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Site Survey

We were living in South Ogden when we first moved to Utah, but Michelle immediately got a job in Logan. Since Cache Valley is far less populated, and reminds us of home in Gallatin Valley, we started looking for houses there.

Our realtors (Ron & Linda Bexell, from Ogden) were great -- they went with us to Cache Valley pretty much every weekend. We looked at 47 houses between September 2006 and February 2007 before we found one we liked. Each time we'd leave a house, they'd ask us "So what'd you think?" and we'd say, "We'll let you know tomorrow." That night, I'd get back in the car, and drive from South Ogden to Cache Valley with my binoculars to do some stargazing near the new house, and assess how dark the skies were.

Ultimately, we purchased a home in Paradise, Utah, south of Logan. The house is on about 1.4 acres, with few trees. The skies are fantastically dark, a fact we noticed the first night we stayed there -- the stars were blazing in the bedroom window! There is quite a bit of light tresspass, mostly from neighbors with huge amounts of exterior lighting on their houses. I can see large light domes to the south from Ogden/Salt Lake, and a large one to the north from Logan. The east is fantastically dark. The most serious obstacle to siting the observatory on the property was putting it somewhere so it didn't block views of the surrounding countryside we liked!


Horizon Panoramas

Without any large trees to deal with, I didn't worry too much about working out the horizon limitations -- the observatory itself would provide the limiting cutoffs. There is one large tree to the east next to my neighbors garage (full of classic cars), but objects will rise out from behind it. Below are two horizon panoramas stitched together in Photoshop. These were taken from a point about 60 feet east of the true observatory site (which is due south of the house, visible in the middle of the panoramas). These are used for the horizons in my planetarium software (Starry Night for the moment; if Bisque ever gets The Sky X - Pro out, I'll look at it), so once the observatory is built, I'll make new panoramas from inside.

Winter
Panorama
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Spring
Panorama
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Pre-Build
Panorama
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Observatory Cutoffs

When I was building Starwood Observatory I wrote a program that took as input the lengths and heights of the observtory walls, the locations of peaks along the observatory walls and the telescope dimensions, and produced as output the altitude and azimuth of the cutoffs seen from inside the observatory. The cutoff data is expressed as azimuth E of N and altitude above horizontal. Here is the file for the current design (tab-delimited, UNIX linefeeds), and graphical representations of the results. This is for 48" tall walls E-S-W, 6-foot tall corners at the ends of the N wall, and a 9-foot high peak in the center of the N wall.

DatafileHorizon PlotPolar Projection Plot
dat_sboCutoffs.txt cutoffs thumb polar cutoffs thumb


Site Preparation

Site preparation started 17 October 2009. Sited on the back field of tall brome grass on our property, the first stage of the game was to clear grass.

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On the cleared area, the corners were staked out and squared up, the central pad for the scope was located and the pit for the concrete pierpad dug.

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