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Oracle Snow;
Observatory Upgrades Planning

Posted: 8 January 2016

Sunday, 3 January 2016, dawned clear but still windy. However, clouds from an approaching storm arrived late that afternoon. The storm arrived mid-day on Monday, 4 January, with rain (0.31"). Tuesday night had 0.08" rain. Wednesday morning had 0.16" with strong winds. Thursday, 7 January, had some more rain (0.07") that turned to sleet and then snow mid-day. By 1630 MST we had 3.5" snow:



Snow was on distant mountains and down to the valley floor:


As the cloudy skies have continued, I have had more time to devote to planning some significant upgrades for Cassiopeia Observatory. As I did during the planning and construction of the observatory, which I shared on my "Road to Oracle Observatory" reports in 2008 and 2009, I will be sharing my ideas, plans, and implementations for the upgrades, which were approved by the CFO (Chief Financial Officer; i.e., wife) in 2015 for purchase in 2016.

The three upgrades planned are:

1. Replace the existing Meade 8" LX200-ACF telescope with a Meade 12" LX600 telescope
2. Install a Pier-Tech 2 adjustable pier
3. Add a SkyShed POD Zenith Table (PZT)

I will discuss each of these upgrades below.


Meade 12" LX600 ACF Telescope with Starlock & X-Wedge

As part of my research on this telescope, which I have lusted after since it was announced in 2012, I am preparing some questions that I will post on the Meade 4M Forum, LX600 Yahoo Group, and the SkyShed POD Yahoo Group. The questions will be relevant to my specific use of the telescope in the POD. I will document the answers on a future report.

Once the basic details are determined, I then plan to visit Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) to discuss my planned purchase of the telescope and various accessories. Many of the planned accessories are needed to replace accessories from my 8" telescope that will not work with the 12", i.e., a full aperture solar filter, Bahtinov Mask, piggyback adapter for PST and DSLR, and perhaps others. The OPT visit is likely to occur sometime in February.


Pier-Tech 2 - 120V Electro-Mechanical Telescope Pier

I had always planned to install a pier in the observatory, but never got around to it for the 8". With the larger 12" telescope and its larger tripod, I know that a pier will be a necessity. For the convenience of me and my observatory visitors, I have decided that a height adjustable pier is really required. The Pier-Tech 2 seems ideal for my observatory. I plan to finalize the decision on the pier when I visit OPT.

Prior to installation of the pier I plan to spend some time with the new telescope on its tripod in the observatory. That will allow me to not only checkout the telescope, but will allow me to determine the best position for it inside the POD. Once I know the best position, the telescope and tripod will be removed, along with everything else in the POD. The location for the pier will be marked on the observatory floor, mounting holes drilled into the concrete, and the pier installed. The telescope would be mounted on the pier and the other items moved back into the POD.

My observatory is on a concrete pad. Some may wonder if I plan to isolate the pier from the observatory floor. Currently, I do not plan to do this. The concrete is 8-12" thick and I have not experienced any vibration problems in the 8" telescope from walking (or even stomping) on the floor. I am hopeful that no problems will be seen with the 12", but that is something I'll confirm during the initial telescope checkout.


SkyShed POD POD Zenith Table (PZT)

I have considered getting a POD Zenith Table many times in the past. A small portion of the sky at the zenith is blocked for my 8" telescope and will also be blocked for the 12" telescope. It has not normally been a problem with the 8" telescope except during passes of the International Space Station when it crosses high in the sky. However, I suspect that it could be a problem with the 12" telescope and its StarLock autoguider telescope. So, adding the PZT to allow the dome to be moved off a short distance to the north will alleviate the zenith problem. The PZT hardware kit from SkyShed does not include all the materials needed. I have to locally purchase the wood, paint, and back stops (to keep the dome from sliding off). I may order the PZT and purchase the other items this month. I would then install the PZT when the weather permits, as having a PZT would be useful even with the 8" telescope.

Other Planned Activities

For various reasons I had deferred the 2014 and 2015 annual observatory cleanup (usually done on the "First Light" anniversary in August), but I now plan to do it prior to swapping the telescopes. I want to start my new telescope observing in a clean observatory.

One repair that I will also be doing once the weather improves (and warms up) is to replace a large section of the outdoor carpet on the patio in front of the observatory door. It has become worn after six and a half years of visits to the observatory:


A site visitor sent me a link to an excellent astrophotography web site. Check out Nightscape Photography with Digital Cameras.

Comments are welcome using Email. If you are on Twitter you can use the button below to tweet this report to your followers. Thanks.

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