Stellarium from the Astro Shed

A View from our AstroShed

In case you are unaware, there’s an amazing Open Source, completely free, planetarium software available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s also available for Android for a bit of a charge, but it’s super worth it. I’m talking about… Stellarium!

There are so many bells, whistles and knobs in this software, there’s no way I could cover it all in this post. But, one very cool feature it has is called ‘Landscapes’. This allows you to mimic the surroundings of many different places ( and planets! ) and act as if you were viewing the stars from those locations.
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MOD: Smart Thermostats in an RV? YES!

Original Thermostat

Original Thermostat

If you’re like me, you tend to sleep with the temperature quite a bit colder than your daytime setting.  My specific setpoints are:
76 °F for the day time, and 68 °F at night for the summer.
71 °F for the day time, and 64 °F at night for the winter.
While it’s a little thing, it’s becomes tedious to do these settings changes every evening / morning, especially knowing there are so many programmable and/or Smart thermostats on the market for the household climate control systems.

However, the RV world is woefully lacking of any type of programmability on the thermostats.  Worse yet, RV AC/Heatpumps have some things stacked against them when looking for aftermarket kit:

  • RV AC/Heatpumps made the weird choice to use 12 Vdc control panels (instead of 24vac) — as if you could run them without 120 Vac power?
  • RVs can often have more ‘heat’ options than our sticks & bricks brethren.
  • RVs also tend to have two speed fans in our AC/Heatpumps

This all combines to make replacing an RV thermostat with anything other than the OEM unit a daunting task.

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My All-Sky Camera

An All-Sky camera is a nifty little device.  It gives a view of the complete (or mostly complete) sky from horizon to horizon, in all directions, in one photo.  Why would someone want such a camera?  I’m glad you (presumably) asked!

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Astronomy Shed Build

This past winter, we had planned on staying a month at Rusty’s RV Ranch in Rodeo, NM, then head back into Arizona for a few months.  After three days in Rodeo, we canceled our Arizona plans and extended to 3 months, but that too would prove not to be enough.

Rodeo, NM is not a highly populated area nor a resort destination for most.  However, because of this, it is a VERY dark sky site.  Some of the darkest skies in the US.  It was so dark that during the night on a new moon, I could walk around and not trip over anything with nothing but the light cast off of the Milky Way and other star’s light.  We were… in awe.

One of our reasons for visiting Rodeo was to scout the area and consider building a remotely operable observatory.  I’m a bit of an amateur astronomer, but because we’re generally in cities and have to concern ourselves with light pollution and personal property security that tends to outweigh the desire to break out all my gear (only to tear it back down a few hours later).

The TurtleHerding AstroShed

Rusty’s RV Ranch is a prize find for astronomy and birding buffs alike.  Rusty, the owner, is very serious about preserving the night sky.  Exterior RV lighting is prohibited, and you must use red lights when walking around after dark.  For vehicles, parking lights only should be used after dark when driving through the ranch.

Early in our stay, I mentioned the scouting efforts to Rusty, that we were looking for a suitable location for a remote observatory. Rusty let me know that she and Tim have plots of land which are available to lease for just this purpose! Further, I was introduced to someone with an observatory just down the road from Rusty’s and got to see a lot of his great solutions to issues which I’d been struggling to work through thus far ( like, how to secure the rolling roof once closed so that high winds would not blow the roof off ).  Within a week or two, I had signed a lease and ordered the building which would become my remote observatory!

Special Thanks:

Before continuing, I’d like to extend a massive ‘THANK YOU’ to a fellow astronomer that I met at Rusty’s.  Mark, whom you’ll see in just a few photos, was a huge help.  He introduced me to Don, who’s own astronomy shed was the inspiration for mine.  He provided loads of hands-on assistance, including digging holes, swingin’ hammers, holding things while I was sawing, hammering, drilling.   Mark put in countless hours and is the reason my first astronomy shed turned out so well.

There were also many others who extended a helping hand or tool along the way.  Dennis, Jason, Eric, Chris, Tim, Bob, Rusty, among others.  Thank you all for your part in making this dream a reality.

And, of course, to my darling wife.  She gave me the OK for this endeavor and tolerated my obsessive toiling, planning, talking about this project as well as me being out of the RV working on it for weeks on end.  Thank you, my sweet.  I love you.

Work began immediately.
(NOTE: This post is very long, relatively detailed and full of pictures.) (more…)

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