We are interested in backyard astronomy, and our new house is located in an area of fairly dark skies, with enough land to allow clearing about an acre to build an observatory with a 30° horizon. Our former observatory was squeezed into a quarter-acre clearing, and the surrounding tall trees severely limited the view. These photos show the former observatory. The new one will be similar, but slightly larger, and will have lap siding.
This is an example of our astronomy photography. Click here to visit our astronomy website with additional images and equipment details (opens in a new browser window; close it to come back here).
Here is the Clear Sky Chart for the new location.
During construction of the new house, Dennis, our general contractor, is using a portion of the observatory area to burn the trees removed during clearing of the house site and driveway. This photo shows the burn pile and the future observatory site. It's hard to believe that this area will be completely clear in a few months.
The new observatory will be named Hundred Oaks Observatory for obvious reasons.
Mike, Louise, and daughter Miranda marked trees to be removed from the observatory area. Mike sighted through a theodolite set to 30° to identify the too-tall trees, then Louise and Miranda sprayed orange marking paint on them.
Dennis dug this trench from the house to the observatory for power, water, and Ethernet.
Louise and Mike laid the power and connectivity cables in the trench from the house to the observatory area. This photo shows the post holding water and electrical power after Dennis backfilled the trench, with the connectivity cable service head in the foreground.
In February, we hired workers to clear additional trees because the original clearing left a horizon that was higher than 30° in too many places. Today Dennis began burning those trees.
Dennis finished the burning, and graded the observatory clearing yesterday. The left photo shows the burning in progress. Compare the right photo, where most of the pile has been comsumed, and only a couple of stumps remain. This photo gives a sense of the local horizon looking north and east. The observatory will be located down the gentle slope behind and to the left of the ash pile. A garden will be planted to the right of the pile.
Our planning and work to get a 30° horizon paid off. This photo is a 360° panorama from the observatory position, and shows the horizon the telescope will see. The north, northeast, and northwest horizons are more obstructed than we had hoped, but overall, the view is much better than at the former site.
Here is the new horizon compared to our former site. The expanded viewing area is dramatic.