Old Observatory

The following is an overview of the construction of my old observatory that was in use for nearly ten years on our previous address. As seen from the image, the observatory was a roll-off observatory. Since the garden was tiny there was no room for an additional building. Therefore the observatory was constructed (2001) in an extension to my house rather than a shed of some sort. My garden was too small to construct a shed so I had to search for different alternatives.

Located between Brussels and Antwerp , the skies in Willebroek only show a few stars instead of the grand splendor of the Milky Way… At best a limiting magnitude of 3.5 could be reached. The observatory was located smack in the village centre, so seeing was not optimal as well. However, despite the rather poor conditions, I believe an observatory in the city will be more often used then dragging everything to the country side every time. Apart from that it is really nice to have a telescope so close for quick and casual observations for example the Sun during lunch break.

The observatory last housed a Vixen VMC260, an f11.5 10.25" SubAparture Maksutov Cassegrain. In combination with this telescope, an Optec TCFS (Temperature Controlled Focuser) was used to handle focusing. The main imaging camera was a Santa Barbara SBIG ST10XME. The telescope was mounted on a Gemini G41 mount. This is a very sturdy mount with a small periodic error. The telescope was mainly used to do photometry of eclipsing binaries and High Amplitude Delta Scuti (HADS) stars.

The construction of the observatory started in April 2001 and was completed in September that year. The observatory is housed in an extension of my house. The extension was used as a shed for storing garden equipment by the previous owners and is completely separated from the actual house. The door and window are facing the garden. When I bought the house the roof of the extension was leaking, there was no electricity and no concrete slab under the floor.

I basically stripped it all down and started over again. Now the observatory is a cozy and nice place to be... Luckily the views from the East, South and West are not obstructed by large buildings and there is no direct light trespass from streetlights, except the light-bulb on the playground of a local school. The northern side is blocked by the house. Therefore I decided to build a roll-off construction, rolling off to the north.

The observatory itself is pretty tiny, measuring only 2 by 3 meters. Two by two meters are used as a telescope platform; 2 by 1 meters is used as control area. It's just large enough to hold the telescope and a computer. I usually did not stay with the telescope so body heat was no problem as well. In the control area was a desktop that controls the telescope and camera. There was a network connection running into the house where I had a second desktop monitoring the desktop in the observatory. The observatory desktop was controlled with VNC. With this tool it is easy to keep an eye on all processes running in the observatory. The observatory desktop was running continuously and accommodates the Boltwood Cloud Sensor and the radio meteor observation station.

I also added two large ventilation holes and a wall ventilator to keep temperature under control.

The dog Ayla is eager to help!

First I had to pour a concrete block to support the pier. A cube of about 1 cubic meter was poured. Six 20 mm rods were inserted in the concrete to hold the pier. All the electric wiring was replaced. In total over 50 meters of cable and about 10 sockets were used in this very small observatory!

The pier is a metal tube with an inside diameter of 200 mm. The tube wall thickness is 2 cm and the flange welded to the tube has 6 holes. To increase stability the tube is filled with sand. This offers a rock solid platform.

 The walls are made in OSB plating and I had to put a new floor in place.

Bonnie and Clyde !

I searched and found some professional help in preparing the roof. The roof is made of a roll-off plywood construction rolling on wheels. This has never given me any problems so far.

The finished observatory with the Meade LX200. This telescope was replaced by first a C11 and later a Vixen VMC260. The wooden platform was replaced by a INOX platform to increase stability.

The observatory how it was last used before we sold the house.