THE ORIGINAL DOGPATCH OBSERVATORY
For a trip back in time ……..
The DOGPATCH OBSERVATORY was originally built in the summer of 1997 and became operational around Labor Day of that year. It is 12 feet square and features a different type of roll off roof. The building is buried in the woods and surrounded by several houses. It was a logical step to use the sides of the building to block security lights and floodlights on the neighbor's homes. Most times it looks like just a shed. The only viewing slot available on the narrow lot gives me a full north/south lane between trees and also a medium opening overhead and a somewhat obstructed view to the east. This required the roof panels to slide down out of the way. My original consideration was how big to make it and the answer is AS BIG AS POSSIBLE. It's easy to start big but difficult or impossible to make one grow as things get pinched for space. Another advantage to the roof panels is the variable opening which can help block the wind in the winter. I can raise or lower each panel as much or as little as necessary. To close it all up, raise the north panel as high as it can go and then raise the south panel so that it slides under it. This is because the north panel has the roof peak riveted to it. Then both panels are adjusted to the same height and the tie down straps are attached. Two small boat trailer winches with 2" wide nylon straps holding the panels in place operate the roof. The straps slide over wide pieces of aluminum flashing to minimize abrasion. The panels are secured against winds by 1500-pound test nylon tie down straps available at Walmart. Normally four straps are used for a "fast" release but in the event storms or high winds are forecast four additional straps can be put in place to aid in securing them. The strap hooks are attached to eyebolts through the 2x4 wall frames and the roof.
The roof rolls on eight standard casters also purchased from Walmart. They roll in aluminum "U" channel stock 1/2" high and 1 1/2" wide. The roof support legs (2x8's) are attached to the building with lag bolts screwed into the end of them that drop into slotted aluminum plates on each corner. Since the legs are removable and can be stored behind the observatory it appears to just be an oversized garden shed. When rolling the roof up or down late at night you would think the noise would wake the dead but so far no one has complained or even mentioned hearing it. Maybe it's just because I'm sensitive to it and it sounds louder within the building than outside it.
The pier is a
piece of 6' long x 6" diameter x 1/4" wall steel pipe purchased from
a local scrap metal business and driven into the ground about 3 1/2' before
hitting the root of an old tulip poplar that was originally on the site.
Concrete was poured around the pier and in it to damp vibration. There is
approximately 18" of the pipe sticking up into the observatory. The
original plan was for a 12'x12' concrete pad until I discovered that the ground
around the observatory was too soft to support a large truck so I built the four corner and four midpoint pads using
80 pound bags of sakrete. Each pad is 12" square
and 3' deep. The floor is two layers of 1/2" cdx plywood laid 90 degrees
to each other, screwed to the floor joists and generously screwed to each other
for stiffness. Then it was framed in to make sure the roof would come off correctly before adding the roofing panels and siding.
The ccd computer and power supply occupy the northeast corner and a small bookcase lines the floor along the northwest corner. There is a bulletin board for tacking up sky printouts and stuff and the usual posters and pictures. Several short shelves on the wall above the bookcase hold the box with eyepieces, filters, and accessories. The floor is covered in green indoor/outdoor carpeting to help keep dust down and softens the impact should I accidently drop an eyepiece or something breakable.
Bradford/West drive controller was built from a kit sold by
Wilman-Bell. The thumbwheels would be adjusted to compensate for
refraction while driving the scope. They were designed to
control a 60 cycle synchronous motor RA drive that had a solar rate
gearset. (1440 minutes per rev). The four digits on the
front are used to set the output frequency of the ac power.
Typically they had a fifth unconnected wheel set at "1" next to the
active four wheels. The settings would vary the 60 cycles per second to
This winter (1998/1988) we will be building a new home without a single tree on the lot (hallaleuah!). It gives me great views horizon to horizon. During the construction of the house, I will be constructing DOGPATCH II. It will be a standard roll off roof system with the roof support posts attached to the shed to the north and the observatory. A major change beside the roof design will be the incorporation of a network connection between the observatory computer and the house computer to facilitate getting the files transferred between the two computers and maybe one day have an automated system of sorts. It will also allow me to use the observatory in the warmth of the house in the winter once all the necessary software is in place.
Other Dogpatch images:
A SAMPLE OF
COOKBOOK CAMERA IMAGES- YOU'VE GOT TO REMEMBER THIS WAS THE DARK AGES OF CCD
THE COOKBOOK CAMERA HAD 378 X 242 PIXELS AND ON A 10" F/6 SCOPE THE FOV WAS 10 X 14 ARC-MINUTES.