Monday, 27 February 2012

Types of Astronomy Observatory Domes

When making an astronomy observatory, it is essential to consider many factors like the location, size, forecasts, budget and equipment. One very important point to note is that the equipment needs to be protected from the elements and also from animals or trespassing people. Yet at the same time the protection should not be rigid to prevent the telescope from moving or changing angles. The best solution for this is the Astronomy Observatory domes. They help in preventing light diffusion along with protection.

The modern astronomy observatory domes are lightweight, easy to install, easy to clean and of various sizes and colors. The observatory dome does not need to be a hemisphere, its function is to protect the equipment and that can be done even if it is not a semi-circle. There are many classes of domes based on their shape. Pyramidal class of domes consists of all faceted structures and is the most simple and easy to construct, they consist of conical or drum shaped domes too. The conical or drum shaped domes have the problem of providing the slit at the peak which is required to enable the astronomer to see right above the head. There is another problem of providing shutters to such slits.

There are many cases of astronomy observatory domes where the shutters are made with over-lapping joints. In many cases a single shutter might not be enough and multiple shutters are used. Flexible shutters are also used to cover the slit in some cases, but then it might be strong enough to withstand strong winds, hail storms, ice, and heavy rain.

The next class of astronomy observatory domes is the pseudo-hemisphere domes, these use flat planes and also single plane curved panels. The main and most commonly used is the hemisphere class of domes. These are the most aesthetically appealing type of dome. A point to note is that more the number of edges and corners, more the chance of constructional problems like leakage and breakage. One important aspect of all astronomy observatory domes is the ability of the dome to move freely and ideally 360 degrees. They should also have an opening which can comfortably accommodate the telescope at any angle allowing the astronomer to view the skies in any direction or in any angle. At the same time the opening should have the capacity to shut with a shutter to prevent direct exposure of the equipment to the wind, rain and sun.

The most critical and difficult part to design is the shutter. Fabricating a shutter is not an easy task. The pseudo-hemisphere style will have to be fabricated from trapezoidal plates while the hemisphere style has just two panels which curve in two directions thus forming a uniform curve. Making such uniform curvature is more difficult than making a straight faceted panel. In case of pseudo-hemisphere many trapezoidal plates are joined together to give faceted kind of look to the dome. Astronomy Observatory domes are the main stay of any observatories, might it be a backyard observatory or a school or institutional observatory. The observatory domes are usually hemispherical in case of the ready-made astronomy observatories available in the market. Whatever is the color or the shape of the astronomy observatory dome, its main job is to give protection to the equipments from the elements.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Backyard Observatories - Location Is an Important Point to Be Considered

Every night when the stars are out, one always wonders how they look from close and what stories they have to tell. The beautiful night sky with bright stars and the planets in different shapes and colors are an intriguing picture for many especially children. The dreams of astronomy starts young and many take steps towards their dream by building backyard observatories.

Backyard observatories are not very difficult to construct if proper instructions and precautions are followed. There are lots of options in making backyard observatories. It is possible to buy ready-made kit of the complete infrastructure required or it can be done by the person itself. There are lots of documents and books available providing guidelines for construction of the observatories. The minimum area required, the location, the types of roofs, the construction material required, the type of telescopes, the precautions are all dealt with in "Make it yourself" books or documents. The first main step to make a backyard observatory is the location. It is the most vital decision that needs to be taken.

Astronomers forecast are an important aspect for viewing the skies, it is important to know if the skies are cloudy or clear. There are weather forecasts, especially developed models of numerical weather forecasts which are accurate. The forecasts cover, cloud cover, transparency, seeing ability meaning the ability to magnify finer details at a particular time. The darkness level of the night sky varying from black to dark blue to diffused lights is also important. The wind speed at the tree-top level is also considered. Humidity levels are also important. The general temperature is also kept in mind, to help the person wear suitable clothing while star-gazing.

One important thing to note while building backyard observatories is the location. It definitely needs to be an area where the clear night sky will be seen. The sky conditions vary from slightly polluted suburban localities to clear small rural areas. The area should not be wooded which would obstruct the view of the telescope. The skies should be clearly visible, without being polluted by city lights or even building lights; the clarity of observation will not be good, if there are diffused lights while viewing through the telescope.

The reasoning behind this is that to see any object through the telescope there should be a difference in the background and the object being observed. If the background has diffused light and the object is also faint, then the chance of seeing minute details are less. The contrast between the background and the object is the most important. If the object itself is very bright on its own, like the moon, then there is no problem even if the background is light diffused.

The other factors are also important while choosing a location for building a backyard observatory. The Humidity of the area, the turbulence of cloud cover usually seen in the area, the transparency seen in the area are all important while deciding on a location. The tree cover and the height of the surrounding buildings are important because this can obstruct view of some parts of the sky. Thus the first step of choice of location for building a backyard observatory is an important one to be considered carefully and wisely.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Home Observatory - Points Need To Be Noted

Every man's dream is to go to space and most cannot afford to do so, one easy way is to get immersed in the world of stars and infinite space by being a star-gazer. Hours and hours can be spent just to watch the bright and not so bright objects in the night sky. The best way to start if one is not studying the subject is to have a personal home observatory at the backyard itself or at least somewhere reachable. Building a home observatory is not a difficult task especially now when it is possible to buy ready-made domes. On the other hand there are lots of people out there who prefer to make the home observatory from scratch. There are lots of mistakes that can take place while building a home observatory and it is essential to be aware of these points before going ahead with the project.


It is essential to sit and write all the details for building the home observatory. There are major parts and lots of minor details that need to be considered.

Choice of Location

One essential starting point while planning to build a home observatory is the location. It would be preferable if the location is suburban or rural as this would reduce the amount of diffuse light. The black sky is required to ensure the capturing of even faint details of the objects in the sky, diffuse light reduces the contrast. One can also use specific protection against diffuse light if the location cannot be changed.

Choice of Material

Home Observatories should be made of materials that absorb less heat. If the material absorbs heat during the day then the chances are that the heat will be radiated in the night reducing the chance of viewing planets and double stars. Material like concrete blocks, bricks, close by walkways and parking lots need to be avoided. The best are wooden structures.


It is preferable to have a complete extensive research of the material and equipment cost and in some cases labor cost also if one cannot do all the manual work. The budget should be managed to the tightest extent, though there are chances of surprise costs like building permits, fencing, electrical supplies and many more. Always keep a higher range in the budget this will help in preventing overshooting than planned.

Unwanted Visitation

Imagine a wooden structure in a field; be sure that there would not be enough number of insects and animal visiting it during the day and night. The home observatory is an ideal place for the birds, wasps, rats and even snakes to thrive. Be careful and make sure pest control is done frequently.

Zone Regulations

There are places where these observatories cannot be built, as per the law. Make sure to check with the local authorities and get the required permissions. It is best done at the earliest to prevent the dismantling of the observatory later.

Future Planning

If astronomy is a serious hobby then plan and build with enough space to buy more equipment and more complex telescopes.

Power Points

Ensure to have more number of power points in the home observatory, one never knows what needs to be plugged in the future. All these points can be considered and the mistakes have to be prevented while building a home observatory for now and the future.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Nearest Exoplanet to Earth

We are living in an unprecedented time in human history because only in the last couple of decades has it become possible to study planets outside of our solar system. Considering that only a millennium or so ago even the concept of a world beyond our solar system did not exist in the human consciousness, the ability to peer into these other worlds is truly remarkable. Of the currently known exoplanets, fast approaching 1000 in number, what is the closest one to Earth? What is it like? How long would it take for a spacecraft to get there? How long would it take for a radio signal sent by a hypothetical life-form from that planet to reach us?

As it happens, the exoplanet that is the nearest to Earth and our solar system has held the record since the year 2000. Unfortunately it has a rather clinical name, eps Eridani b. The planet has a mass of approximately 1.5 times that of Jupiter (or nearly 500 times the mass of Earth), although there is a large margin of error on this. Even though there is no information on the size of the planet, it is not likely to be Earthlike because the lower bound on its mass is still more than 300 times that of Earth. Such a massive planet that is more like the size of Earth has not been found so far.

The nearest exoplanet to Earth, eps Eridani b, is at a distance of 10.44 light years, which is more than 60,000 billion miles (nearly 100,000 billion kilometers). It would take light 10.44 years to travel between the exoplanet and Earth. At speeds that are currently achievable, say 20,000 miles per hour (about 32,000 km per hour), the travel time is 350,000 years. This may seem depressing, but considering that the nearest star to Earth (Proxima Centauri) is at a distance of 4.2 light years from Earth, we are lucky to have found an exoplanet so close (no planets have been found around Proxima Centauri). Clearly we are not likely to witness human space travel to our nearest neighbor exoplanet in our lifetimes. Will it be possible in the near-term future, within hundreds of human generations, say? Although it is impossible to predict, contemplate the achievements of the human intellect and spirit: it has hardly been more than a century since humans first made powered flying machines, and in just half a century humans have walked on the moon, and sent probes beyond the solar system, with another one on its way to Pluto right now.

So, does our nearest exoplanet neighbor support life, or even perhaps the seeds of life? So far it has not been possible to detect molecular signatures from the planet and it is not possible to directly image the planet (the latter is true for the majority of exoplanets). SETI-type activities naturally pay special attention to worlds that are closest to us, but nothing definitive has turned up from radio-signal searches of extraterrestrial intelligence in any system. On the other hand, the possibility of eps Eridani b supporting seeds of life has not been ruled out.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that a second planet in the eps Eridani system has been suspected for years but definitive proof remains elusive because the signals that have provided tentative evidence are complex, carrying many ambiguities that have to be disentangled. Such disentanglement often does not lead to a unique and definitive interpretation of the data but future improvements in instrumentation might give less ambiguous results.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

What an Amateur Astronomer Needs

Astronomers have to rely on their eyes and brain to do their work. These are basically the only tools that ancient astronomers used in identifying constellations and other heavenly bodies. With the availability of advanced technology used in making telescopes and onboard computers, you still cannot make do without your eyes and mind. Tools are just meant to enhance and aid the workings of your eyes and brain such as the telescope is for your eyes and the computer is for your brain's aid. Nothing beats yourself as the human using these tools.

Watching and Analyzing

Astronomy work is only half watching with the use of your telescope. Kids may devote more time just stargazing but if you are past that stage, you need to let your brain do its work. Once you have seen something, it still needs some analysis. This part is necessary when it comes to comparing the heavenly body that you have seen with what other astronomers might have seen now or in the past. With the use of improved technology, telescopes with an onboard computer that can determine discovered coordinates. Just remember that you have an entire universe offering you unlimited opportunities for discoveries.

But as a young kid aspiring to be a real astronomer someday, you have to rely on your parents' choice of telescope, which is usually the cheapest kind in the market. It would take sometime before you would likely need a more powerful astronomy telescope and the capacity to check and recheck before you can finally say that you have a new discovery. But the easy availability of powerful tools, amateur astronomers have done their share of new finds. They have also used their best asset - their minds - in analyzing these finds.

Cost of Telescopes

Children are into stargazing without taking notice of the price of the telescope that their parents would give them. The only important thing for you then was that you have a tool that would allow you to see the stars. Even if you know about having the lowest prices tool, they would easily throw reasons such as how you, as a kid, would easily get over things that you are fascinated about. They would even bring up how your bike or skateboard is already getting dust in the attic. Another common reason is that they want to help you a cheap telescope that requires you to do more so you can learn more.

However, buying a cheap telescope is just about saving money for your parents. As you grow up still loving astronomy, you would need more advanced telescopes, such as a handheld type that often costs around $200. You can read astronomy telescope reviews to find more telescopes that you can afford. With more features, expect an increase in their price too.

A Telescope's Computer

While the computer is often compared to the human mind, the latter is always more powerful. NASA's call for help to amateur astronomers in identifying asteroids coming towards Earth's way is a strong proof of this. Even if they have a powerful visual recognition application in their Osiris program, they are still lacking in confidence for the software. The human eyes are still the best tools that can identify a small asteroid as a threat or not to the planet.

The Value of Your Human Facilities

Telescopes and computers are just tools though efficient ones. But in the end, you still need to work yourself and use your eyes, brain and tools together to be a good astronomer.