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.

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