Observatory update

Observatory update

stardate 29052012

Quick Update

First off, apologies for not updating the site recently, we went on holiday to Australia for a couple of weeks on holiday, and I’ve been pretty busy doing stuff to the observatory. Read on.

What have I been doing, well. the walls are on, and the door. It was a bit of a mission actually – you’d think it would be easy, but sadly no. I put some flashing on the corners and used silicon around the top, but there is still some dampness. I’ve now extended the angled lip that goes around the top to see if that works.

Photos will be posted soon.

Wiring, now that was a bit of fun as well. I dug a trench and ran two lots of conduit, one for power and the other one for network and alarm cable. I’m using CAT5e for 1000mb/s networking and I’ve got a 5 port 1000mb/s switch inside the observatory. The alarm is all wired up to the house alarm as well.

A friend of mine (Paul) installed the power points and the lights. There are now 10!!! points in there now, and a set of 2 white LED lights and 2 red lights which are individually switched.

Most of the equipment is in there now, including the telescope. I have two quite old laptops to use, due to the space considerations. I bought a KVM switch and a second hand 19″ dell monitor (which I’m quite impressed with) for $89! – PB Tech rocks, and also a microsoft x4 keyboard. I chose this one due to the fact it has red backlighting, which can be adjusted in brightness. Also, my razor krait mouse from my main computer as it has orange LED’s along the side, apart from looking cool, I figured it might be handy in order to find it in the dark.

A dehumidifier was gathering dust in the laundry so I grabbed that, it can be set to only come on based on the humidity level, which is awesome.


So what’s left? carpet and painting… next update…

Kirk out.

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Observatory Construction

Observatory Construction

Stardate 14042012

Observatory is getting there

I’ve got the roof on now! with some help from my friends.. going to get the walls on this week before I head off for to aussie for a couple of weeks.

Here’s how it started.

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First of all, post holes were needed – 900mm deep in fact, then the posts were cemented in. Took a bit of time to make sure it was all square. Using Pythagoras’s theorem (a2+b2=c2) the diagonals were measured to ensure the angles were exactly 90 degrees, this resulted in a perfect square. Most other methods I tried ended up as a parallelogram! The beams at the top and bottom were to ensure that the posts remained vertical and didn’t move.

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This was the tricky bit – the concrete pad!.

First of all the hole needed to be dug, 1.2m x 1.2m. I figured it had to be around this size after measuring the distance of my tripod legs and allowing for extra extension. The depth was 600mm.

The framing was constructed and sunk into the ground with posts for strength. The top piece of wood going all the way around was designed to come off easy.

The base was filled with Gap 20 gravel and compacted it as best I could with a heavy post (couldn’t get a compactor in there).

Then the concrete… this was a mission because the concrete mixer wouldn’t fit past the gate!, the wheelbarrow was used to move it all to the pad which was quite heavy work. The job took all day, and I was exhausted afterward!

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The top piece of framing timber was removed, and the cross beams were put on. I notched them so they fitted into each other for extra strength.

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The plywood floor was put down. I used 17mm Marine ply for this.

The storage area at the side was built, this required a couple more posts to be concreted in.

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I rounded up some crewmen for this mission, 8 of my good friends helped out to lift the dome onto the base, then we had a few beers and a sausage sizzle!

The dome was quite heavy and a bit awkward, but the mission was completed and we had an awesome day!

Now I’ve just got to get the walls on!

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Observatory Plans

Observatory Plans

stardate: 13032012

Observatory Plans

Weathers been a bit rubbish lately, but it’s given me time to think about the observatory.

I’ve got the dome sitting on the lawn which I’ve given a good clean, it just needs a coat of paint.

The base part that the dome sits on needs to be built and so does the concrete pad the telescope sits on, so I turned to the computer to make a plan…

Here are the plans…


My skills as a handy man are almost non existent, and I’ve never concreted before. But that’s ok, I’ll somehow figure it out.

I’ll probably need a hand putting the dome on, and the concreting for the pad, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them.

My neighbor was kind enough to find a post-hole digger for me, so I’ve made some holes. Not sure if they are perfectly aligned, but I’ll try and get some beams into position tonight, so I can concrete in the 4 main posts.

I’ll post some pics if I manage it!

Oh, and on a different topic, I went to the Auckland Astronomical Society meeting yesterday at the Stardome Observatory, and listened to Stu Parker describe his supernova discovery process. It was an awesome presentation and talk. I’m really feeling inspired now to get all this up and running and start doing some cool stuff. He’s contributed to science quite a bit and worked with professionals from around the world, I’d love to be able to do that. He’s done really well considering his main profession is dairy farming!

It’s looking quite nice out, so I might be able to do some observing tonight if its clear…

Kirk out.

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Good Night Observing

Good Night Observing

Stardate 04032012

Great night observing!

Just as I suspected, the year I get my Telescope is the worst summer in recorded history… check out this article.

that Murphy has a lot to answer for…

We had a massive downpour a couple of days ago, loads of wind, and then… the skies cleared and it fined up. Made for fantastic seeing, no dust particles or pollution in the air…

So, I got out my DBK planetary camera and had a go at imaging the Moon and Jupiter.

I used the camera in prime focus mode, took a bit of fiddling to get the focus right – although I didn’t use FocusMax (I probably should have), just focused manually.


I had a quick go at Mars, but there was too much heat coming off my roof! – If I’d left it until the early hours and used my 3x Barlow it might have worked, but I had work the next day, so I thought it best to work on easier targets. Mars is at opposition right now however, so I really should give it another go soon…

The pictues in the image gallery are the best ones I took, I stacked them in Registax v6.

Quite pleased with the result.

– Kirk out.

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Telescope operational again

Telescope operational again

Stardate 27022012

Telescope is fixed.

The telescope motor control board arrived from High Point Scientific, it’s all installed and everything is working great!

Huge relief there!, and the weather has been a little better than normal lately too, so with any luck the sky will remain clear for some observing sessions.

A big thank you to Robert and Grant!

and the big news….

Observatory here I come!

I managed to pick up a fiberglass dome and base from Trademe – it came with a shed part, but it was rubbish.

Here’s a picture of it



It was all the way out in Tauranga, which is about 2.5 hours drive from home. The dimensions are 2.2 meters square, so it’s quite big and heavy. Managed to get it up to Auckland with a car transporter, and a 4 wheel drive that a friend managed to borrow, with another couple of friends, we managed to get it home… took all day.

As you can see it needs a major clean up and a few repairs, but that’s ok, I just need to prepare a site for it now, and build the ‘shed’ part for it to sit on.

I’ve also been trimming some trees so I get better view of the skyline and I cut one down where the observatory will be going, so I’ve been pretty busy.

and bad news…

Pluto died from liver cancer. It’s been a very sad event, and I miss him very much.


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New stuff coming…

New stuff coming…

stardate: 16022012

Lastest Purchases

Ok, first up my apologies for not updating the site for a while.

So what’s new. Well, I broke my telescope! Actually the motor control board died. This is a worst case scenario for me, as support from little ole NZ is very difficult, especially as I bought the scope in the US, rather than a local distributor.


I’ve been in touch with both Celestron and Highpoint Scientific. Turned out that Celestron have run out of boards anyway until the end of march! Robert from HighPoint Scientific came to the rescue however, I’ve sent him my old board, he’s pulled one out of a working CGEM DX mount and is sending it to me, he’ll deal with the warranty claim on the other scope.

What fantastic service. I really recommend these guys at Highpoint Scientific they ROCK! Robert saved the day!

While the telescope was getting dealt with, my weather station arrived!



I’ve updated the site with a weather tab, which is constantly being updated from my computer, which is connected to the weather station LCD panel via USB.

You can also see more information by going to this page.

And most fun of all, my weather station is now listed under, and I can get more detailed specific information based on the data from my weather station, you can see that here.

Weather Underground say this about their service.

All of our forecasts are generated from our proprietary forecasting system that leverages our vast amount of neighborhood weather data that we get from our community – we refer to the system as Best Forecast™.

Our ever-expanding network of 22,000+ personal weather stations is the largest of its kind and provides us with a unique ability to provide the most local forecasts based on actual weather data points. BestForecast™ uses the most innovative forecast models available and cross-verifies their output with all of the localized data points. Only our unrivalled amount of local neighborhood weather data can generate forecasts for your front door.

it’s pretty cool, and I’ve found their forecasts to be much more accurate than our local metservice.

There is one other surprise which is heading my way (and yours via the site…) but you’ll read about that after I pick it up next week.

I’ll leave you in suspense until then.

-kirk out.

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