Then in December 2011 disaster struck.
We came home to find that the observatory roof had gone. It took both of us a while to compute this fact and come to terms with the fact that something serious had happened.
I said to Sand you look for it over there and I’ll go this way.
We looked everywhere obvious, but it was nowhere to be seen, until we looked in the corner of the Observatory field and found this
This just a few bits, so where was the rest of it. We eventually found it the other side of that bank in the farmers field. I didn’t take any pictures of it – too traumatised 🙁 , but apart from a few dents it was pretty much intact.
Still unsure how it managed to get there and go over a 3 metre high bank, it finally became clear when you looked at the divots in the grass between the observatory and the bank.
The wind basically lifted like an aircraft ring and must have flipped over sideways – miraculously missing the mount and scope and then proceeded to cartwheel end on end and then fly over the bank to the other side.
This is basically what I was left with. With the weather being so poor, I decided to completely clear the observatory of equipment and remove the warm room.
Over the next couple of months various roof designs were made and rejected. In the end I decided that reducing weight and reducing internal height would allow a 30% weight saving. I was able to salvage most of the old roof and incorporate 95% of the components in the new design.
To stop the roof going airborne again, I decided to use two 5000kg breaking strain lorry straps, which lock roof to the observatory base. Despite the horrendous winds over the Autumn and Winter of 2012, the roof has remained in place and has proved to be completely leak free. The weight saving exercise now means it’s a doddle to open up on my own. The reduced height inside isn’t a problem either and it’s still possible for me to stand inside without my head hitting the roof.
With the warm room gone- which in retrospect, hasn’t really been a great loss, I designed a box to hold the computer and provide storage for the camera, eyepieces and other kit I need in the observatory. I call this the Pulpit for obvious reasons.
Constructed with 9mm ply over a 25xx square framework, the pulpit contains the PC CPU, the Losmandy’s power supply and a case worth of eyepieces and cameras. To keep everything damp free inside, a 60 watt bar heater keeps the electronics nice and dry and free of mould.
The lid opens up revealing the PC screen, the keyboard and mouse and is at a height that I can stand at the keyboard. While sitting down sounds nice, in fact I found the chair always got in the way, so I find standing allows a lot more freedom to move around from the PC to the scope when needed.
The work was completed in April 2012 and despite a poor Summer, I’ve managed to make inroads into observations of my Messier Objects List as well as do quite a bit of Solar work too.
All in all the lighter roof has made it significantly easier and without the warm room has made the whole observatory feel much roomier. This proved to be useful during my astronomy group’s annual BBQ held here, we managed to squeeze in a dozen or so bodies keen to look through the scope.