possibly some angle iron.
  • 2006 January 30 Monday - condensation on roof ceiling much less. Will do the remainder of the roof later this week.
  • 2006 January 29 Sunday - still getting small snowdrifts inside when the winds are fast, plus some freezing on the metal roof, followed by heating by the sun, melting and dripping. Yesterday we installed some bubble insulation (aluminized). Two strips of 8' long each along the inside top section of roof. Of the 80 ft^2, this covered two sections of 2'x8' = 32 ft^2 in total, or almost half. We will see how this helps to slow down the codensation water supply.
  • 2005 November 05 Saturday - moved 2.2w solar panel off roof and mounted on south side of building and rerouted power off the exhaust fan , to the observatory battery to act as a trickle charger. Allsky computer has been replaced after being down for 4 weeks. Some water damage from condensation on inside of roof.
  • 2005 August 21 Sunday - more minor fixes - outdoor varathane on all new outdoor wood, replacement of 12vdc power cables to deep cycle battery, connection of other 12vdc feeds to south, north piers, more weatherstripping added to doors,
  • 2005 August 18 Thursday - a whole bunch of little stuff got upgraded today. The southern pier is now sporting it's own fold down table (12"x18"), a wooden IKEA 9 box storage box. Much better protection from the elements and dew and wind and dust than an open shelf concept. More rearranging of shelving, cleaned out the deep cycle battery from terminal corrosion. The north pier has 12vdcback again but the south pier and the allsky camera do not. Built a user sunshield for the Bushnell 4" scope for solar viewing shade, out of krazy karpet black plastic and some aircore material for added stiffness.
    12.5mm plossl
    25mm plossl
    25mm plossl
    40mm plossl
    2x antares barlow, cheshire collimator
    . . .
    . . tools
    The 2.2 watt solar panel is not quite enough to run two 1watt fans, especially when there is not full sun. We are considering turning off one of the two fans for now until a larger 5 watt solar panel comes along.
  • 2005 August 10 Wednesday - repaired bad exhaust fans in observatory roof. Now runing with a canadian Tire 2.2 watt solar panel mounted on the roof powering two 1 watt 4" 12vdc computer muffin (power supply) fans, exhausting hot air out of the top of the observatory and hopefully drawing in cooler air through the two floor vents. Attached some velcro connectors for the light blocking flag to pin down the bottom edge of the flag portion up against the building wall. Works well in mild winds. Upgraded observatory computer to dual boot MS Windows NT2000 and Linux Fedora Core 3. Built 2nd light blocking shield "flag" on southwestern wall.
  • 2005 August 08 Monday - worked on interior lighting some more to totally block all line of site from the Red LED xmas lights. Modified the NE light blocker to eliminate gap. Checked formica runs.
  • 2005 August 07 Sunday - built a portable light screen 5' wide and 6+' high, modelled after a flag. It inserts into the NE corner of the observatory to block the unshielded motion sensor lights from two houses north, to our prime dobsonian viewing platform. Will need another one for the SE corner to block upstairs BRIGHT interior lights from the house across the street. Used a 5/4" maple dowel, some vinyl like heavy material stapled on and it gets inserted into a 5/4" hole drilled into a 3"x3" block mounted to the wall. Works quite well. Heavy enough not to require weights at the bottom, although it probably will not perform well in wind. Added the last of the formica to the southern rail, 3" wide by 4' long. This still leaves a bare 4' section on the south. Added a 1.5" x 4' to the northern rail, making it completely covered. The roof moves noticeably better than before. We used "automotive goop" as an adhesive this time. The 3" wide section can actually be mechanically attached with screws if need be, off the main track line.

    New formica

    New formica

    Light Blocker

    Light Blocker

    Light Blocker

    Light Blocker

    Folding Pier Table

    Folding Pier Table

    Exhaust Fans
  • 2005 August 06 - Saturday - removed the vinyl siding from roof runner. Twinned the top surface with sections of 2"x4", so now instead of a 1.5" wide surface at top, there is 3". The roof teflon points don't actually touch this new wood but it will allow us to add 3" wide formica to the top instead of the old 1.5" and with the added width, it will stick better and not curl itself off. In addition it will help prevent the main 2"x8" from twisting and warping. No one sells strips of formica in the major stores, so we have to hunt down a custom kitchen store. Added a CanTire 2.2 watt solar panel to the roof of the observatory. This is powering two 1 watt 12vdc muffin fans blowing air out the screened 4" exhaust vents in the roof ends, to help reduce the heat inside. Sunny day outside 30deg temp, 40 deg inside. before the fans. There is an on/off switch and in the winter the panel will be taken off the roof, disabling the exhaust fans, mounted on the side of the observatory and trickle charge the 12vdc deep cycle battery inside.
  • 2005 July 23 - added vinyl siding corners x10' on top of roof rails thinking it would work better than bare pine wood surface for the teflon runners to work against. So far it seems that maybe the vinyl is softer than the pine and moving the rood is harder. Time to rethink the top surface again... maybe harder varanthane? Took some new images of the observatory after that. 20050724 A few days of use later and soft vinyl siding has much increased friction over that of the pine runner. So now we either take the vinyl down or put something harder on top of the vinyl.
  • 2005 July 21 - added a fold down writing surface table to the northern pier for sketching and note taking while at the eyepiece.
  • 2005 July 20 - Lots of wind and rain since April and most leaks are gone. Temperature is now becoming an issue. We do have two 4" vents in each end of the roof but no real cool air input. So we cut two holes in the floor in opposite corners, for floor vents suitably shielded against bug instrusion with nylon screen door material, to allow cool air to be drawn in from beneath the floorboards. Added some outside decoration in the form of a metal star on the southwest wall. We noticed that the roll off roof support section was no longer parallel to the observatory walls themselves, as the ground beneath the deck blocks holding up the 2"x8" rose up, creating a dip in the middle of the 16' section. This causes only some of the teflon contact points to touch which makes it harder to move. In addition, all of the formica on the outside rails came off during the winter and needs replacing with something harder than the pine wood 2"x8" surface.

    2005 April 09

    Taped up the rest of the bad roof joins and most of the rest of them as well using a tar backed aluminum tape from RONA, 10 m x 15cm or so for $20.

    2005 March 17

    Added allsky camera to the observatory. Some new images of it from the roof of the house. Added in red LED lighting permanently on (about 4 watts) to allow for vision even when going into the observatory in the dark.

    Taped roof

    Taped roof

    Taped roof

    2005 February 13 Sunday

    Five good solid hours of work on the observatory.

    Before renovations

    Before renovations

    Before renovations

    Before renovations

    Before renovations
    We started by putting the 2nd pier into operation. Cut the pier off to 43" in height, cut two 12" circles out of 3/4" hard plywood and 5" long chunks of 2"x4" to brace it. We put the first circle on the pier and added a 2x4 support piece, levelling as we went, adding the opposite side and then the remaining two sides. Checked several times for level along the way.

    Removed the circle, topped up with sand in the middle and discovered that the peir was leaking sand along one edge. Added four more screws into that side joint and that mostly stopped the leaking sand. Will add more glue when the weather gets warmer. Attached the first circle to the top of the pier, centred. Sanded down the edges and bottom and the 4 side supports. On the 2nd circle we drilled a 1/4" hole through the centre, then a 3/8" hole about halfway down to allow a T-Nut to be pounded in from the topside. A 3" carriage bolt, 1/4"x20 was threaded in from the bottom. A little hole was dug on the top of the first circle to allow for the carriage bolt head to fit in so the two circles would fit tight against each other. The 2nd circle was then attached to the first and then sanded down. We will have to varathane these once the temperature gets better. It was about -3 today.

    2nd pier

    2nd pier

    2nd pier closeup

    12" layout

    12" circles - a little short of wood

    2nd pier - level block supports


    Checking level

    checking level

    2nd pier

    2nd pier

    2nd pier

    2nd pier

    Checking for level is a critical step for the future polar alignment and tracking step. We fine tuned the level for a few minutes before we were happy with it, checking mainly on the 90 deg across the supports.

    Then we built an 8" circle (actually a square with the corners cut off, to allow for the mount to fit properly. It had a 1/4" hole drilled through the centre as well and was mounted over the carriage bolt, then a large washer and wingnut was added to secure it. After it gets polar aligned, we will screw it into place, but for now we can move it around if necessary.


    The old pier

    new pier

    new pier

    new pier

    new pier
    We then moved the computer from the northwest to southwest corner to allow the monitor to be shaded from the sun better as it was impossible to view in the daytime. Moved the wiresless antenna around as well. Moved a lot of the structural shelving, equipment and telescope over to the northeast side from the southwest side. Cleaned the terminals of the battery and placed it inside the old wooden battery box to help protect if from cold weather better. Had to temporarily disconnect the battery trickle charger until we get more power cords. We left the 110vac a nd 12vdc on the southern pier, intending to duplicate it on the northern pier.

    The viewline from the northern pier is much better suited to solar observing. Previously the southern wall got in the way.

    And finally the after renovations views.

    After

    After

    After

    2005 February 06 Sunday

    High winds combined with snow led to large amounts of snow piling up inside the observatory, combined with melting snow, left water inside as well, over the last few months. Today we also discovered that the formica track had come lose in sections from the rail and will have to be reglued when the weather gets warmer. It was warm enough however to add a new roof patch with the tar/aluminum tape, expanding insulating foam was added all around the base of the wall where they met the floor structure, as well as along the top walline between the wall and the rail structure. Gaps had existed and allowed snow and rain to blow in through tiny little cracks. In addition, we added some more weatherstripping foam to the main doors and some pink styrofoam strips to cover exposed areas in and around the doors. Lastly, a new garage door vinyl U shaped weather stripping was added to the roof, so that when it closes it now seals better against the rippled walls of the observatory.

    Formica Strip

    Door weatherstripping

    Door weatherstripping

    Door weatherstripping

    Door weatherstripping

    Door weatherstripping

    garage door weatherstripping

    garage door weatherstripping

    Roof patch

    Roof patch

    2004 August 22 Sunday

    Added two more 24"x24" concrete pads for use by Dobsonian mount scopes. The roof was starting to become troublesome to open and close, so we added some formica strips along the top of the roof runners (varathaned pine). Moves much nicer now! Removed soft foam from northeast roof gap and replaced with a 1"x6" wooden skirt with blue hard styrofoam to help block blowing precip. Also added a 1"x4" skirt to the southwestern wall to block the rood/wall gap from blowing wind precip.

    2004 July 25 Sunday

    Added two corner shelves,and another 14' of 6" shelving. Added 120vac and 12vdc power to the southern pier. Added some more screws to pier as internal sand was starting to leak out a bit.. need to inject something inside to stop it.

    2004 July 19 Monday

    We needed a spot for a dobsonian platform to go and the grass near the observatory was not exactly level... so we got a 24"x24" concrete pad, excavated a little, laid down a bed of sand and put the pad ontop, levelling and presto! In addition, some more internal framing has been put into the observatory, in preparation for shelving.
    Aerial View 24"x24" pad Shelving Shelving

    2004 July 09

    We did a temperature study to see how hot it gets inside the observatory. We put an indoor outdoor cabled thermometer sensor on the inside, put the readout unit on the outside in the shade and took hourly indoor/outdoor readings as well as notes on sun and cloud conditions with the intent of possibly adding an exhaust fan or two (computer power supply 12vdc 1 watt). There are two exhaust ports on the northwest and southeast roof gables, approx 4" round each. The walls are simply tin and the floor is a wooden deck covered in carpet with lots of little areas where air can come in.
    time Diff Cinside temp COutside temp C Comments
    08:303.121.618.5sun&cloud
    09:303.722.018.3sun&cloud
    10:307.228.020.8sun&cloud
    11:303.926.422.5cloud
    12:301.525.123.6cloud
    13:302.226.824.6cloud

    2004 June 21

    The summer winds are starting up again (see the weather station data) and since we do daily solar observing, the roof is often in the fully open position when these winds come through for several hours in the afternoon. After seeing the roof blow off during the hurricane remnants, we were a little worried about the roof (now fully exposed to a gust from underneath) going on another trip. So we took the concept of slide-into holddowns that we use on the inside of the observatory when the roof is in the closed position and applied it to the outside when the roof is open.

    We added new holddowns for when the roof is open all of the way, consisting of 2"x4" pieces of wood and some 2"x2" pieces. New bolts were added inside to hold the roof in position when the roof is closed. Ropes are no longer necessary to hold the roof down (we hope!). Easily survived 40kph gusts with the roof open all the way.
    Leading edge of open roof holddown detail (2 sides):
    Before Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
    Trailing edge of open roof holddown detail (2 sides):
    Open Step 1 Step 2 Closed and Locked
    The new pieces were varathaned and the 4"x4' pressure treated posts holding up the roof section are showing signs of cracking and were varathaned as well. All of the track top surfaces were also varathaned again but we are still considering a harder surface than plain old pine.
    On reflection it isn't pretty but I have confidence that the 2"x4" will hold. The alternative thought was to build a single piece hook shape by jigsawing some regular pine board but we thought that would split fairly easily. Then it was suggested to try plywood. We may look at that again later on.

    It's been remarkably critter free and with the addition of some foamy bits on the northwest wall, not a lot of blown snow came in over this past winter. Power was added a couple of months ago with the burying of a standard 18m heavy duty outdoor grade extension cord, wired into a GFCI receptacle and buried over to the observatory. A cordless phone (with base station inside the house but with a charging station inside the observatory) was added in the winter and works fine. Data out to the observatory is the next project. Leading contenders are wireless 802.11b Other projects will be roof status (open/close) indicators for the house (on dark stormy nights you can't even *see* the observatory, much less whether or not the roof is closed or blown away!). Local chipmunk has taken up residence underneath the observatory but hasn't made it inside yet.
    We also added some hanging flower baskets to pretty it up a bit.

    2004 February 09

    Weight of snow/ice causing roof to bend in just enough to catch on the inside lockdowns. Can be fixed by lowering the lockdowns a few cms. Next observatory will have large emergency tiedowns (we are expecting 90kph winds today but got only 46kph) for high winds and hurricanes.

    2003 December 07

    First good snow with wind ended up with a lot of snow inside. So we added some foam insulation along the northwest roof/wall interface. Blowing snow still getting in through doors, added big heavy foam weatherstripping tape to one door 2004 January 18. Now closes tight. Roof harder to move with snow cover and tracks are also covered. Added in late November lockdown guides (see photos coming soon) when the roof isclosed, it can't lift up. Replaced wooden dowel stops with steel eyebolt stops.

    2003 November 11

    Took apart 1/2 of roof, repaired and caukled holes, patched holes. Replaced both 1"x4" roof side guides with 2"x4" roof guides... these won't break and will weigh the roof down a little more. Added 4 more teflon slides at the corners to imporve slidability.

    2003 Oct 11

    Big windstorm from the southeast blew off the roof around 23:30, weighed it down for now, put it back up in the morning and tied it down.

    2003 October 09

    Added two pegs to hold the roof in the closed position, as it seems everytime there is a wind, the roof moves. Added two 4" screened vents in the roof gables to allow hot air out easier.

    im010297.jpg

    im010286.jpg

    2003 September 22 Monday

    Reinforced the southeast wall with a 2"x4"x10' brace.. just in time too.. a thunderstorm ripped through that night with maximum gust of 49kph! From the south! Also connected the roll off roof frame for more stability, siliconed the northwest and southeast roof frame, more to come later.

    2003 September 19th Friday

    Hurricane Isabel came through and did some major damage to the doors and south east wall of the observatory. Maximum gust 48kph from the southeast
    im010296.jpg

    2003 September 16th Tuesday

    First Light with the Starlight Cascade Observatory. Kim installed her SchmidtCas on the pier and discovered that the wall height was perfect to block out all of the neighbouring neighbours non full cut off, glaring, light trespassing lighting. The skies were clear, a little hazy with some surrounding cloud and a light aurora about 10 degrees off the horizon. Mars was the first target of opportunity and it was great. Not very steady as it was still just off the horizon. Milky Way was great. And if you stand near 6' tall the walls are not high enough to block line of sight to the neighbours bad lights. Will have to come up with a portable wall extension or something.

    2003 September 15th Monday

    Construction complete

    2003 September 03

    Construction Begins


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