Russell Croman Astrophotography  



The Oak Hill Star Shed Observatory


Some time ago I got tired of the time and effort needed to set up and tear down an 8" telescope, CCD camera, computer, etc., every time I wanted to image. Then I got the 10" LX200GPS, and then not long after, a 14" Ritchey-Chretien! I decided on a more permanent installation...


Here is my minimalist suburban observatory. It is based on an Arrow Sentry storage shed from Home Depot, and measures 8' wide, 5' deep, and 6' high, small enough not to bother the neighbors, but just barely large enough to accomodate the 14" behemoth...


Note the holes in the floor for the tripod legs. (The round holes are from when I used the same shed for a Meade 10" LX200GPS). This isolates the telescope from the floor so I don't disturb it every time I walk in. The legs rest on Celestron vibration dampers, which in turn rest on brick pavers that are dug into the ground. So far, I haven't had to touch my polar alignment at all after initial alignment.

Power is supplied via an extension cord from an outside outlet on the house. This connects to two power strips, visible on the floor to the left in the above picture. Both power strips are mounted on a piece of plywood that keeps them up off of the floor slightly, just in case the floor gets wet in heavy rains (it does).

The laptop goes on the small table to the left, and is operated via the Remote Assistance function in Windows XP over a wireless 802.11b network. This way I can sit inside and drive the telescope and camera, and avoid either freezing or getting eaten by mosquitoes.

The metal building is firmly attached to the heavy floor with deck screws all around the perimeter. Not shown in the picture are two large corkscrew augers in opposite corners of the floor, anchoring the building to the ground.

The roof is a "lift-off design." I simply omitted a few screws when I assembled the shed kit, and voila!, a removable-roof observatory.

But what keeps the wind from blowing the roof off, you might ask?



There are two of these in each corner, for a total of eight. The clamps themselves don't hold the roof on. They really just hold the bottom piece of roof metal, which has a curved lip at the bottom, over the bottom edges of the wall top plates. Upward force from wind lift is applied all along these edges. The result is a secure (so far!) roof. I can't lift it off by pushing up as hard as I can, and to date it has withstood days with 35mph reported gusts. The back yard is also somewhat protected (fortunately and unfortunately) by nearby houses and trees. If there are any big storms coming, I move the scope inside the house for protection.

When I want to observe, I just walk out, unclamp the roof, lift it off (it weighs about 20 pounds), and set it in the yard. And then it's off to the stars!



Here is an earlier setup with the 10" Meade LX200GPS and piggy-backed TeleVue NP-101: