Building a Shed/Observatory in 5 minutes

The one upside of the last few weeks abysmal lack of astro friendly weather is that I’ve finally had the opportunity to put together the time-lapse videos from my shed project. OK- It’s only 5 minutes with the help of time-lapse video- but it was quite a quick build when I actually got the chance to work on it.

One evening last May there was a unanimous perfect forecast from different weather apps and I dutifully set all the gear up for some imaging. Just as we were getting to darkness a thick bank of cloud rolled in. As it was not forecast, I decided to hang on for the sky to clear, and instead spent the next hour looking round the garden working out how I could have a more permanent set up with all of the advantages it gives. And no- the sky didn’t clear that night…

Looking about the internet there are some amazing creations- both home-made and purchased- but these were all well beyond my available resources for this project in either time or money. Besides keeping costs down, I wanted the following:

–          Really small footprint.

–          I didn’t want it to look like an observatory (which is much too grand a word anyway for this shed).

–          If I wanted to bring my mount out to a club evening or dark site, I didn’t want it to be any more hassle than taking the mount and scope out of the garage is.

So:

–          I used an 7’x5’ apex shed design. This has the disadvantage of limiting the view where the apexes are- but my views are restricted in those directions anyway- and with the smaller roof panels I can move them manually and drop them down the side walls.

–          Upside-down guttering is used to seal the gap at the top between the panels.

–          No pier- the tripod sits on bricks that come through the shed floor so I don’t cause vibrations when I’m walking around.

–          The roof panels slide off on fixed castors fitted to the shed walls (although in practice the tower bolts catch on the sides and it’s more of a lift than a slide).

–          The electrics are in a ventilated plastic storage box to keep them away from moisture. I run an outdoor cable from the garage when it’s in use. I’m using a Nevada power supply which has been a lot less hassle than using a battery, and I can’t prove it, but I think the mount is running better.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it- it only takes a couple of minutes to open the roof, the polar alignment seems to be pretty much spot on each time I check it (despite not having a pier) and my setup time to when I start the first sub has dropped from an hour to around twenty minutes or so. Most of this time is to align, frame and focus.

The shed came from Tiger Sheds and seems to be of reasonable quality. The weight of the roof panels was heavier than I had expected (when I was checking out the design I didn’t allow for the weight of the roof felt- blimey it’s heavy!!!) and I was thinking about ways to overcome this. But I’ve got used to the technique to move the panels, and it has stood up really well to some very wet and windy weather over the last few weeks. For now I’m inclined to leave it as it is. It’s also pretty snug in there. I never intended to use it for observing, but if I ever changed my mind about that I’d probably need to start again because space around the scope is pretty limited and alignment often involves a short stepladder and hanging off walls…

It will just about take a 1200mm Newt OTA, but with that one it is really cosy.

It isn’t quite finished yet- I’m in the process of adding some shelving, I need to improve the ventilation (I’m looking into solar powered fans, but failing that I’ll just put some vents in) and I need to lag the walls to help keep the temperature more stable.

So, if anyone is thinking about a more permanent setup, but is concerned about the cost and effort involved, it needn’t be an architectural masterpiece. The basic shed was £320 and with the materials for the base and other odds and sods I’m probably a little north of £500 for the whole project. Which will hopefully allow me to be a little more spontaneous with imaging. Or at least have wasted less time when ‘secret’ clouds come rolling in…

Hope you enjoy the video (speaking of which- this was partly put together with Videopad as recommended at a RAG meeting earlier in the year- I can second that recommendation! 😊).

Solargraphs – Summer>Winter Solstice 2018

All from Baked Bean cans within a 10 mile radius, using Ilford Multigrade B&W paper. Scanned and played with in Photoshop.

Andy’s first one, slightly different angle to his usual version.

And his second – massive amounts of water damage (was still a few mm of rain in the bottom of the can), but love the effect it’s created. This is his usual angle (so can be compared to previous attempts). Can just make out the house bottom right of centre and the tree to the left.

Mine, screwed to the house, SSE facing.

Sister’s from her new home. Was surprised at the very upper sun trace, but it can be matched to my own above. Thought at first it must have moved or have been a reflection from the inside top of the can. The cans are painted black inside and any movement would have created a double image of the houses – there isn’t anything to suggest that.

One I made up for a lady at my new workplace.

Damian

Saturn V – is go!

Last year’s Christmas present (to myself)!

Had already got a good half-way through and Andy had helped earlier in the year.

Thought it was about time I finished it, so got Julie involved as she had Lego when little as well (but nothing like this !)

Something different to do together over the Christmas break – makes a change from a jigsaw!

Very cleverly designed to make an internal rigid structure – that can be pulled apart into the three main stages for display purposes.

And ‘1969’ pieces – the little figures included are roughly to scale.

Loved making it, would be quite nice to do the new (7,500 piece) Millennium Falcon next… but perhaps not at… £585 !

Damian

The beautifylly illustrated instruction manual…

The last bag to do…

Ready for lift-off !

I don’t think I shall ever grow up!

Damian

 

 

Dr Who Themed 60th Birthday Party!

Friday 28th Dec… a birthday invite from one of J’s friends.

Was thinking there could be plenty of ‘doctors’ present and considering the general age – probably the ‘Baker’ variety.

Couldn’t think of an easy to produce idea until the day before (and no access to large format printers anymore). On a walk I had a brainwave, so we took a detour to Tescos and purchased a pack (5 pairs) of ladies knee length tights for the grand sum of £2 ! Then stuffed them with tissue paper and held together with a couple of elastic bands.

All in-keeping with the good ole days of Dr Who monsters / Blue Peter card and sellotape!

Not forgetting something black to wear and a sigma graphic cut from a piece of silver card.

Add a ‘Moon desk light’ (watch battery powered), plus a USB extender cord, stuck together with a foam sticky pad for one prop, then a Christmas battery powered Christmas decoration – with addition of a cable tidy for the second prop…. and voila!

Ood do you think we are!

 

A hand-made K-9 made a surprise appearance also…

 

We were something of a hit with the kids!

Loved this – a Tardis, painted onto an (empty) Jack Daniel’s whisky bottle (plus Weeping Angel !)

The kids liked their (chocolate) rocket…

And we took a few bottles of some space themed drinks for the adults too…

Damian