The Original Alan Norman Observatory (TANO)

My observatory is named after my late father, and while I did not get into astronomy until after he passed away, I'm sure he would have enjoyed the wonders that the universe has to offer. So, my efforts in astro-photography are dedicated to him, mind you, he has a prime viewing spot from his hill in Yorkshire......


The observatory was purpose built somewhere between 1995-1998, and I acquired it in 2007. It sat, all wrapped up under tarpaulin, in my garden for nearly two years while we had the conservatory built and I decided I could find the time to build it! In the summer of 2009, I finally got around to it, and started planing how to do the base and pier.

Location in the garden was easy! Our garden is not the biggest in the world and with a decked patio on the NE corner, the only option was in the N corner! My skies to the N and NE are not too bad, but SE to SW are blocked by mine and neighbours houses (I wasn't into astronomy when we bought the house!) and much of the W is OK too. Actually, the western view has recently got much better with the closure of the brick-works and turning off the big sodium site lights!

So, with the location sorted, I started to think about the pier. I managed to find a length of 10 inch diameter plastic soil pipe, which would be ideal, and I already had a pier-top, thanks to a friend, Gary, on SGL. The plan was to dig a hole, sink the pipe and fill it with concrete, with some M12 stud sunk into the concrete. Good to go!


The base of the observatory was constructed with decking boards - as it seemed the cheapest way to go, and it would match the existing decking in the garden as well. Unfortunately, my ability to forward-plan the base went out the window as I started work! Things I learned from this project:

  • Measure the exact width and depth of the observatory, so the pier is in the middle of the open section!
  • Use one measurement unit - don't mix inches and cms!
  • Don't make assumptions on measurements - actually measure the wood before you cut it!
  • Plan the project on paper first!
  • 10ft does not equal 3m!

While not a disaster, a bit more preparation and planning time would have saved me time and money, and though the end result was pleasing, it took more effort than needed!

The pier ended up being not quite in the centre of the open section, slightly over to the SW, and there was not enough of overhang on the base floor to move the walls, so off-centre it is. This has not been a major problem, even with the 12" f/4 newtonian - although it is tight!!

As you'll see from the pictures below, it is a roll-off roof design with a neat twist. Although it is 9ft long, 3ft of this is under a pent roof - and acts a very cover for the computer and storage shelves. So only 6ft of the roof actually rolls forward. The horizontal supports therefore extend only 3ft from the observatory wall, so vertical supports are not necessary!

Cleared ground

Pier support in place

Base complete

Only just meets!

Frame supports

Concrete pier footing

Front of the base

Side of the frame

Anti-weed fabric

Fabric complete

Decking floor down

Perfectly cut hole!

Assembly of the walls

Roof and door on

Roof slides open

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