Backyard observatory

Colorado Observatory

In Astrophotography by Matt Shetzer

Colorado Sirius 3.5 meter Observatory

In November of 2020 I started to build my own backyard observatory. I found a dome that was imported from Australia and purchased it. It took 8 movers to take off the top so I could disassemble it. I then proceeded to dismantle the observatory and go through it with a fine tooth comb, fixing and adjusting all the parts.

In June of 2021 I designed the concrete pad, and had it poured so I could run all my cables under the floor. As I slowly gathered parts to complete the telescope, camera, filters, mount, etc, (during the Covid-19 pandemic and global shortage crisis). I was able to have first light in December of 2021.

During the summer of 2022, I worked on automating the observatory so I could control every aspect from my home. This automation included calibrations, scripted imaging, weather monitoring and full system start up and shut down. By automating many of the tasks normally performed in person, I was able to maximize my imaging time when my targets were in the right spots (and get a little more sleep).

This is certainly a work in progress, and as I continue to learn, I am modifying the system just about every day.

Below is the process of building the observatory.

Preparing the site in the Colorado Mountains at 7200 feet elevation and Bortles 2 dark skies

The pier foundation is 5 feet deep and full of rebar. The pier will bolt to those 4 bolts sticking out

The concrete form is in, and tracking installed to run all the wires underfoot.

All the concrete poured. Now to make sure the wildlife doesn’t walk through it tonight.

A little TLC for the Sirius 3.5 meter dome imported from Australia. Just some minor fiberglass work and making sure everything works as it should.

Assembly in the driveway to figure out the best orientation on the permanent site.

Full assembly of the dome and test lower and upper shutters.

Assemble base on the concrete pad and anchor the base in the concrete

Place the dome on the base with my little helper. This took 8 adults to lift the dome, walk up the hill, and put it safely on the base.

Assembly of first scope to be in the observatory, a Takahashi 106 FSQ4

Observatory project completed after a full year of planning, and now ready for clear skies.

Colorado Observatory was last modified: January 23rd, 2023 by Matt Shetzer