November 17, 2004
Work on the Upton Farm Observatory is complete to the point where the observatory is usable; only minor trim details remain to be completed before winter. In the spring of 2005 some additional issues will need to be addressed (see the punch list.)
The Bare Floor and Pier Foundation: Ready for Carpet
The carpet is installed, but the pier footer is unattractive; the wet concrete was covered by the bolt template, and it was not possible to dress it properly. Solution: If you can’t fix it, hide it. Scrap birch plywood and a border of mahogany scraps does the job.
This is an Aurora Model AstroPier from LeSueur. Wiring includes a serial data cable, DC for the telescope, DC for the Dew Heater, and two spare DC cables.
I had LeSueur put an opening with a rubber grommet on the north side of the pier so that I could bring all pier wiring through the center of the pier.
The opening and grommet are visible in the photo below.
The Milburn Wedge
Visible to its right is an 802.11g wireless relay station
with external antenna.
Two views of my 8" Meade LX200 GPS in the Observatory

— Size: tiny. The octagonal floor measures less than two meters across parallel sides. Maximum occupancy: three persons. Comfortable occupancy: two persons.
— Cost: Time spent counting would have been time taken from useful work. A bit over $4,000.00, maybe—including the dome, the telescope pier and wedge, and labor for two concrete pours.
— Electrical: two 20-amp circuits from a garage sub-panel. Two GFI outlet boxes per circuit. DC Power is from a Radio Shack 10-amp converter.
— Computer Control: three Macintosh® PowerBooks and two desktop Macs running Mac OS X® (BSD Unix); one Sony Vaio laptop running Windows® XP Pro®, aka the Typhoid Mary of OS’s. Each of these computers can remotely control any or all of the others. The network is an 802.11g (54 MB/Sec) wireless. Remote telescope operation is possible, but not planned (see “Automation?” below.)
— Stereo: iPod.
— Project Guiding Philosophy: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing the hard way.

The Punch List

— Mahogany trim for the shelf faces. August 2008: Nearly Done....
— A table or shelf for a laptop computer. Workable temporary table in place.
— Seating. Done.
— Spring, 2005: Landscaping. Done.
— 2005: the door ought to be replaced. I knew better than to build it into the rough opening without its own frame, but I did it for expediency. The fit changes with the humidity. August 2008: Done, story coming soon.
— 2005: the entry step is too small and needs to be replaced. Done, then done again. See this page for Done and this page for Done Again.


A question that other amateur astronomers ask me is “Do you plan to automate the dome?”

Automating the dome means slaving its rotation to the movement of the telescope so that when the telescope moves the dome rotates, ensuring that the telescope always points to the sky through the dome’s aperture, and not to the interior of the dome. The dome has two handles for manual rotation. Automation can be accomplished by computer control, in which the computer that is controlling the telescope sends the telescope’s position to the dome controller; or by analog control, in which the position of the telescope is read by mechanical sensors using infra-red light.

The answer to the question is “I don’t know.” I’m an observer and a would-be astrophotographer, not a researcher. Part of the pleasure that I take in amateur astronomy is being outside (in my observatory, that is) with my telescopes. Thus, automating the dome is not in my mind at present; I’ve withstood plenty of cold weather while observing, and I expect that being inside the dome, protected from direct wind, will make cold weather more tolerable. On the other hand, I am getting older—so ask me again in a couple of years.

Indispensible People

My late Father-in-law, Mr. Ridgely V. Upton, who answered the highest calling of all, that of a farmer.

My wife, Leona, whose forbearance, kind indulgence, and hard work made this project possible.

My neighbor, John Perry, who, throughout the project, was willing to drop what he was doing and come over at a moment’s notice to answer a question or 10 and lend a helping hand.

My neighbor, Joe Butler, without whose help the dome would still be sitting on saw horses in my driveway.

All of my neighbors, who kindly approved this project.

The ingenious and hard-working Mr. Clive Monnity of CM Landscaping, and his skilled crew.

2005 Update
The Full Story
Astrophotos from the UFO
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