The Outhouse Observatory

I have established a permanent pier and shelter in my backyard in Moreno Valley, California. The skies are not  very dark here, but of course I can image planets, the moon, and deep sky objects using narrow band filters.

A backyard installation makes for a pretty quick setup when I want to observe at home. Having a permanent installation also allows me to practice photography and work out procedural and equipment bugs at home so I don't waste precious time when I go to a dark sky site.

WIth the addition of a storage/work cabinet near the pier, and connection of the observatory to the house through a CAT-6 network cable, I am able to monitor outdoor operations while sitting in my house.

People have called this the "Outhouse Observatory" since its tall, skinny shape reminds them of a good old fashioned outhouse. The structure, eight feet high, four long, and two wide, is made of 2x2 inch square tube steel frame, covered with the same siding we have on our home, and painted to match, and rests on six inch wheels. It rolls on a surface covered with enough paving squares to roll it back and forth about fifteen feet. When I want to observe, I open the door, roll back the structure, and remove the dust cover. It is ready to go visual, or awaits the connection of a lap top and camera to begin astrophotography. It is not as convenient as an observatory, where the computer, and so forth, is always set up and ready, and does not shield as well from local streetlights. On the other hand, it suffers from none of the seeing effects of a dome or roll off, has very little residual heat, and is obviously much easier and less expensive to build.

The pier was installed after digging forty inches down (at times with a jackhammer) into the hard decomposed granite. It is a home-made pier made with six inch pipe and 3/8 inch plate. It has a Losmandy G-11 head and is shown here with the Meade 10 inch F4.5 Starfinder Newt (and guide scope), although it spends most of its time holding a Celestron 9.25 SCT.  The mount maintains its polar alignment very well, and is ready to go very quickly.  Return to Alex's Home Page

Wide View--The  Outhouse Observatory is one of three outbuildings in my back yard. It matches the workroom and RV storage (as well as the main house) in materials, paint,  and somewhat in construction. It is in a corner sheltered on two sides by a fence and bushes, and the third by the RV shelter.  (Note: This picture was made before the addition of a large cabinet now used as a work area/storage area. See below for details on that.)
Closer View--I keep a chair and table, simple garden furniture, in the area so I don't have to move them each night. Note that the this picture does not include the work/storage cabinet added in 2010.
Dust cover and Details--When not in use, the scope and electronics are covered by home-made cloth bags, tied with drawstrings. There is a 6'x10' rectangle of flat pavers around the pier, and rows of pavers heading north from there to support the wheels. The pier area is covered with green outdoor carpet. Note the welded steel 2"x2" square tubing that forms the frame, covered by composition siding. The roofing is aluminum siding left over from the RV shelter construction. Note also the simple six inch garden wheels.

More Details--Another view of inside construction.




Work and Storage Area-In late 2010, I added a large "cabinet" to the "observatory." This was built with plywood/paneling (same as the rest of the facility), is 8 foot by 4 and 4 feet high., and rests on four posts in the ground. Separate underground conduits transport USB and Serial cabling and 110 volt power between the pier/mount/scope and the work area. The "cabinet" is large enough to hold other telescope equipment. The cabinet is connected to the house computer network through a CAT-6 cable. In operation, I bring my laptop to the back yard, connect the cables, and start the computer. I point the scope, get the program running, and return to the house. I use Maxim DL on the laptop, and monitor it from the house with Tight VNC.