• Richard

Observatory Sensor Mast, anyone interested?

One of the last things I did during the first phase of observatory construction was to install a mast on the roll-off support pillar on the north-east side. This initially had my CloudWatcher sensor (which measures the sky infra-red temperature to determine if it’s cloudy), and at the other end of the cross-mast an attached anemometer. There was also an SQM-LE, which can measure just how dark the sky is.

View of the observatory in very early December 2015, with one of our kittens (about 8 months old), and various ladders and scaffolding sets.

I later added a rain sensor, based on the same idea as those automatic car windscreen wipers.

Mid December 2015, and there’s now an extra Rain-Sensor (the transparent dome on the right). The white cylinder in the middle houses the SQM-LE to measure how dark the night sky is, while the box at centre-top, and black anemometer at lower right comprise the CloudWatcher system.

The sensors are all about 4m up so to work on it I needed to erect a portable scaffolding. Not having a particularly good head for heights, and also being a bit apprehensive of the rather wobbly foundations of the thing, I have always hated it. But, regular maintenance and cleaning, not to mention installing new equipment, meant I had to keep on putting up the scaffolding.

Getting ready to install an Oculus All-Sky camera in late April 2016.

Installing the Oculus All-Sky Camera. It’s the slim, silver-coloured cylinder with the transparent dome.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I detest getting out the scaffolding and climbing up it to fix things. I’ve often thought about a better approach.

Well look at these next pictures. I’ve installed a pivoting system attached to a short and sturdy vertical column. The pivot is a strong box structure with the mast itself attached to the moving part.

By removing one bolt I can swing the whole thing down to a position where I can work on it at ground level. Perfect!

Mast attached to a pivot system, with a counterweight.

Mast pivoted down to ground level.

Finally here’s an image of the All-Sky Camera’s protective dome, showing the contamination which is all too frequent, and which is why maintenance and cleaning was always such a bugbear, in the days before the pivoting mast !!