Observatory Summer Maintenance and Objet D'art

The days are so long from April to August that there's rarely an opportunity to do any observing or imaging of the night sky. I've been pretty limited to a very boring (inactive) Sun and the Moon when it was visible during the early evening. As you can see we've had some fun but I'm looking forward to longer nights.

Note that I'm using a filter that blocks out 99% of the Suns light - without it you'll be blinded - do not point your telescope at the Sun without a filter - and test that filter before each use to ensure there are not holes in it.
This is a dedicated solar scope that blocks out all but the H-Alpha wave length of light. I'm also using a small German equatorial mount that's very portable and stable enough for viewing and imaging the Sun with this scope.

I look interested but to be absolutely honest there isn't a lot of solar activity on show at the moment and I've been limited to a few inconsequential sunspots - when viewed in the white light provided by this scope and filter. The H-Alpha scope is better in this respect as you can see more surface activity.

Sitting in the garden having a beer one night we noticed that the Moon was on show high above us in the South so we thought we'd have a quick look. Even though the sky was still very bright we had excellent views.

A quick shot through the 31mm eyepiece of the Moon that night using my Samsung Galaxy 5 phone camera. I quite like viewing the Moon during the daylight hours as you get a different "atmosphere".

In the absence of observational astronomy it's a great time to perform maintenance on the observatory equipment and generally clean things up.

I started this year, as I have every since I built the observatory in 2007 by treating the wood cladding, twice. The 15mm cladding is 10 years old now and holding up really well.

Next, in a previous post I discussed the introduction of wheels to the roof of my observatory to make it spin by hand a little easier. The final step, not discussed in that post, was to cover the wheels that hold the roof in position as it spins.

After looking around for something suitable, and failing, I decided to use some disposable food containers from our local Chinese takeaway emporium. They're not great but they will do until I find something more pleasing to the eye.

Any suggestions are welcome.

I next tended to a problem I've been having on my two imaging scope concerning the guide scopes. Being mounted to the finder bracket on the scope body meant that they stuck out about 40mm from the side of the scope. This is problematic as when the scope is either lying to the East or West of the home position (as most imaging is done to the South the scope is normally in one of these two positions). This configuration diminished the useful area of the aperture in the roof. The distance from the centre of the imaging scope and the center of the guide scope was often one quarter of the available aperture. Added to this the guide scope was often lower than the centre of the imaging scope which also limited declination.

The simple solution was to "piggyback" the guide scope on the imaging scope.

The end result is that the distance between the centres of the two scopes has not been decreased by very much (c.10mm) it will prevent the guide scope from being positioned lower than the imaging scope, improving the available declination.

My next project involves the picture above. Notice that the scopes are mounted in the observatory on the wall when not in use. To do this I had to use a mechanism that normally serves as a platform for mounting two telescopes side by side on a mount. Some time ago I decided against keeping the telescopes mounted in this configuration as it meant I could easily swap out individual scopes when needed.

However, during the summer the two observational telescopes are best left on the mount for observing the stars in the late Spring and Early autumn when I won't be doing much imaging (waiting for the skies to get dark enough, early enough) . So I needed to figure out a way to "park" the imaging scopes when not in use to free up the dovetail and shoes to mount the C8 and solar scope side by side during the summer. Here's my solution.

The larger scope is on two very sturdy metal L brackets. And I can now switch between white light and H-Alpha solar viewing/imaging quite easily.

Having tackled the operational issues in the observatory I next thought about improving the environment a bit from the rather dull black walls although I have embedded the planetary symbols of our solar system in the 8 sections of the ceiling (see image above for the symbol for Mercury).

When I was visiting the Yorkshire Dales with my wife last year we stopped in a small "gem" shop in the high street of a town called Dawes. The lady who ran it was very nice and we had a chat about my interest in astronomy as her brother shared the hobby. I noticed a particularly interesting polished rock sphere that reminded me of Jupiter. I bought it put it on the shelf in the observatory. It wasn't long before I started thinking about expanding this "solar system" using other rocks of suitable colour - if not size. 
We visited Dawes again this year with friends and went back to the shop and saw the same lady was still there. This time I bought a beautiful calcite sphere that I decided looked like Pluto.
When I returned home I "googled" these objects to see if I could find a source for the rest of the solar system.
I found Little Gems Rock Shop near Cromer in Norfolk. I quickly placed an order for the remaining "planets" and those I couldn't find I used marbles from a container that  has been holding a door open for the past 24 years....

As you can see I need a slightly larger Earth, a smaller Moon (but I don't think I'll change it actually), a larger Mars and perhaps a larger Saturn. My intention isn't to display to scale but something a little more in scale for those objects would be nice. Notice also the small marble representing the moons of Jupiter - they were quite a find!

So now to the long dark nights of Autumn and Winter - my next post should be concerning either observing or imaging now that the observatory is squared away.

July 1027