Helena Observatory,   North Alton, NS

Observatory Info

22-Jun-2024 07:27 ADT 22-Jun-2024 10:27 UTC


The observatory is located in a 600 m2 clearing in second-growth forest. It is adjacent to the Hall's Harbour weather station, which shares the same clearing.


The dome is an 8-foor Exploradome. It is fully automated. The dome is mounted on a 10-foot square building which I build myself.

Dome Automation

The automation system was designed and coded entirely by me. It controls the opening and closing of the shutter. It also controls the rotation of the dome, to keep the opening in front of the telescope regardless of where the latter is pointing.

The system includes a rain detector connected directly to the controller hardware. This allows it to close the dome immediately when rain is detected, independently of any software.

Various software programs allow for full automation of an imaging session. I can control electrical power, the telescope, the camera, and the dome from the house. The system can run unattended all night and shut itself down when it is finished.

Weather Monitor

A custom-written piece of software links the weather station to the astronomy software. It allows an imaging session to monitor rain and wind conditions, and to terminate a session if predetermined limits are exceeded. This capability is separate from the rain detection mentioned under Automation, above, and serves as a backup to it.

Sky Cam

A dedicated camera points at the sky to monitor cloud conditions. It is useful if a photo session tarminates abnormally, to check if the reason was because of cloude.


With all the specialized equipment in the observatory, a security system is essential. The porch lights are triggered by a motion detector. An alarm system detects intruders and activates a siren and all the lights. Webcams detect motion and send images of any intruders to offsite storage.