It is Christmas night and I am at work ensuring a supply of steam to the buildings and grounds. When I think of steam I think of moisture, humidity, accelerated oxidization. If you have rapid oxidization you have combustion, something I know a thing or two about! These are naturally occurring events which in time can damage your expensive electronic components. A means of controlling the environment of the observatory is a very important task.
I have been busy doing some research on observatory climate and equipment protection from the dangers of humidity/moisture. I found a great article written by Dr. P Clay Sherrod of Arkansas Sky Observatories. His years of experience with observatories and observatory construction is a wealth of information.
The importance of humidity/moisture control is an often overlooked item. I am glad I read Dr. Clay’s article and have to agree that a little expense and planning in the beginning beats the future expense of costly repairs to electronic equipment and optics. I have read horror stories on the LX 200 groups page of equipment damage due to moisture. I have an idea I will try once the observatory is up based upon methods we use in the industrial/utility boiler field for laying up boilers and turbines and protecting them from the harmful affects of moisture. I think this same general principle can be applied to the observatory, I will provide more information when I actually test my idea.
The observatory has not even been built; I have already ordered up a dehumidifier and various humidity monitoring stations with hi/lo humidity data tracking capabilities . It is better to plan early and be prepared for when the observatory becomes operational. Astronomy equipment and cameras represent a significant expense and one must ensure that equipment will be protected from moisture/humidity.
I also took the time to order some cosmetic items for the observatory which will be used frequently. An accurate clock with moon phase display and automatic time correction via satellite. In addition, I ordered up some sky charts for the walls and a nice print from Robert Gendler for some inspiration.
I am already into the initial phases of planning my pier design and building location. I do have access to a metal lathe, vertical milling machine, and welding equipment; currently contemplating building my own pier adapter plates. I think I may have some scrap pieces of pipe up to 8″ in diameter and extra heavy wall construction. The idea of constructing my own pier plates and pier sounds like a very likely proposition at this point in time.
I am in process of researching grounding strategies to protect the equipment within the observatory. Dr. Clay happens to be the authority on this with his many years of experience and has some great articles on this subject as well. My house sits on a small hill which is frequently hit by lightning, I am hoping a little preplanning will limit the risk of equipment damage due to lightning strikes and stray ground voltages. More to come on this subject matter.