I went through a long and arduous design process, at various times thinking about extreme changes from Starwood Observatory. At various times these included:

  • A slightly raised roll-off observatory, with our garden shed filling in the open gantry of the roof run.
  • A two-storey observatory, with a split roof like Starwood. This would allow me to cantilever the roof rails, without a run, and have a warm room under the observatory. I gave up on this after trying to imagine building a tall cinder block pier to support the Dob, and to imagine how to explain this to Utah's Permit Mafia.
  • A dome. This was inspired by Tom Dey's polygonal dome design originally featured in Telescope Making No. 18 in 1982. The dome design is extremely simple and can be broken down and moved! I wrote a Mathematica notebook to scale it up to 20' diameter dome with an 8 foot wide observing slot. Ultimately I abandoned this notion because I thought I'd miss the open sky, and no one could observe in the dome with me with another telescope.
  • A deck with a high stockade fence. After Googling around, we found this was not a new idea. Phil Harrington's Starwatcher Observatory is an inspiring example of this approach. I had settled on moving my scope rather than moving the shed, since I reasoned taking off the wheelie bars would be just as much work as unbolting all the observatory skirts, and I could make the shed more weather tight if it didn't have to move. Ultimately I abandoned this idea for two reasons: (1) Snow removal would be onerous in Utah in the winter, and (2) I still had to permit it, and if I was going to go through all of that with the Utah Permit Mafia, I might as well have a proper roofed observatory.
So I settled on a proper roll-off roof design (greatly aided this time by John Hick's book, Building a Roll-Off Roof Observatory [Springer, 2009 -- Amazon], part of Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy series). I've submitted the plans to the town of Paradise, and will meet their planning board in late October 2009. Until then, here are various planning pages I've produced about the design.
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