The Dark Side Observatory Construction

This is the construction log for the Dark Side Observatory – latest news/development is at the top. Check back often as this will be updated as construction moves ahead. Questions? Please ask!

LAST UPDATED: September 6, 2017

September 6, 2017

For those of you who suffer from schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune), you will appreciate this. So, I ciphered all the numbers for the pier height, factoring in almost everything along with some wiggle room. What I did not count on was the observatory sitting on 4×4 inch beams. You can see from the first image a green laser light not clearing the wall of the observatory. This light is coming from my polar guide scope which is built into the Celestron CGEM-DX mount – I could not see Polaris.

The $10 fix was purchasing some coupling nuts that allowed me to attach some 4-inch bolts to the top of the original pier bolts, allowing me to raise the height of the scope a few inches (see the third picture showing the laser light above the wall height). Stability of slewing from side to side has been slightly compromised. When the scope stops, I get a back-and-forth movement until it stabilizes.

Final stabilization was achieved by adding a few wooden blocks under the pier adapter and tightening down the bolts on the wood blocks, seems to work fine thus far.

August 27, 2017

Mission complete – pier is complete and telescope assembled. Now to the pretty phase, cleaning up around the pier base, more shelving, and running more of a permanent power supply (buried) and buried ethernet, etc. Captured a few images in test mode that I will post later this weekend/week. I’d like to thank my brother-in-law Brian for his hard work in getting the observatory constructed and Jane Frances for giving me the opportunity to fulfill this dream.

August 16, 2017

Finally finished the pier construction with the concrete pour last evening, it came out perfect. We estimated the pour would use about 13 bags of 80-pound Quikrete, we used 12.25 bags. We moved over 1000 pounds of concrete, bucket by bucket, in 90 minutes. Needless to say I’m a bit sore today. The pier will cure in place for the next 11 days before I place the equipment back in service.

August 15, 2017

Spent last night preparing the pier for concrete work later today. We’re estimating between 10-14 80 pound bags to complete the pour.

Outside improvements are moving along including repair and reseeding of the lawn from the concrete delivery. I also added solar lighting around the perimeter of the observatory with motion detection ($32 for four lights on Amazon).


August 10, 2017

Delivery complete! Perfect working order, only two minor issues. I did not account for the height of the roof when I positioned the observatory so I will lose some southern skies. The hole in the floor doesn’t match up well with the pier hole in the foundation so I’ll have to cut some additional material from the floor. I’m still thrilled!

Next phase is pouring the pier, running permanent power and ethernet cables and then cosmetics.

August 5, 2017

Observatory is scheduled to be delivered on August 10, 2017.

July 24, 2017

My pier top mounting is ready for the next concrete pour. The anchor bolts will be set into the concrete pier up to the first level of plywood. The 1-inch spacer between the plywood sheets will make sure I have enough room to access the bolts for leveling the pier top. After setting, the top plywood sheet will be replaced with the CGEM Pier Adapter shown to the right (purchased from Starizona). On top of the pier adapter will rest the equatorial mount, scope, guiding scope, counterweights, and on, and on…

This all happens after the observatory is delivered in another 4 weeks or so.

Total cost on the pier will be about $325 ($270 for the CGEM Adapter).

July 16, 2017

Pad pour, the day after. Removed all the framing and the pad looks incredible! It will be sprayed down with water each night and kept covered for the next week. The back end of the pad has a “brushed finish” and will start life as being a small porch on the back end of the observatory (8×6 feet) – it will probably be expanded to be my “warm room” at some point in the future (don’t get mad Jane).

July 15, 2017

Pour day has arrived! I can finally start looking past the pad and focus on the observatory and pier construction.

Site is prepped and ready for the concrete truck arrival.

Pad complete! Even had enough to make some steps for an entrance into the observatory. Next phase is shed delivery followed by making the concrete pier inside the building. A big thank you to my brother-in-law for all your hard work and technical expertise!

Raking the concrete out as it is being poured.

Screeding the concrete into a smooth surface.

The final pad.

July 12, 2017

Tonight was spent framing the pad, placing the rebar, and preparing the pier hole. Looking for a Friday morning concrete delivery of 2.5 yards.

July 10, 2017 – CGEM Pier Adapter Kit

The CGEM Pier Adapter Kit has arrived from Starizona! This kit will allow me to use my Celestron CGEM-DX mount on my home-made pier later this summer. Now I just need to purchase some anchor bolts to secure this to the concrete pier.

Later this week starts the framing and the concrete pour for the slab.

July 4, 2017 – Ready for Framing the Pad

Site is prepped and ready for framing it out and the pouring of the concrete pad. Tomorrow the actual roll-off roof shed will be ordered, probably 4-6 weeks delivery from Stoltzfus Structures in Atglen, PA.

July 3, 2017 – Pier Hole Complete and Crushed Stone Delivered

Pier hole done, down 36 inches, 4 tons of 2B stone delivered and being spread. Things are moving along. Special thanks to Mengle Hauling in Weatherly, PA for the stone delivery (and my winter coal supply) – thanks!

Two tons of 2B stone delivered (another two ton on the way). The hole for the pier is under the plywood.

Mengle Hauling delivering the second load.

July 1, 2017 – Final Level, Pier Selection and Ready for Stone

This morning we finish laying out the measured grid and leveled the dirt. We also started on the 36″ deep pier foundation. At this point, the pier hole will be covered with plywood and 4-ton of 2B stone will be delivered to the site for the foundation base.

Since my last post I have decided to pour my own pier and top it with a CGEM Pier Adapter Kit ($270.00 with shipping) from Starizona. What this means is it will take two concrete pours to finish. The first pour will be for the 8 x 15 pad, followed by the pre-built shed placement, followed by a second pour to create the concrete pier. Since the shed delivery will basically be placing the shed in place using a “mule”, there would be no way to lift the shed up-and-over a pre-existing concrete pier.

So for the cost of some time and extra concrete I should be saving a significant amount on the purchase of a steel pre-made pier. Luckily, I have a brother-in-law who knows what he is doing with construction details.

Me on dirt removal duty.


Quick chalk schematic to check dimensions and placement of pier.


Start of the hole for the pier placement.

June 30, 2017 – Pier Selection Time

I guess I should have purchased this ahead of time, but I didn’t. My original intention was to use my telescope on a concrete slab from inside a roll-off roof shed. I felt the Meade 12″ on a Celestron CGEM-DX would be stable enough without a pier. Unfortunately, the shed is being delivered with a wooden floor so I decided a pier was needed. It is probably better I do this for future telescope needs.

I have narrowed it down to Pier-Tech ( or SkyShed Pier ( Thus far, only Pier-Tech has returned my emails about purchasing a pier. They can ship by the end of July, but will mail me the bottom plate and J-bolts after I place an order so that I may continue the pad construction.

If anyone has information on either pier, I would appreciate the feedback.

June 29, 2017 – Observatory Build – Day 1 – Sod Removal

Yesterday was the first day of the site preparations and included sod removal. The area for sod removal was one-foot larger than the footprint of the planned concrete slab (8 x 15), so the sod removal was started at 9×16 feet.

Sod removal, 9×16 feet.


%d bloggers like this: