Helena Observatory,   North Alton, NS

Baie Ste. Marie Observatory Blog: 2013

30-May-2024 05:41 ADT 30-May-2024 08:41 UTC


I just completed an important and timely upgrade. I installed a pair of tiedowns for the dome. The dome has shown excellent aerodynamic stability in strong winds, so the chances of it blowing away are low. Still, we get some crazy winds here, and a gust from the wrong direction, coming around the corner of the barn maybe, could have picked it up. We have a big storm coming in tomorrow, with winds over 100km/h. So now, it should be safe. I'd hate to come out after a storm and find the dome out in the hayfield and the scope exposed to the elements.

The eyebolt to which the turnbuckle attaches is mounted in a hole drilled through the dome. On the outside of the dome, it is sealed with a rubber washer, and held in place with a metal washer and two nuts.


I have made some upgrades to the observatory.

In the past, I had installed an extended counterweight shaft on the HEQ5 mount in order to balance the Newtonian scope with a camera attached. However, I was finding that the extended shaft was a nuisance. I managed to whack myself on the head with it while turning around and simultaneously ducking to avoid the low ceiling in the corner. And every time I bonked it, whether I injured myself or not, I compromised the alignment of the mount.

So, I ordered a third counterweight and reverted to the stock counterweight shaft. The 8SE will balance with only the original two counterweights, but the Newt requires three.

An alternative would have been to install the focuser load on the inboard side of the OTA instead of the outboard side, reducing the moment arm of the camera load. However, this would have created clearance and cable management problems with the mount head.

I discovered that the Atik camera will pick up any light at all in the dome. So, I have covered all LED pilot lights, and I now do imaging with the interior red lights off. Concerned about the light from the laptop screen, I made some blackout curtains to hang across the workstation corner.

The purpose of the 8SE OTA was to start doing planetary imaging. An essential component of that capability is a video camera. I bought a Microsoft Lifecam Cinema webcam and modified it for astronomical use by removing the lens and case. The sensor and electronics fit perfectly into an old 35mm film cannister. Luckily, I still had one from the "old days".

On the exterior of the observatory, I found that the rain falling from the roof was eroding the sand and gravel pad surface below. So, I have installed gutters. With only a half-inch overhang, and with limited clearance from the goose-neck porch light at the front, standard gutters would not work. I made my own by cutting 2-inch PVC pipe in half. We had a good test the other day, with some very heavy rain, and the gutters kept up with it.