Location: Night Sky Observatory is located at 7,000 ft elevation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
The Plan: To build a fully functional, computer controlled, domed observatory for astrophotography. The goal is to build, using materials that will be salvaged or bought as economically as possible. The labor will be supplied mostly by myself and my girlfriend, with occasional brute force supplied by friends and family members.
2/14/09 The weather is co-operating, and I am motivated to pour the pier. I have been procrastinating because this means carrying cement, in 5 gallon buckets up to the 2nd floor of the observatory. But the Lulin Comet is due on the 24th of this month, and I am determined to do some astrophotography. So I fire up the cement mixer and drag out the buckets. After too many trips up and down those spiral stairs, I am tired, but satisfied.
12/6/08 The dome is finally on the tank! I spent the morning welding the horizontal and vertical rollers to the top of the tank. Then I glued the vinyl weather strip to the outside. My Nephew helped me carry the steel top ring up from the shop and we hoisted in place on top of the tank. Piece of cake. I welded a couple of tie downs between the tank and the ring, just for peace of mind. Next we slid the dome up the ramp, and heaved and slid it into place on top of the tank. I had pre-drilled mounting holes in the top of the steel ring, so after a few minor adjustments, I drilled the dome and bolted it to the top ring. No more blue tarp. We are ready for the winter snows.
11/26/08 The second floor is finished, so I have a place to stand and work on the top of the tank. I mount an old caster wheel to my torch as a depth guide and cut the top 3 inches off the tank. I have built a temporary ramp from the left over TIG's that reaches the nearby hill. I use this to lower the tank top. It will go down to the shop for further work this weekend. I will cut off all but 5 inches of the top ring, where the dome will be bolted. My drive chain has arrived, and it will be easier to mount in the shop. I also have to fabricate and weld on the mounting brackets for the wheels. Then the whole assembly will be slid up the ramp and back onto the top of the tank. We bought a cheap door at Lowe's, then a friend offered me a good metal door, complete with jamb and lock for free.
11/16/08 The sun came out and melted the snow, just in time for the weekend. We insulated and sheeted the inside walls of the tank, built the circular stairs and installed the floor joists and flooring on the 2nd floor. I got a start on papering the outside of the warm room, and installed the wiring. Whew! We are tired, but, happy with the amount of progress we made.
11/13/08 The weather has been holding and we are getting a lot done. With the shorter days, we need work lights in the evenings, but they just add heat inside. I finished welding the steel pier sections together. The overall height is 9 feet from the ground floor. Later the steel pier will be filled with concrete. The center support column is finished. This column serves 3 purposes. It helps supports the second floor joists, gives us a place to land the stairs and prevents accidental bumping of the pier. And it looks cool. Next the floor joists for the second floor will be installed. I need to finish my cutting and welding at the top of the tank in preparation for the dome install. Thanksgiving is coming and I will have some muscle on hand to help raise the dome to the top of the tank.
11/09/08 The foundation is done and the framing begins. We are in mad rush to get everything under cover before the winter snows begin. We have had perfect weather all week, and are making great progress. The electrical has been ditched in and can be finished later. The roof will be installed today and a tarp thrown over the tank to keep the snow out.
10/31/08 The Building Plans have changed. We staked out the original warm room, and decided it was too small. So, we decided to add 1 more 4 foot wall section. The room is now a heptagon (7 sides) We like the looks of it, and the square footage is still under 100 sq ft. The roof is tentative, but looks good on paper. How hard will the new room be to build? We will find out soon. The concrete gets poured this weekend. If the weather turns colder, the 4 foot wall sections can be built in the shop, and then assembled on site.
10/27/08 The Web cam is back up and running!
Winter in Colorado is quickly approaching. We have created on a set of building plans for the observatory and warm room. The next step is to pour the foundation inside the tank and for the warm room floor.
The first 2 sections of the center pier, 12" diameter steel pipe, has been welded and installed inside the tank. A short piece of 14" diameter steel drum has been set in place, outside the pier, to isolate the pier from the concrete floor pour.
Revised Building Plan - 10/31/08
Original Observatory Floor Plans
Video of raising and setting the steel tank on the foundation.