My personal observatory
After almost 30 years of astronomy carried out mainly "in the field", at the beginning of 2017 I started to consider the idea of creating a permanent location for shooting deep-sky images, in order to increase productivity without having to travel for hours looking for dark places (and every time mount/dismount all the setup).
My wife Laura, who has always supported me in this hobby even if she does not feel the charm of the starry sky, immediately encouraged me even for this new adventure ... and within a few months, in November 2017, the Kamil observatory was born, which takes its name from our daughter Camilla.
Later, thanks to the incomparable technical, manual and moral help of my friend Lucio Tellini, the observatory was also remotized and in June 2018 I made the first shot remotely from my home.
But let's go into detail.
The observatory is located in Val D’Aosta (a northern region of Italy in the Alps mountain), near Promiod village, at 1,450 m above sea level; this place has been home to a lively astrophotography community for some years.
The quality of the sky is good: the typical SQM value at the zenith is 21.4 mag / arcs2 but often values of 21.5 / 21.6 are reached.
The observatory structure is a steel metal construction called "Tecnoshelter", sold by the Italian company Tecnosky.
It is a square of 2.1x2.1m (external dimensions) with a sloping sliding roof. The floor consists of two plywood boards resting on a metal frame raised above the ground. The two axes must then be cut in the center in order to have the space to pass a column that will then be fixed to the concrete pad.
The assembly of the Tecnoshelter structure requires one working day; the most complicated part is the assembly of the sliding roof and its adjustment, works that in my case were carried out directly by Tecnosky under the supervision of my friend Lucio Tellini.
Another half day was used to install the column. The iron column was built and installed by 10Micron (it is the standard column for the GM2000 mount): it is anchored to the concrete pitch by 8 plugs.
While I installed the observatory, I had the opportunity to buy a caravan entrance from a friend at a good price: this house was then positioned in front of the observatory and suitably adapted to make it the control room, completed with bed, refrigerator and microwave oven in order to manage all the instrumentation comfortably in the heat and no longer in the car and in the cold as done for many years...
Observatory and house were installed at the end of September 2017 and in November 2017 they were fully operational.
Free area before installation of my observatory
Observatory fully assembled
Work in progress for the installation of the GM2000 column
Panoramic view with roof of observatory open and control house on the right
The next step was to implement remote management, which required another 5 months of work and Lucio's fundamental help (I would never have done it without him!)
Let's see in detail how remotization has been implemented.
The internet connection is via a mobile network and a normal 4G router with a SIM card, located inside the house.
The quality of the signal is for the moment quite good so it was not necessary to install an antenna. The router is connected to a device capable, through a further SIM, of deactivating and restoring the power supply to the router itself, so as to remotely reset the router by simply calling the SIM telephone number.
A buried network cable goes from the router to the observatory; an ethernet switch allows to distribute the signal to the various equipment connected to the network, that is:
- an indoor camera, placed inside the observatory, to see at any time the position of the telescope and the correct opening/closing of the roof
- the pc for shooting management (in my case an i5 with 8GB of RAM and 250GB of SSD)
- the GM2000 HPS II mount
- two relay boxes to activate / deactivate the power supply to the various equipment
The first relay box, which I called the "relay box service" manages the opening / closing of the roof, an internal LED light (useful if you have to do tests with the roof closed), the reset of the internal camera, a wall-mounted heater towards the roof (to facilitate the melting of the snow deposited on the roof or simply to avoid the formation of ice) and the switching on / off of a heating cable placed along the roof guides (to prevent them from freezing in winter with possible problems with roof closure after a night of work)
The second relay box, which I called the "mount relay box", manages the switching on / off of the mount, of the ccd, of the pc, of the focuser and of the anticondensation band placed on the secondary mirror.
Another device connected to the router is an outdoor camera (physically positioned above the roof of the house) which allows you to see the roof from above before opening it.
For the flat I installed on the wall a luminous panel (made by Artesky), which can be activated directly from the PC.
The connection to the equipments (remotely when I work from my home or locally when I work from the house next to the observatory) takes place via Teamviewer or Anydesk.
As sw for the management of all the shooting phases I chose Voyager by Starkeeper.it.
View on flat panel, internal camera, heater and relay box "services"
View on pc and switch box (both connected to a wood panel which surround the column)
GSO RC12 on 10Micron GM2000 mount