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Part 1 - The telescope



LAST UPDATE : From POC at home to what you will control, take a look at Part 3  

In the introduction article, we explained that our goal was to build an astronomical observatory. We will adopt a try/error approach. This means that will go from a prototype to a final concept. As we as are not willing to reinvent the wheel, we will try to use as much as possible of available materials from internet and manufacturers. Of course, this will be true as long as the price and estimated quality goes for it. 


So, let's start: Step 1 some mechanics.

The purpose: Get something out of the ground, steady but not yet functional. Just some hardware.

The picture of this article shows 3 main parts:

  1. The pier: It is home made from steel, plasma cutting, arc welding and black paint. Very fun to make … and hot. I think I shrank 1cm in the operation. The pier must support the weight of all the others elements we will place on it. The base plates are 1cm thick and the pipe is 6mm.

    On the left, the fusion 360 model. 
    There are 3 base plates and you will notice that there is a black layer between the 2 plates on top. It is made of rubber. Its purpose is to absorb vibrations. It is not yet on the final pier as seen in the full mounted picture, but it will be soon. I need to perform some tests to see if really, it's a good idea.
    The base plate from the bottom has four 10mm holes to fix it on the ground. It is weld to the pipe on its center.
    The top plate under the rubber is weld to the pipe on its center. It has six 10mm holes. The 4 holes on the corner are meant to fix the upper plate to the pier. The two other holes on the middle are used to fix the mount to the plates.

    On the right picture you can see the assembled pier. 
    The middle hole was supposed to be used for cables etc... completely useless. Once I choose the mount, it appeared to be a waste of time.

  2. The mount: We choose an EQ-8 from SkyWatcher. Nothing special to say about it. Except that I'm in love with this wonderful mount.

  3. The main optical tube: It's an XT10 from ORION. It's a Dobsonian telescope originally. It is not the best choice for astrophotography because optics means more than size in astrophotography. But, it gave me a lot of satisfaction in my journey to discover astronomy. So, let's use it on this project for now. Later we plan to change it to a Richey-Chretien 300mm.


With this post, you can see where we are aiming to. Of course, this is just the beginning. we have a promising device but we miss the electronics, software and cameras that will take the best of it. The assembly requires someone to help. The mirror on the tube does not appreciate to be handled without care.

This is it for the first assembly. Next time we will give some power for the telescope.




Let's build an astronomical osbervatory - Introduction


Greetings to all of you. Yes, as the title suggest it, this series of articles will be focused on building an astronomical observatory. Yet another construction project should I say. There is a lot of people that are sharing their experience on this subject. So why do it too?
Going through this project will require several skills. There will be construction, electricity, electronics, software programming and of course bandage, burns, headaches, bugs... A lot of fun that's for sure. We will get inspiration from the internet community’s projects and back we will provide our solutions and improvements. Of course, there is no such thing as the best solution. I just want to share our goal and approaches. 
You can take for granted that some solutions qualified as good at a specific time will be remade later. The whole process, the path to our final operative observatory is certainly where lies the most of our implication and I believe it deserves to be recorded and shared.

So? An astronomical observatory? Just that? but what do I mean by that?
After all, the first and simplest observatory is your eyes and a clear sky. On the other hand, this can go quite far in complexity, up to a Hubble clone device.... well, let's keep it in between. First, our wish list. At this stage of the project don't let us bother with what is feasible or not. What do we wish?

Our observatory, will be equipped with a telescope of a diameter that will start at 254mm. It will be equipped with a camera fixed to the primary tube with a filter wheel and a focuser.
The finderscope will also be equipped with a camera. It will be used for large field pictures but also for long exposures autoguiding.
Of course a good mount is necessary and we will use a motorized equatorial mount to have a maximum of stability during long photography poses. 

Ok that sounds nice but since it is an observatory, shouldn't we try to be able to use it any time? even during day time? What do we need to make sun observations? 
Let's add a secondary telescope equipped with a Coronographe, a camera and the proper filters to protect everything from sun's special attentions.
Could we place a big filter in front of the primary and use the 254mm mirror to get some pictures from Sun's surface? that would be nice.



That is starting to make a lot of equipment and it sounds heavy too. To protect it, we have to find a place called home. It will be a dome that will follow its movements.
A weather station should be installed to provide alerts if the wind goes too strong. The weather station will provide several other sensors to get a real-time glance at the site's status.

We need some room for all that equipment and since we are building something ambitious, it is hard to guess where we will stop. So, lets take a 3m dome. This leaves us plenty of space for improvements. We will also need a place to install everything and of course some electrical power.



Ok, now, lets step back and take a look at the big picture. These sounds crazy, and there is a lot of challenges to overcome before being able to succeed, but we are not in a rush. We have to take every step one after another. To each problem, we will face, we will find a solution. And if I say WE, it's because I found that when it comes to astronomy, space observations and to science projects in general, we always find plenty of smart people willing to help and to participate at their level. The internet scientific community will be our best source of inspiration and "How to" source.

So, let's build an astronomical observatory.....