The J.F.B. Observatory

                              Dome Construction page 4

I built the dome in the best part of my yard for sky coverage. I also built it knowing that it could easily strip down and transport on the back of a 6x4 trailer if we ever moved. Only the dome of course, not the wall or slab. That could be demolished and/ or left behind. Well, we decided to build a pool in 2006 after the dome had given six years of sterling service. With it's papier mache cladding and foam heart it had survived hail and some pretty awesome storms! :)

I moved the dome with the help of my brother and it sat in my driveway for a few months as I built it's new home. This time I built a better slab with far more centre pier to edge conduits for data and power stuff. The original had heaps but you can never have enough conduits in a slab. The original slab was so well made that it took some breaking up!  As with a lot of my home projects not a lot goes to waste so a lot of the concrete rubble went into the volume of the new slabs. The new slabs were, again an inner and outer set isolated with a gap of foam insert. More conduits and more dome to shed service conduits.

The wall virtually unbolted from the old and was walked over to the new slab. I was up and running well before the 2007 Mars apparition, which was my goal. The concrete rendering was also done around this time too, the mache skin a victim to almost constant breaches in it's weatherproofing. It had served me well. If it had a totally impenetrable barrier like a waterproof membrane type paint it would still be viable.

I mixed the render using lime and cement and screeded it over a mesh of gyprock polytape. The result is only about 1/4 inch thick but very strong and it hasn't cracked at all in over 4 summers. It is sealed with Solarguard Primrose Yellow paint in many layers and is now almost maintenance free. Only a coat every few years has been needed. It has been hit with cricket balls, tennis balls , you name it. No damage so far. This was Joe's suggestion all along and I should have listened. It is still very lightweight, two grown men can easily handle it.

It still has wind gust stays though just in case a storm comes through. Aesthetic improvements have been made the second time around like a complete wraparound desk inside and multiple control points so I can control the scope from any side of the interior. The inside cladding is a smoother curved gyprock wall with most of the fundamental control and electrical cabling inside the walls. The centre to edge cabling is mostly via in-slab conduits as mentioned and there are no tripping hazards with cables due to this. Automation is currently underway to drive the doors via ASCOM. As it stands at present I can control the scope via Remote Desktop from inside the house or shed via wired LAN. The scope drive laptop runs separately from the capture PC which has always been the case. However, the scope laptop is connected via LX200 serial to the planetarium software on the capture PC and can be commanded via a virtual handpad and remote desktop. Functions currently controllable are focus in/out,  tracking and guiding inputs and custom LX200 commands can be called up.

This all makes the experience far more enjoyable and removes a lot of the niggling problems that annoy while outside observing/ imaging. I can image from the comfort of the house and can check the environment inside the dome via a webcam over the LAN. The only final thing to add is dome rotation and dorr open/ close. The Bartels interface and ASCOM have the options ready to add, it is only a matter of doing it.

The dome currently is home to a 12" F5 Newt. The homemade 8" has been converted to a dobsonain for my son to use.

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