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CDR Observatory Construction

Doug Rokke, Ph.D.

Champaign-Urbana Astronomical Society

Professional and amateur astronomers all dream of having an observatory in their own backyard or some other rapidly accessible location. The objective is to have their telescope or telescopes all set up allowing sky observation at any time, on any day, and within minutes of the decision to “go look” without loading up their vehicle and driving some place to a “dark sky” location then unloading and setting up all of their stuff followed by a reverse trip. A conventional dome observatory usually houses one telescope while a roll off roll on roof observatory may house two or more telescopes. Today “astronomers” can purchase a pre-fabricated kit, hire a dedicated observatory construction company to design and build the observatory, or they can just build it from scratch. Various factors such as weather, geography, flora, and the visible region of the sky at your location can influence the decision of what type of observatory to design and build, at what location it will be erected, and it’s orientation. Obviously cost is also a significant factor greater than the costs of your telescope or telescopes and supporting components. We live on a family grain farm in east central Illinois with a location that provides an almost unlimited view of the heavens. Given we have several different types of telescopes we decided to build a roll off roll on roof type observatory to house two telescope “piers” that would allow rapid switching of the telescopes in use yet provide stabilization. We then chose, purchased, modified a ready-made 8’ by 10’ Arrow Storage Systems steel garden shed, and erected it in the southwest quadrant of our barnyard on the Seeber-Hammel family home farm. The finished CDR observatory with comforts and decoration cost about $600.

[Click on an image to see a full-size version of it.]

Our location in the middle of grain fields and greater than a half mile from nearest neighbor’s farm house to the south south east provides a clear view of eastern- southeastern- southern- southwestern- western sky along the entire ecliptic path and from 0 to 90 degrees declination. All of our farm lighting is on switches so going dark is very easy. The observatory walls block visibility of- think impingement- of any light source from adjoining farms and from our farm house on our telescopes.

This paper provides set by step procedures utilizing photos and written instructions for modifying a steel garden shed to function as roll off roll on roof observatory. The final design is a compilation of ideas from different designs included in “HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN OBSERVATORY – REPRINTS FROMK TELESCOPE MAKING MAGAZINE” Editor Richard Berry, Copyright 1981 Astromedia Corporation, other Astronomy publications, and experience.