SPAO Construction

Construction of the Snowy Plains Astrophysical Observatory started in 2002, once spousal permission was obtained. The site was my back yard on the East side of the property offering excellent views of the N-NE- E-SE-S-SW and Zenith skies. To the W and NW the house impedes the view, with a tree that eventually had to come down due S. At the time the land to the South was completely devoted to farmland so light pollution was extremely minimal.

Originally the observatory was designed to house a 16″ f5 reflector on a horseshoe mount with an 8″ f10 “planet killer” telescope mounted on top. The building was in fact built around the large mount for this telescope to avoid having to manhandle it into the shed after completion. Eventally it was clear that the telescopes for the shed were not going to get completed very quickly (and in fact are just starting to get worked on again 15 years later!) so instead a pier was added to the pad for the telescope and an 8″ SCT mounted in the shed (seen above in full operation.)

Site laid out including gnomon to find N with a stick laid down S to indicate N

Sod cut pulling it up so we can pour pad for scope

Hole for the pier before gravel added in a dome shape

Hole for the pad with gravel and rebar

Materials for a 10×10 prefab shed delivered by Home Depot

Completed pouring the concrete pad

Completed concrete pad and building foundation – note isolation of pad from building

Trenching in pipes for power and data

Horseshoe mount with 8″ F9 tube mounted

Another view of the Horsehoe mount

Midway through roof truss assembly

Roof truss assembly complete

Cutting complete to remove sliding roof now resting on the run off rails

Building the walls

Most of the walls built, adding fold off S gable

Shingling the roof with nice view of the famer’s fields to the S (and that damned tree!)

Looking down the garage track railing towards the roof

Runoffs built and rails mounted. Doors also built – watch your head!

View through the doors to mount and pad

Interior view of the rails and wheels – each rated to bear 600lbs, three to a side

Another interior view of the rails and wheels

Another interior view of the rails and wheels

South side gable lowers to allow the roof to roll back over the telescope. Note latch and hooks to hold it closed.

First light!

Complete including wall cladding and trim

Pier added to support new Celestron 8″ on an CG5 mount

Another later addition – an insulated “hot box” where a computer can run year round

Interior view of completed observatory with C8
Typical mid-winter snow accumulation – before digging it out!


The observatory saw heavy use in the years between 2002 and 2007. Primarily the shed was used for imaging with the C8 including photometry and spectroscopy. Unfortunately with a couple of youngsters now on the scene, parenting took priority and the shed began to fall into disuse so in 2008 I sold off all of the gear in the shed and it became dormant, storing winter tires and garden equipment. With the kids now in their teens and a new awakening of astronomical interest I am now revitalizing the shed to once again use it actively.