The observatory dome is the 8 ft diameter Explora Dome. The dome is mounted to a 10ft diameter building with 2 by 4 construction, finished with white steel sheeting exterior. The walls are reinforced with heavy steel banding straps for structural rigidity. I have walked on the wooden ring, the ring and walls are quite strong. The flooring is 3/4 pressure treated plywood installed over 2 by 6 pressure treated lumber frame. The frame rests on concrete blocks which serve as an air gap and leveling aid. Plastic sheeting was placed under the dome area covered in stone to prevent moisture infiltration into the building.
I chose to make the walls in the observatory very tall, the dome top is approximately 12.5 feet off the ground. The height makes the dome area feel quite spacious. The height allows me to have the telescope mounted high within the dome and prevents me from walking into CGEM counterweight bar while walking around pier(common blindspot). The setup is primarily used for astrophotography, although visual use can be accomplished by using a small steppladder.
The steel pier was fabricated at home and is approximately 49 inches tall with an adjustable top plate added. The steel pier sits atop a 12 inch diameter concrete pier which extends 2 feet above the ground. The total height of pier is approximately 6 feet 1 inch. The concrete pier is buried 5.5 feet under ground and reinforced with rebar. The pier easily holds the larger 12 inch LX-200 GPS and has a very quick dampening time. The Celestron CGEM mount can be mounted to the top plate of the pier with a pier plate adapter bought from Dan’s Piers. The CGEM is the primary mount used in the observatory for astrophotography. I run the Celestron 800HD OTA attached to the CGEM mount, along with the Meade 80mm triplet APO attached piggybacked.
I installed a bench type seat in the dome for guests along with one workstation table. Storage shelves have been added to the dome area for all the accessories and cases. The dome is lit by an adjustable level red rope light located at ground level around the periphery of dome to illuminate walking path when viewing. This red rope light is dimmed to a very low level to allow seeing, while not interfering with imaging runs. I also installed an adjustable level white rope light located up higher to better illuminate area when working on telescopes and cabling. The dome floor is covered with an outdoor carpet.
A WIFI extender is located in the dome area which extends my home WIFI signal. I have several remote cameras with pan and zoom capabilities which are used to view the telescope from the control room while imaging. The cameras also function as security cameras which are motion activated and record and send video to a remote hard drive. The security software is set up to send email and phone call to my cell phone when motion is detected within the observatory. The camera feed can be remote accessed from my cell phone.