Under Construction – The Dome

In the previous post we talked about the search for the dome and its technical spec.

Now we got the dome delivered and started with the construction of. We ordered the dome without professional construction and setup, since we’d like to do this on our own.

The first major problem we encountered, was the delivery to the observatory site. As mentioned in “A project begins – And who drives it” the site is quite remote in the alps, and therefore we do not have a highway up to the front door of the observatory 😉 … it is more like a very steep and winding farm track, only used by the local farmers with their tractors.

So the delivery vehicle made it to the first hairpin bend and got stuck! Fortunately, the local farmer helped us out and towed the delivery truck and its trailer with his tractor up to the observatory.

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The tractor pulling the delivery up the hill. On the trailer you can see the tightly packed parts of our dome. (Photo by Johannes Stübler, 09.08.2018 )

The farmer also helped us with his tractor to unload the delivery, since the parts were quite huge (4m x 2.5m, barley road legal).

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Unloading the delivery truck. (Photo by Johannes Stübler, 09.08.2018 )

On the next day, with quite bad weather, we started to mount the dome drive ring to the concrete dome base. This was quite a tricky installation, since the parts have to fit together perfectly, and they also have to be adjusted perfectly to guarantee a smooth dome turn afterwards. So we need to adjust some parts. The base ring construction did take some days – it was the most complicated part in dome construction.

As the dome base ring, with its lower stationary part, and the upper rotating part was completed (see image below), we started with the actual dome construction.

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The finished dome base ring, the upper part rotates. (Photo by Johannes Stübler, 12.08.2018)

Since the individual parts are 8mm fiberglass, they were quite heavy, and we needed a lot of man power to move them around. To make us the life easier, we decided to build the dome on the concrete place in front of the observatory, and then lift it up and bolt it to the base ring.

The dome will become really stable only after it is finished, and so it was a challenge to hold the parts in place until they are bolted together. Luckily we had a lot helpers and so we managed to build the dome in one single day!

This was also necessary, because we had ordered the crane for the next day to lift the dome to its end position on the observatory.

The observatory got its dome on 18.08.2018 and was now so far built to start with the interior fittings.

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The final result and a little topping-out ceremony. (Photo by Günther Truhlar, 18.08.2018)

On the same day, we also did our first dry run, and hooked up the dome to a powerline, installed its electronics and fired it up: it moves quite well and smooth! So the dome is ready for operation.

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Our tech guys setting up the dome electronics. (Photo Johannes Stübler, 18.08.2018)

There is still a lot of work to do, so stay tuned for more!

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Tech – The Dome

After starting the KRO project, we had to decide how we would like to build our observatory, or to be precise the “telescope room”. Since our partner in this project, the “Sternfreunde Steyr”, already had a dome there, we also decide to go with a dome (to not break the overall look of the observatory site).

So the big task of searching for a dome manufacturer began. Since the KRO will be a fully remote controlled site, the dome had to fulfill some needs:

  • Size – since our telescope is quite large, we needed at least a 4m dome
  • fully remote controllable (via PC)
  • ASCOM compatible

After some search we found a manufacturer in Poland, which builds such domes for a quit reasonable price. And better, they already built and installed 4m domes for professional observatories in Chile, Namibia and several other quite remote locations. The company is named “ScopeDome“.

It was immediately clear that we would go with a 4m dome. So we get in touch with the company and ordered a rough technical drawing, so that we can test (at least on paper) if our telescope will fit (They also send us some pictures of their projects).

 

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The images on the left side are showcasing some of ScopeDomes 4m domes in Chile (Photos by ScopeDome). On the right side we have a technical drawing of the 4m dome with our telescope fitted into it (Drawing by Johann Bachlmayr)

The most important feature, is of course, the ability to remote control the dome. This is possible through the quite comprehensive software package. With this software, running on the telescope server, we are able to fully control the dome over a remote connection.

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Screenshots of the main screens of the ScopeDome controll software. (Screenshots by Johannes Stübler)

After checking all parameters, we ordered a 4m dome for the KRO project in the first half of this year. Some weeks later, we got a huge delivery – all the components of our new dome. It was like Christmas 🙂 …

In the next period of fine weather, we started with the assembly of the dome, which we will discuss in Under Construction – The Dome.

Under Construction – Observatory Construction

It is now quite some time ago, since we posted our last update on the Kepler Remote project. But we weren’t deedless in the meantime. We manged to build an almost finished observatory which will become the home of KRO telescope.

As mentioned in the previous post A project begins – And who drives it we found a really good spot, and started to build an infrastructure there in cooperation with the “Sternfreunde Steyr”. The Sternfreunde Steyr, already built a hut and a dome last year.

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The hut and the dome of the observatory site, built by the Sternfreunde Steyr. On the right, there is already the base for their second dome. The free spot on the left (covered in snow) will be the place where the  KRO is built. (Photo by the Sternfreunde Steyer)
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The read area will be the future construction site for the KRO. (Photo by Johannes Stübler, 06.06.2018)

As the spot for the KRO was now defined, we started with the excavation. Digging into the soil was easier than first thought, and therefore the actual construction of the observatory building could begin.

The KRO building mainly consists of two parts (two floors):

  • The maintenance room/Sever room which houses the telescope electronics and provides some storage space too (ground floor).
  • The dome with the instrument itself (first floor).

The building is built entirely of concrete, since it also functions as the base for the telescope itself. The KRO is a remote observatory and therefore we do not need separated bases (during operation nobody should be in the building) for the building and the telescope, but the building had to be quite strong.

The building is now more or less finished, and just waits for the arrival of the dome. The dome construction, placement on the observatory building and dome description will be discussed in “Tech – The Dome”.

A project begins – What we want to do

For a long time the 0.6m f/3.3 reflector Telescope was used to hunt minor planets. And successfully so!
In cooperation with Herbert Raab (and his “Astrometrica” software) the LAG members Erich Meyer and Erwin Obermair discovered 27 minor Planets (from 1996 to 2005). But in recent years the Teleskope lay dormant, partly due to the fact that robotic telescopes where far better suited for a sky survey and partly due to other projects the operators started.

In January 2018  we, the LAG (Linzer Astronomische Gemeinschaft), bought the Telescope.

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The 60cm Deltagraph, the designer of the mount Ing. Pressberger (Center) and the Telescope Owners, left Ing. Erich Meyer and right Erwin Obermair.
(Picture: Vereinschronik/LAG)

A major problem is the very aged Telescope Control that only worked with MS-DOS. Thus it is time for an Upgrade!

Our Goal and Motivation is to create a remote observatory in the darkest and thus for astrophotography best part of Upper Austria. The intermediate goal is to modernize the Telescope Control, enable remote operation and of course move the Telescope from its current location, Davidschlag, to its new Home in a 4m Dome at the observatory outpost “South”.
In the long run we plan a fully robotic operation of the telescope and make the pictures available for LAG Members, Sternfreunde Steyr Members and interested 3rd Parties.

Additionally in cooperation with the “Sternfreunde Steyr“ we want to create a night light protected area, a STAR PARK.

Stay tuned for our next update on the specs of the Telescope.

A project begins – And who drives it

The project outline

“Kepler Remote” is a project started by the Kepler Observatory and is powered by the  Linzer astronomical society (Linzer Astronomische Gemeinschaft, LAG). The target is to install a remote telescope on one of the darkest places in Upper Austria.

The remote observatory project is dedicated towards the well-known German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler, who was active in Linz from 1612 to 1627 and found Keplers third law there. This is why the project is called “Kepler Remote”. The observatory will be named “Kepler Remote Observatory” or just KRO.

The people behind the Kepler Observatory and KRO

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Kepler memorial in at the “Linzer Schlossberg” (Photo by Herbert Raab)

The Linzer astronomical society mainly consists of amateur astronomers and was founded in 1947 in Linz, Upper Austria. The main goal of the society is to spread astronomical knowledge in the public. To accomplish this, we built the Kepler Observatory directly in Linz, which has been open to the public since 1983. We offer public night sky observations, sun observations, talks related to astronomy and courses for beginners (For more information on our offers please visit our webpage www.sternwarte.at).

The Kepler Observatory lies quite idyllically in the center of the arboretum of Linz on the Freinberg. Since this location is ideal to be reached by the public, it is not so ideal for observations due to quite high light pollution.

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Johannes Kepler Observatory – in the arboretum of the city Linz (Photo by Herbert Raab)
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The ISS above the Kepler Observatory in Linz (Photo by Herbert Raab)

To overcome this, the Kepler Observatory now subsist two observatory outposts:

The observatory outpost “North” in Gramastetten and the new remote observatory outpost “South”, which should be presented (and its creation) in this blog.

Observatory outpost “North”

The observatory outpost “North” is mainly used by our visual observers, however we have also the possibility to take astro-photos with the instruments available at the site. The light pollution is far less than in Linz, but since Linz itself is south of this observing place, it is not that ideal for scientific work and comprehensive deep sky imaging. Therefore we found the observatory outpost “South”.

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The two “domes” and two mounting poles of the observatory outpost “North” in Gramstetten (Photo by Johannes Stübler)

The project location – Observatory outpost “South”

The observatory outpost “South” is located at one of the darkest places found in Upper Austria, in the wonderful foothills of the Alps, north of the national park “Kalkalpen” and north-west of the national park “Gesäuse” in about 1105m above see level.

The nearest bigger cities in the south and east are Graz (284.000 inhabitants, 120km south/east), Klagenfurt (100.000 inhabitants, 145km south) and Vienna (1.9 Mio. inhabitants, 150 km east) . In the north direction we have Linz (203.000 inhabitants, 45km north) and Steyr (38.000 inhabitants, 15km north). In the west direction we mainly have the Alps and Salzburg (152.000 inhabitants, 100km west).

Since more or less the whole Alps are between the observatory and the cities, the light is well shielded by the mountains.

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The tremendous night sky at the remote observatory location – looking towards the national park “Gesäuse” (Photo by Rudi Dobesberger)

Due to the fact of a wonderful night sky with low light pollution, we decided to build a remote observatory for scientific research and deep-sky imaging there.

This blog, should now provide you some insights in the construction and technical realization of this very special remote observatory in the Alps of Austria.

So stay tuned for our next update and gain knowledge on the instrument we plan to use and what we want to do exactly at this extraordinary observing place.