Years ago when I thought about an observatory I NEVER envisioned operating remotely from our house. That being said I am VERY glad I chose a dome structure. A dome versus a roll off roof type of observatory came down to wind and light pollution. A dome was expensive and more techinical while the roll off roof was simple and much less expensive.
Each roof type has their strenghs and weaknesses for the observatory. A dome blocks the wind and annoying light from cities and road lights. The roll off roof is simple but it exposes the scope, mount, and computer to the elements; there would be no blocking of the wind so I would not be able to image as much as I would have liked. A dome would range from $750 for an 8' wood-domed kit to $19,000 10' fiberglass dome. While a roll off roof would add about $1,500 to the cost of constuction for motors and tracks to roll the roof off.
At first I planned to construct this observatory by utilizing a roll off roof (all based on cost). However; because of the significant Mexican Free-tail Bat population of South Central Texas and their tendency to climb up into very small places this plan was abandoned.
I wanted the Observatory to look like an observatory so having a dome would block the wind and increase the nights I could image so the dome was chosen. I considered four different manufacturers who offered different sizes of domes and construction materials. I considered the following manufacturers: Sirius Observatories, The Home Dome, Ash-Dome and of course Polydome's Explora Dome.
Explora Dome offered the size of dome that I required along with minimal installation requirements because the dome is cast as one piece. Additionally, the inside of the dome was black. The Exporadome features a mounting ring, one-piece roof panels, inline skate wheels for rotation and a electronic rotational system.
Click Here to visit the Explora Dome User's Group
The dome can
be rather difficult to maintain since it's rotation causes the switches to move and can lead to the doors not shutting when I need them to be closed.
Tips On Construction
First off, should you choose to undertake this project of constructing your own observatory please keep in mind a few things prior to beginning your new temporary lifestyle:
1. Think about the future. We designed the observatory to be converted to a house once the skies lighten up due to new development. I figure the site will be used as an observatory for at least 15-20 years.
2. I collaborated on the project with my wife by designing a family area with adequate room for them to spend time there while I imaged or observed (this was the big sell for getting this job done). There is even room for them to comfortably sleep with cots we store under the observatory area.
3. Take the time to make this a 2nd home if you can make it work! Financially, you will be glad you did! Keep in mind that to be a 2nd home you will have to meet distance requirements from your primary home and you will legally have to have the amenities of a standard home (bathroom, separate sleeping area, kitchen).
4. Instead of building the structure yourself, take bids from contractors and I quickly discovered the work I was planning on doing myself a contractor could do the same job for a couple of hundred dollars more.
Think about this: If you can frame the project for around $2,000 but a contractor can do it for around $3,500, is the $1,500 worth the time and risk? Here is an example: Lets say you decide you can frame it yourself and it will take you 2 weeks to do so, do you have that much time off from work and do you have the tools and expertise to complete the project without it falling down around you? Chances are, you do have adequate tools to complete the job; but do you have the professional touch and experience to complete the project and have it last?
HERE IS THE KEY: HIRE THE RIGHT contractor, take your time to ask around and find a trustworthy individual to complete your project who has worked with someone you trust or perhaps a relative of a co-worker (as in my case). I have to thank Mr. Henry Ramirez Sr. his wife Barbara and Henry Jr. for their willingness to construct the observatory, they made it affordable and went above and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed to make this a structure that would last!
Observatory Quick Facts :