The new observatory

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.

Building the new observatory

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.

Building progress

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).

Cutting leftover EPDM

EPDM strips attached to beams

Delivery of the log cabin

First layers – different angle

Every connecting wood joint is painted

And more

From a different angle

Painting first layer of beams

First layer in place and secured to the foundation

First layers assembled

Doorframe in place

More layers added

Almost reached roof level

PVC tubing for power and ethernet to the cabin

Preparing for the windows

Ready to adjust existing foundation

Front angle

Mixing new concrete

Adding rebar to the concrete

And more rebar

Foundation modification done

Roll-off roof modification

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.

One of the windows was damaged, glued it back together

Unpacking to continue after bad weather

Exterior painting has begun

U-shaped reinforcements to improve roof stability

Preparations for the other wheels

End of another long working day

Typical dutch weather

Measurements for the wheels > design issues !

Inside view of roof modification

First wheel in place

All 4 wheels in place

EPDM foil in place

Layout of the floor

Creating the floor compartment

Started with the floorboards

No contact of the floor and pier

Floor is finished

Finished floor compartment

Roofing & external part

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……

Storm 23rd June

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.

EPDM in place and clamped down for glueing

Preparing the outside beam

Painting in progress

Starting build of the old/new shed

Close up

All power goes below the floor

Everything cleaned up and rebuilt after the storm

All U shape reinforcements in place

New foundation for outside beams are ready

First coat of painting complete

Offset for the aluminium L profile

Exterior finished

Finished, just in time for the storm to hit……

Large branch broke off from the tree

And smashed into the roll off part

From the neighbors’ tree

Luckily only hitting exterior roll off (but was a close call)

Completely smashing a beam

Started cleaning up the mess

Finalisation & details

Finishing up the building and close ups of details and imaging setup/equipment.

Warm room

As I wanted a warm room in the new observatory, the construction phase is shown below.

Exterior fixed after the storm and completely finished

Large wooden planks to cover up the front and side

Sides open, roof can be rolled off

Cable management from the floor compartment to the mount

Close up of wheel, painted u-shape and lock

Separating the drainpipe

Warm room ready, left window can be covered

The 10″ Orion Optics Newton on the mount

Finished floor compartment, has wired ethernet (with internet access), separate powerline and a USB 3.0 hub.

Floor compartment closed

Working on the warm room

Closer view, magnets hold them in place

Close up of side

Everything done

The small refractor back on the mount

Frosty night

Ready for imaging, filterwheel turned up in order to prevent it from hitting the mount

Window covered with a black piece of skai leather, keeping light in the warm room

Guiding set up for the 10″ with Vixen VMC

Imaging equipment in place

(unfinished) Door to the warm room. Fans installed for ventilation, operated by switch on the door

Floor insulation for warm room

Framing the warm room

All power again below the floor

Floor at a higher level than the warm room

Insulation in the warm room

Covering the warm room

Interior walls finished

Window in place, only the floor needs to be done

Walls finished, I even decided to put wallpaper in the warm room

Window close up

Only the floor left to be done

Finished warm room