The Lost Valley Observatory
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The following pages summarize the construction of The Lost Valley Observatory.  This observatory is a part of Sierra Remote Observatories and therefore the construction of each is linked. 
 
 
















                                     Click on Images to Enlarge

RCOS-16/Paramount Me and PT-III

Crated at Pier-Tech
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When the MAS observatory was closed I made an important decision.  I kept the RCOS-16 attached to the Paramount MAE for transport.  The image above shows the RC-16 on it's Paramount ME, sitting behind the Pier-Tech III.  It was transported in a crate across the country, and made it undamaged.  The gentleman on the right is one of the 3 Sierra Remote Observatory partners, Greg Morgan.  He is wondering how we are going to lift 300 plus poinds of telescope onto the observatory and why I didn;t just take the thing apart.  My answer was that it was just too much work!  However, I would not recommend anyone else transport theirn telescope this way.  I was very fortunate that the telescope or paramount ME were not damaged. 
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The New Image Train

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I've made a major change in how I will be imaging.  The camera is still the SBIG STL-6303.  However, since I will be viewing in better skies, I have attached an AO-L, which should improve my "seeing" by about 0.2 to 0.5 arc-sec (according to data from the SBIG site and others I have talked with).  The AO-L will be autoguiding in FRONT of the filters using Don AGoldmans MOAG ( http://www.astrodon.com/ ).  The imaging camera will be the remote guiding head.  It is NOT an optimal guiding chip, but MUST be used if one is to use the AO-L.  Previously I used the SBIG 402-XME, which has an 80% larger chip and higher QE (even at a 3000+ FL I never had to hunt for guide stars).  To help make up for this, I've added an custom 2" FL FLR  lens in front of the remote guiding head, and have a FOV increase of about  40% (making the FOV similar to the 402XME, with guiding and imaging at different FLs, which, though not theoretically optimal,  does not seem to degrade performance based on the experience of others).  I have treid to convince SBIG to find a way to use the AO-L with the 402-XME (the ideal guiding camera), but so far no luck (technical issues have made this impossible thus far).
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Layout of Observatories

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This shows the rough layout for the observatories.  Mine (the Lost Valley Observatory) will be the second from the upper left. The site has power, T1 internet and the observatories will be roll off roof design.  We have created an number of innovative safety features (to prevent the roof from damging the telescope), and will have a real time cloud sensor, seeing monitor (SBIG) and on site web cameras.  The site is unique as it is accessable year round, has dark skies with little to no wind, over 300 photometric nights each year and average "seeing" of 1.5 arc seconds (SBIG monitor), with sub arc-second seeing occuring at varying times of the night.    
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Putting it Back Together

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Now this is great.  We've got the RCOS-16/Paramount ME up onto the Pier-Tech III, which is on WHEELS.  I got the 800 lb rated doly from Lowes and reinforced it.  Now I can re-attach all the cameras (and some new gizmos I'll be discussing), test the entire assembly and then roll it into a truck and deleiver it to the "soon to be built" observatory.  A bit unorthadox, but definately a great (?) way to get everything working.  The gentleman on the right is the 2nd of the 3 founders of SRO, Mel Helm (the other two founders are greg Morgan and myslef).  Unlike myself, Mel actually builds his scopes, software and hardware, from the ground up. 
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Pier Tech Tele Station 2

observatory.crated.dec.2006.jpg

For an observatory I chosed the Pier Tech Telestation 2 ( http://www.pier-tech.com/ ).  These appear to be well made and I was able to talk Vito (owner and creator) to build one 10 x 10 ft in size (my minimal specifications, allowing for a potentially larger scope in the future and a bit of walk around room).  The observatory comes with a roll-off roof which does NOT require rails in the back and comes motorized and with the necessary software to control the roof and, in my case, the Pier Tech III (for raising the telescope).  I have always preferred the roll-off roof design for its thermal properties.  The only issue is a bit of common sense on the users part (don't close the roof on the telescope !!).  The crates contain the easy to install "kit" (walls and motor installed).  The crates were huge, over 12 x 10 foot and 2 weighed 700 lbs and one weighed 300 lbs.  Peeking in the crates, as far as I've gotten so far, the quality appears excellent.   As I will describe the observatory, as designed, works well (flawlessly) in three season conditions, but can not handle heavy snow loads (the roof can, and did, invert and collapse onto my telescope in 2008 (no damage done to my increadibly hardy RCOS, fortunately).  Evidently Vito is designing a peaked roof option to help avoid this problem. 
 
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Loading the Observatory

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Just for kicks, this was the only way we could get the large crates with the observatory components up to the observatory (future customers will have smaller crates and will have other options).  The crates were well built and the plan was to slide them off the end of the tow truck on the other end (2 of them weighed over 700 lbs). 
 
 
 
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What A Mess...

attaching.stuff.garage.jpg

Now the fun begins.  As will be seen I've made a few changes since the scope was in Maine, the main one bing the addition of the AO-L and Don Goldman's "MOAG", an OAG designed to work with the AOL but putting the OAG in FRONT of the filters.   More about this later.  The image nicely depicts the amount of work which goes into putting something like this back together.  
 
 
 
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Sierra Remote Observatories

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Several months before moving back to California I began talking with 2 avid astrophotographers, Dr. Greg Morgand and Dr. Mel Helm.  From those discussions a dream was hatched, "Sierra Remote Observatories".  Initially we had hoped to find a spot of clear dark seeing for our own telescopes (which we have done).  But the "dream" has grown, with 12 observatoies having been constructed and more construction to come.  Information about our remote site can be found at www.sierra-remote.com .  If you have an interest in remote astrophography in a clear, dark and accessible part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain, this might be of interest to you.  At any rate, this is the home for the Lost Valley Observatory. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Delivery by "Bull Dog Towing"

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The idea worked well.  They slid off smoothly.  For anyone with a large observatory packed in large crates I'd recommend you keep this method in mind, especially if you don't have a forklift on the other fend of the trip. 
 
 
 
 
 
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