Dark Ridge Observatory Construction

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Dark Ridge Observatory is constantly under construction. You can follow the efforts here.
Be sure to check back often as updates happen occasionally . The work takes presidence over the photo gallery update however so it might be some time between updates.


Below is the on-going historical records of the construction effort at the Dark Ridge Observatory showing the most recent work on top.



The DRO Construction (click the image for a larger view)
3/8/2009 Morgan partial assembly The OTA structure was hoisted up and installed on the mount.
2/29/2009 Morgan relocated Unloading the Morgan telescope into its new home.
2/29/2009 Morgan relocated The Morgan telescope was transported on my 14 foot flatbed trailer and towed with my tractor.
2/29/2009 Morgan relocated The Morgan telescope was relocated into the observatory with the help of lots of friends.
2/20/2009 Morgan observatory building complete Following the observatory construction the Morgan telescope is to be placed inside for safe storage and for rebuilding.
10/19/2008 Roll-off roof supports close-up This is a close-up view of the pipes that will be the rail supports for the DRO 20" and the Morgan 24" roll-off observatory roofs. The pipes walls are about 3/4" thick and each 6 foot section weighs in around 120 pounds.
10/19/2008 The 20" and Morgan 24" roll-off roof supports The Rails for both the DRO 20" and the Morgan 24" roll-offs will be supported by these pipes. They area actually drill pipes from the oil fields that I will use as rail support posts.
10/19/2008 The 26" Concrete pier This is a photo of the 26" concrete pier under the flooring of the new roll-off. The pier is poured to a depth of about 2 feet below ground level and the rebar structure is drilled into the bedrock making it an extension of the mountain itself. "Rock-solid" comes to mind!
10/19/2008 Inside and the pier stub Here you can see the steel pier stub that is bolted to the 26" concrete pier below and not touching the roll-off floor.
10/19/2008 Close up of the new Roll-off This is just a closer view of the new roll-off construction.
10/19/2008 Work area and Roll-offs The concrete slab of the DRO 20" is a very convenient area to work. Here is a view of the three DRO telescope locations as they will be laid out.
10/19/2008 Walls but no roof The pier, floor and walls have all been constructed and the next step is to install the rails, rollers and then build the roof in place.
10/19/2008 View from the Morgan slab (2) This is the same spot as before but with the edge of the control room visible for orientation.
10/19/2008 View from the Morgan slab This is the view of the two 8' X 8' roll-off observatories as seen from the exact location that the Morgan 24" Cassegrain will be mounted.
10/19/2008 Two in view Looking out the "dirty" control room window you can see the existing 14" LX200GPS roll-off and the start of construction for the 14" LX200R roll-off. Also in the background is the slab where the DRO 20" RC will be built.
4/20/08 Telescope monitoring Each of the observatory buildings will contain a video and audio monitoring system. Here is a view of the first roll-off and telescope as seen on the video monitor.
4/20/08 Fully functional 14" deux Another shot of the first fully equipped and functional  14" LX200GPS telescope.
4/20/08 Fully functional 14" Here is the first fully equipped and functional 14" LX200GPS telescope.
4/20/08 Roll-off from control room This is a closer view of what can be seen from sitting at the workstation desk looking to the west and over to the first roll-off.
4/20/08 Roll-off from control room This perspective is what can be seen from sitting at the workstation desk looking to the west and over to the first roll-off.
4/17/08 Drop wall detail The drop wall close-up is shown here minus the mechanical operator.
4/17/08 Roll-off w/ drop wall Here is the drop wall, south side, of the roll-off. Its function will be automated but mechanical only without any electrical needs.
4/17/08 Roll-off and control room This view shows the control room and the roll-off. Below and covered with a tarp is the concrete pedestal for the DRO 20" RC.
4/17/08 Scope This view shows the telescope as it will be with the roof rolled back as shown.
4/17/08 Electronics Although not in their mounted positions, this is all the electronics that is housed in the roll-off. An Ethernet-to-USB 5-port server, an Ethernet-to-serial server, an Ethernet hub and not shown is the Labjack system that will control the roof operation and other interlock and control functions.
4/17/08 14" in roll-off The first 14" SCT is mounted on its wedge inside the first roll-off and in a stored position.
3/29/08 View outside This is a view from inside the completed control room looking to the south. A small 8" LX200R with SBIG ST-402 CCD camera is being used as a testing platform for a DIMM seeing monitor and is stored inside the control room.
3/29/08 Server equipment This is the electronics room in the control room. the computer equipment needed to operate four independent telescope observatories and network nodes is stored here.
3/29/08 Staging equipment Inside the control room there is shelving and equipment for use in the roll-off as well as the control room proper is being staged.
3/29/08 Inside w/ pier This view is looking into the roll-off and to the south. The pier extension is visible raising the telescope to a level capable of reaching down to under 30 degrees above the horizon in all directions.
3/29/08 Rails close-up Here is a closer view of the "C" channel that holds the roof rollers captured.
3/29/08 Roof rails The roof rails are made of "C" channel, similar to the unistrut material. There are four roller wheels on each side and they are fully captured in the "C" channels.
3/29/08 Roof extended The roof frame is extended to the north as it will be positioned during operations.
3/29/08 Scope pier The pier for the first telescope is visible beneath the floor of the roll-off. This will house one of the two 14" SCTs.
3/29/08 1st Roll-off The first roll-off observatory has the walls complete and the roof structure framed out.
3/9/08 Computer rack This is the observatory computer rack and network equipment. Four independently controlled observatories will use these computers.
3/9/08 Control workstation This is a photo showing the workstation on the west wall of the control room. From this workstation all observatories will be controllable.
3/9/08 8X8 perspective In this image I (Tom smith) amd standing on top of the floor of the first 8' X 8' roll-off building.
3/9/08 Floor & Pier The floor and a close-up of the pier beneath are visible here for the first roll-off.
3/9/08 Floor Complete The floor of the first roll-off observatory is complete.
1/23/08 First Light Friend and electrician, Pat Turrie, give me a thrill as he shows me the control rooms "First Light"!
1/23/08 Powering up The power meter is installed and the control room is not "hot".
1/23/08 Stringing the line The power cable is being hooked into the existing 14.4 KV lines and feeds a separate transformer and meter at the control room.
1/23/08 The Co-Op The day for power to the control room finally arrived. None too soon as there is a lot of work ahead.
12/4/07 1st pier complete The first of many piers has been poured. This one will hold one of the 14" SCTs in an 8' X 8' roll-off observatory.
12/3/07 1st pier pour-ready The first telescope pier is ready to pour.
12/3/07 Electric meter box The electrical is complete inside and out and the meter box is ready for hookup.
12/3/07 Crawl space access There is a craw space access from the electronics room.
12/3/07 Sheet rock The inside of the control room has been sheet rocked and ready for paint.
11/10/07 Inside wiring complete The inside and outside wiring are now complete and ready for inspection. The interior door that separates the control area and the electronics room is installed.
11/10/07 Trim and tight The trim is complete and the control room is now dried in and ready for the coming snow. Paint has been applied to the exterior.
10/19/07 Electrical ground The control room electrical ground rods have been installed. The rocks were a bear but finally gave to the hydraulic hammer.
10/19/07 Doors and windows cont. A view of the west side window that will look out onto the various observatory buildings.
10/19/07 Doors and windows The doors and windows have all been installed and that much closer to being dried in.
10/14/07 Shingling complete Roofing shingles are installed. The weather was a bit cooler than expected and the tar strips on the shingles havenít set well.
10/11/07 Roofing and power The roofing material is being installed. Visible is the electrical weather head that is what the local power company will need to tie me into the grid once the internal wiring is finished and inspected. And now we wait for our tune in the install queue!
10/11/07 Hail and wind It seems that nature can do some pretty interesting things. Here you see the results of a "micro-tornado" as I call it. The corn crop was completely wiped out and the hail took out the greens beans and more.
9/25/07 Electrical layout The electrical outlets and switches are laid out and ready for the electricians.
9/22/07 Eves and soffit The eves and soffits are being installed.
9/21/07 Roof vent gap In order for the roof to breath and exhaust the hot air of the summer a 1-1/2" gap has been left at the apex of the roof. I got this idea from an expensive ridge cap that was sold at a "local" hardware store 50 miles away.
9/21/07 Fire blocks Fire blocks are installed inside all the walls at 48" height above the floor. I hope these aren't needed either!
9/21/07 Coming together The control room is starting to take shape and soon will be dried in and protected from the elements.
9/21/07 Roof sheeting installed The sheeting for the roof has been installed, again with the help of my "favorite tool". Lifting the sheets in the tractor bucket made the job easier but it was still a challenge with the winds blowing.
9/11/07 Looking up Here you can see the truss sections and the crawl space that will provide access for wiring and some storage.
9/11/07 Hurricane straps A close-up of the hurricane straps that secure the trusses to the walls. I sure hope they are not needed and just overkill on my part.
9/11/07 Trusses up This is a view of all the trusses installed and ready for roofing material.
9/10/07 Trusses complete All the trusses are installed and fastened with hurricane straps.
9/10/07 Trusses staged An inside view of the staged trusses.
9/10/07 Trusses Staging the roof trusses helps as they are quite heavy and awkward to handle alone.
9/10/07 Trusses and rain Placing the roof trusses on in between down pours. What a joy!
9/7/07 Bolted walls The wall sections are all bolted securely to the flooring.
9/7/07 Vapor barrier The entire control room is wrapped with a vapor barrier material to allow breathing but no moisture.
9/7/07 Sheeting Wall sheeting being installed.
9/2/07 Other fronts Along with all the construction on the observatory I had to take time to construct our garden. There is no soil up here, to speak of, so I had to construct the raised beds and fill them with composted horse manure. The garden is a real producer though. The fence keeps the deer and elk away from their potential dinner.
9/2/07 Screws not nails Every board in the construction will be fastened with screws not nails. Nails loosen up over time with heating and moisture contraction and expansion and I don't want that to happen here.
9/2/07 A fork in the road Having made me really tired driving the trailer and truck around the shop and onto the shop road I decided I needed a better way to get my supplies out to the observatory. With my "favorite tool" I cut a new path that will be the main passage in the future.
9/2/07 Looking northwest Standing inside the control room looking northwest out the control room window opening you can see the first pier rebar and the concrete pedestal of the DRO 20" RC telescope under the tarp.
9/2/07 Walls are up In between rain downpours I managed to get the walls installed on the floor section.
9/1/07 Trusses & Piers Completed roof trusses are stored under tarps along with the piers for the two 14" telescopes.
9/1/07 Roof truss construction With the shop completely crammed full of household furnishings and boxes I still managed to get the roof trusses constructed inside during the rains.
9/1/07 Monsoon I am still fighting the rains and thunderstorms. This has hampered the construction quite a bit.
9/1/07 Walls staged My trailer not only is used for hauling materials from town (100 mile round trip) but also acts as a work platform and staging area for completed components.
8/2/07 A sturdy floor After making some minor adjustments with my "favorite tool" the floor was square and sturdy and ready for more construction.
8/2/07 Work recommences After the monsoon rains and thunder storms subsided a bit it was time to pick back up on the construction work.
This tarp covered control room floor seemed to be a favorite location for the local deer to gather and I assume have parties as they left hoof prints all over it.
7/26/07 Control room start After many hours of discussion with the local power company I determined that the only way to get electrical service to the observatory was to construct the control room first then, for a much more reasonable cost, the power could be ran.
6/30/07 The first pier continues Rebar embedded into the mountain makes for a solid pier.
6/30/07 The access road One of the first things that was needed was a way to get to the building site.
6/30/07 My favorite tool Just about everything that is done on the ridge requires a tractor and ingenuity to accomplish.
6/30/07 Doing with little There is no infrastructure on the ridge at all so work is done with a portable generator and hand tools.
6/30/07 1st hole It speaks for itself!.
6/30/07 1st pier begins The first hole is drilled into the first pier location kicking off the observatory constructions.

Last update October 12th, 2008