Darklight Observatory is finally completed. The total construction costs were $2671.19. This included everything from wires and cabling, to concrete, nails, and the door. The images below chronicle the construction of the observatory. It had always been a dream of mine to one day have my own backyard observatory. After buying a house in the country, I realized I had the dark sky location to make this dream a reality. (Not that one necessarily needs a dark sky site to enjoy an observatory!) After breaking ground in June 1998, and pouring a concrete pier footing, I had a mount plate fabricated for my old Celestron fork mount. This allowed me to use the pier for CCD imaging while the rest of the observatory was being built. After adding flooring and walls, observing and imaging was put on hold while the building was finished. After the roof system was added, and the LeSeur Astropier replaced the old fork assembly plate, I was back on line. An Astro-Phyics 900 GTO German equatorial mount now rests atop the pier.
Text accompanies each thumbnail image.
Darklight Observatory has now been fully operational for a few months, and I've had enough time out under the stars now to comment on the design. Other than one small problem stemming from my own stupidity, the building has met all of my requirements. I have not had any trouble with the weather, and the building has remained dry even through tremendous rain storms. I have had some problem with humidity, however. Frost has formed on all concrete and metal surfaces inside the building before, and when the temperature rises after a freeze, water condenses on everything. A dehumidifier takes care of this problem, and I have taken to leaving it on 24 hours a day. This helps keep the humidity at about 70%. Also, insects are a problem in the summer time. The building, owing to its design, has many gaps along the roof/wall interface. This allows bugs to get in. In the fall, Ladybugs take up residence inside by the thousands. I can tolerate this, as they seem to be content hanging in clumps around the ceiling rafters. I am curious to see if anything more nefarious decides to build a home inside this spring. It would have been nice if I could have built the building more air tight, but the roll off roof made this difficult. The observatory stays about the same temperature inside as out. With the roof rolled back, the temperature equalizes very quickly. In the future, I may build a "warm room" off the main building large enough for my desk and computer controls. The observatory has proven to be very cold during the winter, and I spend a lot of time walking back into the warm house between exposures. I am contemplating a warm sleeping bag and ground pad to lie in while waiting for exposures to end. The warm room would eliminate this hassle. All in all I have been very pleased with the building. It has, and will continue to, increased the amount of time I spend out under the stars many fold.
CELESTRON PIXCEL 237 AND FASTAR 8
ASTRO-PHYSICS 900 GTO MOUNT