A Backyard Observatory ...
For more details and Photos, use the links at right ->
Astronomy takes varying amounts effort, depending on your equipment. Setting up a rig for astrophotography can take as much as an hour between hauling out gear, assembling and wiring, alignment, etc., and nearly as much time to reverse the process at the end of the night. This time is a significant impediment to getting out there, especially when the astronomer has competing demands on his time, such as a job and family.
And so ... every astrophotographer's holy grail is to have a rig permanently mounted on a pier, and housed in a backyard observatory. I embarked on this journey in mid 2012 by reading some of the many observatory-build threads on the Cloudy Nights forums, and casually browsing the web for pre-built or kit options. My goal was not to have a large, fully equiped observatory with all the bells and whistles, but more to have something minimalistic and inexpensive that would remove the time impediment from the equation.
I hadn't really planned to jump in quite so soon, but at the end of 2012 events conspired to put my rear end in gear. I had been narrowing my options down and had begun to focus on the SkyShed POD as a possible option. It was small, but with enough storage area for the gear I'd need, and was easily assembled by a couple of people in an afternoon. The price was reasonable and reviews were good. I planned to start saving up for it, but in December SkyShed announced that their prices would be increasing as of January 2013. I could save a substantial amount by ordering now so, with the blessing of my wonderful and supportive wife, I placed the order.
During the 2013 summer, I built the deck, took delivery of the POD, and installed it. Over the next few months, I added a solar power system to provide 12V power, and outfitted the POD with lighting, power and USB wiring, shelves, and of course my astronomy gear. Use the links at right to see photos and get more information regarding the details.
Is it all that?
Actually, it is! Those who have invested in an observatory will all tell you the same thing - an observatory is without question the best investment I have made in this hobby and has dramatically changed my appreciation of it.
First, there's the basics. The equipment is in a protected outdoor location so it is always at ambient temperature, which is necessary for best seeing. A warm, house-stored telescope moved to a cold observing location will experience tube currents that distort and smear the views until the scope cools.
All of my gear, including telescopes, eyepieces, cameras and accessories, wiring, etc. are in one location that is arranged to make observing and reconfiguring the gear easy and painless. And, as mentioned abve, my scopes are mounted and aligned and ready to go at a moment's notice. The time savings is huge and opens up many more opportunities for observing or imaging.
The specifics of how this has changed the hobby for me are easy to quantify. But those specifics don't really portray how they all contribute to form a very different ghestalt. This comes in the more subtle but also more profound feelings surrounding the experience. Read more about this in my Blog post:The Zen of the Observatory.