DIY Friday: Build a Backyard Observatory on the Cheap

Ever wanted to have your own Observatory? Stargazing enthusiast Thomas Campbell did, so he created one and put it up in his own backyard, as seen below. Sure, it looks like a simple 2-3 man dome tent, but it’s actually has all of the features amateur astronomer might want and for under $40.


Backyard Observatory



Campbell reports that two main reasons prompted him to build his observatory:

"Several years ago, I (not knowing any better) purchased a 60mm refractor (a Kmart Focus model) at a yard sale. The main tube has pretty good optics and the 20mm eyepiece (35x magnification) isn’t too bad, but the other eyepieces are only fair at best, and the wooden mount is pretty wobbly in even the slightest of breezes.

The most important reason, however, was light pollution in my backyard. I live in a small town, but live on a highway (with a lot of streetlights) and across the street from a county hospital (lots of light pollution there!). Even so, by cupping my hands around my eyes, on good nights of seeing, I can still make out the Milky Way, so the skies are still fairly dark.

I had found an article on the internet about how to make a light blocker out of PVC pipe and heavy-ply trash bags, but with the light coming from all around me, I would need about a dozen of them, and the amount of time needed putting all of those up would seriously cut into my observing time."

Not surprisingly, considering the tents ability to block light and wind, the $40 observatory seems to be working out for Campbell pretty well, saying it has,

"…allowed me to view things with my scope that I didn’t think was possible before. For instance, on nights of good seeing, I can now make out all four of the main stars of the Trapezium in the Orion Nebula. Before, I was only able to make out the three brightest stars at best. Overall, I believe I can now see objects about a half-magnitude fainter than I was able to before using the observatory."

Not bad for $30! Check out Campbell’s DIY observatory site for more information and maybe even check out some of the other projects he’s done ranging from building an astronomical red-dot finder out of a BB-gun site to constructing a ply-wood tripod & mount. Awesome stuff!