Digital Imaging of the Universe

Shooting Star Ranch Observatory Concept

- Matthew T. Russell  

Astrophotography gives you a different perspective of the night sky.

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This is a conceptual picture I designed on my computer. I think it will give a good overview of what I want to have built. Don't worry about the trees and the bushes I included here. I did that for asthetics. If you have any questions, please ask. This view is the south side of the building.

I have divided this page into several different sections to give you an overview of how this thing is to come together. They include:

  • Ground Material
  • Isolated Cement Footing & Steel Pier
  • Decking & Power
  • Walls
  • Dome Base Ring
  • Dome
    Ground Material

    In order to spare some trees, I would like this observatory to be built on top of a compacted mound. Specs are listed below:

    Height of mound: minimum 4 feet
    Flat part of top: minimum of 16 x 16 feet

    Isolated Cement Footing & Steel Pier

    The cement footing and pier are by far the most important part of this concept. Precision is extremely important.

    Cement height above deck floor: 6 inches
    Below Ground Level: Minimum of 36 inches (it should not sway, heave or vibrate. Will have about 250 lbs of equipment on it)
    Width: 24 inches
    J-Bolts: 1/2 inch Stainless Steel
    Other: Reinforcement steel bars (rebar) must be used

    It is extremely important that this cement footing will not heave, vibrate, or cause any abnormal oscilations. As they say, bigger is better.

    The Base Plate of the steel pier is attached to the cement footing by four 1/2" J-Bolts. It is important these bolts match the pattern of the pier and are mounted in a way so the pier points directly to True North -- NOT Magnetic North. From Colorado Springs, True North is 10 Degrees west of the Magnetic North. Please see illustration below:

    Decking & Power

    The deck should be completely isolated from the pier footing. What I mean by that is no part of the deck structure should touch the cement footing in any way. It can be 1/2" away.

    A computer will be installed along the north internal wall. The telescope is controlled via a computer and I need to be able to fish computer wires from the north internal wall to the cement pier and on up to the telescope. Secondly, I want to run wires underneath the floor so I don't have to walk and/or trip on them.

    I think a piece of 3"-4" PVC pipe installed at the base of where the cement pier is, running directly underneath the floor to the internal north edge wall would do the trick. I cannot imagine running computer cables 4 feet down, 3 feet over and 4 feet up. My reasoning: many computer cables have a maximum length of 10 feet. If we were to go down 4 feet, over 3 feet, and up 4 feet, that puts me over the limit just to the base of the pier. Not only that, I have to run these cables up to the actual telescope itself, which will be sitting another 4 feet above that. Does this make sense?

    I think you have the understanding there will be more wires coming from the house other than power and the low-voltage line. That is not the case, however, if the piping is already in place for that, I'm OK with it. You never know, I may need that pathway someday.

    I'm not sure I understand where you are planning to have the power coming up, but there should be at the very least power at the north internal wall. If it is at the middle by the cement pier, that is great, I can obviously use it there too, but again, power needs to be along that north wall.

    Above Ground Height (to top of deck floor): 18 inches
    Building Material: Your choice. All outside areas, except underneath, will be painted a very light color


    The walls should be constructed in a Octagon shape. The actual fiberglass Dome Base Ring will rest on top of these walls. Please see next section regarding the width of the base ring. The weight that will be laying on top of these walls will be a total of around 300lbs.

    The door should open inwards, with at least 1 deadbolt.

    Wall height: 48 inches

    Base Ring

    The fiberglass Base Ring is what mounts to the top of the octagon walls you are building. The base ring itself is 119 inches in diameter, so the walls need to be at least that wide. Because the base ring is a circle and the walls are octagon shapes, we need to make sure the top board is wide enough to cover any gaps created from the different shaped pieces (what I mean is, no open holes).

    This base ring has a bottom flange that is 3 inches wide. This is where I drill the holes to bolt the fiberglass base ring to your octagon walls.

    In the image below, you only need to be concerned with the items that have a purple bullet point.


    The dome itself weighs approximately 300 lbs. I will handle the assembly of this.


  • Copyright 2003, Matthew T. Russell. All rights reserved.