Building a Dome for the Beast
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Cloudy Nights Thread on building the dome.

The fun actually started when we sold the last dome along with the Florida homestead. You would be amazed at how many asked if we were going to take the dome with us. Don't I wish. I guess we could have driven 1600 miles down I10 with a 24' dome on the roof of the motorhome - or at least until we came to the first overpass…  Of course the permits would have probably cost a hundred grand. Anyway, the building permit was applied for the new dome on 8/7/2012. Let the fun begin… Photos will be posted as progress goes along. Here is what we are trying to duplicate. Mike Lockwood took the two photos below. They give a good impression of just how large a 24 footer is, and the 42" f/4 1600 pound Beast.

The lot was scraped where the dome is going on 8/23, while I was going over the plans that built the last dome. Since the building is round, most of the parts have to be curved. It turns out that it takes 33 sheets of 3/4" plywood that have to be cut into 177 pieces of varying curves before they can be laminated into the parts that will form the dome. So while waiting for the concrete contractor to prepare for pouring the slab, I had about a weeks work at the bandsaw. Already I wish the shop was bigger…

The slab was finished on 9/5. This flat surface will be used to temporairly assemble the dome, then it will be reassembled on the walls later.

A slide show of the building of the old Florida observatory back in 2002 is still available HERE. It was a lot of work, so now that I am 10 years older, I think I will just take my time and work on the new dome at a more relaxed pace. However, the experience of building the first dome should help to make this time around a bit easier. Hope you enjoy the new photos as they are posted…

After a week of staring at lines drawn on sheets of plywood, you get a bit cross eyed. Now the 177 pieces are cut, so assembly has started. Will post some pix as soon as a bit of progress is made.

Dome base ring

Building a dome of this size is impossible by yourself, but fortunately I have two helpers. Jeannie has been a real trouper working out in the sun with us, and a fellow Deming astronomer Lon Shelton has been helping. We got this far in just three days, and on the fourth day all 30 ribs were cut to fit and the dome frame was ready to be dismantled. It will be reassembled later on top of the walls.  Thanks Lon!

Normally you are happy to get a little rain in the desert…

Jeannie calls this photo "Woodhinge"


It all seems like a lot of work, but the reality is that you just cut one board at a time, mount one part at a time, tighten one bolt at a time, and before you know it, it is almost time to reassemble the dome again, but this time on top of the walls.

Taken 9/24/2012 at 10 PM with the first quarter moon providing light. Had no idea it would turn out like this.

Exposure 30 seconds at f/3.8 with my 18-200 Nikon lense on the N7000. ASA set at 3200.

Even under dark skies the moon mucks up the stars. A few do show through.

10/10  The dome base ring was reassembled on top of the walls, in preparation for mounting all the ribs.  The wheels ride on a wide aluminum plate under the ring, and every hold down has ball bearings that ride against an aluminum plate on the inside of the base ring.


Finally, this project is starting to look like the end may be in sight one of these days. This morning I picked up 40 sheets 4x8' sheets of  1/4" lauan plywood from Home Depot, so the dome will be sheeted over the next week or two.

We had a crane lift the arches in place, and Jeannie and I and Gary and Vandy installed the ribs over the next two days.  Yes, we were all up early the day after the star party, working on the dome!