Darin E. Fields' Astrophotography Pages

Observatory Updates

Interior Wall Construction: As the first winter for the observatory approached, I constructed a temporary interior wall out of 1.5 warm wall" insulation board (about R4 rated). This small modification served to block light from the computer and keep the cold somewhat at bay. With a small space heater, the temperature in the "computer room" stayed about 10 degrees above the ambient temperature outside. That success persuaded me to consider a more permanent solution. In the fall of 2002, I decided to frame a wall and insulate the interior of the "control room." I used standard R19 insulation and 1/4" masonite as the interior wall covering. I also added an interior roof made of "warm wall" foam insulation. This interior roof is removable for warmer weather (though I have yet to do so this summer). With these modifications, the computer/control room now stays roughly 20 to 25 degrees F above the outside temperature (using the small space heater), which meant last winter that it was still darn cold in the "warm room" when it was 15 below zero. Overall this has been a significant improvement to the space, and apart from the small hassle in focusing by not being able to see the computer screen directly while focusing (now alleviated by the Optec), I actually prefer having the space separated since it also allows for a storage space less prone to dew and exposure.

Remote operation: Another significant improvement to the observatory was running CAT 5 networking cable to the computer. Coupled with VNC running on the machines, I can remotely operate the observatory computer from the desktop in the house. Maxim DL/CCD controls everything (Camera, Scope, Focuser). Once operating, I frequently spend much of my time inside the house--particularly in the winter. This may sound wimpy, but I can honestly say that my family appreciates and enjoys my astrophotography much more when I'm inside, and my wife no longer makes comments about my "retiring" to my clubhouse or being a recluse. In the warmer weather I still spend a good bit of time outside, but in the winter I see no virtue in sitting outside in the cold when I can relax in the house while those long exposure accrue.