After almost ten years of service I decided it was time to replace the old observatory and build a completely new one from scratch.
The old observatory had provided a safe shelter for my imaging equipment for almost ten years and allowed me to spend a lot more time imaging the sky as all the equipment was ready to go, as soon as the clouds would disappear. It really allowed me to make the most out of this hobby given the (wet & cloudy) climate in the Netherlands.
However some things were not so well executed and the humid climate slowly started to take its toll on the building.
It was time to take a decision on the future of the building which ultimately came down to either completely renovate the current building which allowed me to use it probably a couple of years longer or build a brand new observatory and incorporate many improvements (including a warm room) which I felt missing from or were not well executed in the first build.
Well as visible from the image to the right I chose to tear down the old observatory and build a new one from scratch.
As the previous modification from a commercial cabin to roll-off went well I decided to go that route again for the new observatory. However as I found out later in the modification process, there were some bigger challenges this time when converting to the roll-off design, which were primarily caused by the design of the new cabin.
I decided to go for a commercial cabin which was just a bit longer in order to get some more room available for a warm-room without it compromising my view of the sky. In order to fit this slightly bigger cabin I had to modify the foundation and in doing that I also decided to bring it a bit forward to have easier access to the back of the cabin for painting and maintenance.
Besides building a new cabin I also decided to use the old cabin as a separate storage space underneath the roll-off beams, so I took all the best parts from the old cabin and modified it into a new storage cabin.
With the foundation all finished and dried (see the right section) it was time to start preparations for delivery and construction of the main cabin.
I ordered a few separate wooden beams in advance which were painted and I attached some left over EPDM foil to the bottom. This was done in order to prevent the beams from attracting moisture from the concrete foundation as this was one of the issues with the previous building.
After this was prepared, the cabin was delivered and construction of the main building was started.
Below images show the modification of the foundation to accomodate the slightly larger cabin. The old foundation is attached to the new and incorporated to get a more sturdy set-up (not that this was an issue with the previous building).
Below images show the modification to the roll-off roof design.
This particular cabin design offered some new challenges in redesigning the roof.
As shown in below image the side beams which need to hold the roof beams is rather small and therefore fragile, especially with the spacing for the wheels cut out.
The design of the cabin however did also not allow me to use more side beams for the roll-off as it was not possible to go lower with the roof due to the front door design. (see the image named “All 4 wheels inplace”). I could not go any lower with the roof as the front door design does not allow for a larger part of the roof to be separated from the cabin for roll-off.
I had to find a way to improve the stability of the roof with the design and materials I had available. In order to solve this I cut U-shaped segments from a single piece of 18mm plywood for all the roof beams on the back side of the observatory.
Compared to the prvious observatory I had 2 additional wishes for the floor design.
1) The floor should be more sturdy so I put more support under the floor beams along the width of the cabin.
2) I did want ANY cables to run accross the floor from the warm room to the mount. So I spent some time researching other astrophotographers’ observatories and I found some designs with a floor compartment. I adopted this idea as well and incorporated a floor compartment near the mount. All connections from the warm room run to this compartment via PVC tubing. There is a separate powerline going to the compartment as well as a USB3 connection and ethernet (with wired internet access).
There are pratically no powerlines visible above floor level, everything was constructed below floor level. The same also applies to the warm room, later section on this page.
Preparation of the beams outside the main building and roof finalisation is shown below.
Images of covering the roof with EPDM foil, placement of aluminium guide rails for the roof along the entire length of the building and outside framing. Building of the additional storage cabin from material of the old observatory and showing U-shaped reinforcements (4 in total) to support the roof beams and stabilize the roof.
Everything was finished just in time for the storm to hit……
Besides design challenges for the roof, nature itself also provided some additional challenges.
Just as the outside part was finished, there was a brief thunderstorm but it had some extremely heavy fall winds which caused a large branch from the neighbors tree to snap off. Luckily the damage to the building was only minor although it was a close call. The new storage cabin built from the old observatory took the biggest hit.
Everything got cleaned up pretty fast however and the remaining tree was completely removed.
Finishing up the building and close ups of details and imaging setup/equipment.
As I wanted a warm room in the new observatory, the construction phase is shown below.