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113 45 17 W  52 28 22 N

The Observatory on Northstar

Observatory Design & Construction

The design of the dome was found on the web. It is a 7 foot diameter dome that has been fully automated to track the telescope. The control of the dome, telescope and cameras is accomplished by a laptop running Windows Vista Ultimate. This allows for remote desktop connection to the laptop from my home network and can be controlled locally or from any work station on the network.

The dome control is accomplished by use of a Velleman USB project board K8055 and ASCOM software developed by Pierre de Ponthiere. His website http://www.dppobservatory.net/ and the Yahoo group http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/lesvedome/ were the inspiration to automate my observatory, that and the fact that it gets very cold standing beside a telescope in the winter.

The dome was constructed by cutting the arch's from 1/2" plywood with my band saw and then gluing 2 pieces together. The dome was covered with a plastic material that I purchased at the local lumber store. The inside of the dome has been painted with flat black paint to reduce the affect of nearby street and yard lights. The base is six 4' square panels that join at a 30 deg angle. the overall height of the dome is approximately 8 1/2 feet. The dome rotates on 6 roller blade wheels that are located at the intersection of the wall sections. I installed a roller blade wheel bearing that contacts the 1/8" flat bar the chain is spot welded to so as to keep the dome rotating in a circle. The cost of construction materials for the observatory and the automation was about $750.

The best part of this setup is that I can have my scope permanently setup and very accurately polar aligned. I usually leave the Nexremote software that controls the scope in Hibernate mode when I finish an imaging session so that the next time I want to begin I simply remove the dust caps from the scopes power up the cameras and log onto the laptop from the house and I can select my object and begin a new session.


C11 with SW80ED

The CG5 mount has been replaced with a CGE

Top of Pier showing leveling adjustment

This is the drive sprocket and commutator

wider view showing the bearing support

The drive motor

This is a simple Ford windshield wiper motor. The only modification was to remove the brass contact plate to get rid of the clicking sound very anoying!

The control box

This plastic project box holds the Velleman board as well as the relay board that control the dome rotation and shuter

Old PC power supply

This is a 450W power supply that provides power for the dome and telescope.

The shutter control motor

Shutter drive sprocket and chain

Shutter drive shaft bearing

Wider view of shutter drive mechanism

The pier base

This is an eight inch pipe welded to a 12" x12" 1/2" plate. The plate is bolted to anchor bolts that were embeded into a 2 foot cube of comcrete beneath the floor. The 12" x 12" portion is 4" above the floor.


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Copyright 2010 Don Golka
Last modified: April 29, 2011