- an excellent book on home observatories is:
- "More Small Astronomical Observatories" by Patrick Moore, the
book includes a CD-ROM with the first volume (PDF file).
- Yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Observatories
- there are a lot of considerations when using an
observatory. First, the building has to be high enough to hold your
equipment and for the observer to be comfortable. A refractor can be
Most of us have obstructions near the horizon such as houses, trees
etc. so that limits how close to the horizon you can view. Also, the
closer to the horizon the more atmosphere you have to look through
which degrades the image. The best viewing area us usually over head
and up to 45 degrees from the zenith in any direction.
The higher walls also serve to block any wind from affecting your
They also help block light pollution from street lights, neighbors
yard lights and even light glow from nearby urban areas.
Down here in south Florida they also make it harder for the mosquitos
to find you!
As to cutting down on the amount of sky you could observe, you can
only look at one spot at a time! If you think about it, sooner or
later the whole sky comes by for you to view! In your hemisphere of
You should set up your viewing schedule before you start for the
night. Use a program like the sky to make your selections. Also,
you can measure the angle viewable from your observatory and then set
the viewing limits on your AutoStar. Then you use the best objects
tour and your scope computer will pick and choose the best of the
best within your available slice of sky! That way you get to see a
lot of new objects you never thought of viewing before.
A newbie to the hobby might feel confined because he might have a
tendency to jump around looking for things he has heard about or
looked at before. But in truth, there is always something to see
right in front of your objective lens no matter where it is pointed!
Many of the great discoveries were made by large telescopes that had
elevation only and had to wait for their prey to come to them, like a
spider in its web.
Rethink your observatory concept and I think you will agree that 5 or
6' walls help more than they hinder.
- Having owned both a shed and a dome observatory both have their
advanages and dis-advantages.
A dome is my choice, if you can afford one or perhaps build it.
Advnatages include: wind and light pollution protection, rotation of
the dome to place needed, if well designed, water tight with little
concern about snow build up (if you are in a cold climate) and it
Disadvantages include: cost, building code waivers (in some locals),
unless you automate its rotation, you will have to manually rotate
the dome every so often to keep the scope centered in the slit. Also
everyone will know what you have in there and may be subject to
Shed observatories on the other hand have the advantage of wider sky
coverage if you plan to observe across the sky. The side walls can
aid in blocking those annoying lights from the street and/or next
If designed right (I've seen both good, well and not so good ones),
you shouldn't have problems with water, but snow build up can be an
issue, just take care to design it correctly. Also it can blend in
with your home so that few will notice it as an observatory.
Learn from others. My mistake was to make it too big and the roll
off roof was too heavy and required a crank. I eventually sectioned
it, so I could move off either half as needed.
It boils down to preference and of coarse how much money you are
willing to spend.