In Praise of the Observatory

Observatories come in all shapes and sizes: you can build your own, or purchase one ready-made from a growing number of companies.  And you can build an observatory for not much more than the cost of a good telescope.  There is even one company, Backyard Observatories, that travels around the country building absolutely first-rate observatories at very reasonable prices.

The advantages of having an observatory are many:

  1. An accurately polar-aligned telescope ready to use on a moment’s notice (an equatorially-mounted telescope still has many advantages over the alt-azimuth variety)
  2. Minimal pre-observing and post-observing chores
  3. A telescope that is already at or near the ambient air temperature (resulting in better images)
  4. A shelter from wind and the glare of nearby lights
  5. An organized very special place to do productive astronomical observing, astroimaging, and research with all the tools you need at hand

As an added measure of protection, keep a heavy ply plastic bag over your telescope when not in use (I recommend Warp’s Original Banana Bags®), cinched up around the pier with a bungee cord, with desiccant inside to keep the telescope optics dry (I recommend the Eva-Dry 333) so that mildew doesn’t form on the optical surfaces.  Here in the Midwest, humidity is almost always a problem, so unless it is really windy, I use an Astrozap FlexiHeat Dew Shield on the telescope during every observing session as an added measure of protection.

Never sleep more than 90 feet from your telescope.
– Clinton B. Ford (1913-1992)

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