Having finished building my 17.5-inch Dobsonian in 1982, and having grown weary of schlepping it around by hand truck and two-wheel trailer (below), I determined to build a permanent home for my so-called “monsterscope.” This cumbersome rolling observatory made one nervous trip to Stellafane in 1983.
Previous visits to Delphos OH and Mt. Hopkins AZ had me “thinking in circles.” I made preliminary sketches in my log book (below) which showed the basic plan of my building. The side view (L) was an outgrowth of the altitude sweep of the telescope. The front view (R) shows the off-center roof slit with work and storage space. The unrealistic pull-down bed was wisely never realized (nor needed) and the storage space was never as big as imagined.
I was already off and running as a visual observer of variable stars, so the expectations I had for my observatory were simple:
- An all-mechanical set up specifically for visual work
- Protection from wind and stray light
- Short set-up time for ease of frequent usage
- A unique design that I could be proud of
A visit to a local junkyard in New Bedford set the direction of my further plans. There I found two meshing gears of 8- and 40-inch diameters. I envisioned the larger one anchored to a massive concrete foundation and the smaller one rotating around it, pulling the building along with it. It happened just so.
I pre-fabricated and pre-painted the walls in the shade of an elm tree. Then, with the help of a neighbor, I attached the walls to the 8’ x 8’ rotating floor.
The floor-to-roof aperture was then covered by a sliding door and a sliding roof panel. The width of the opening is 36 inches, allowing for about 15 degrees of azimuth visibility without turning the building. The opening also allows viewing from zenith to horizon. After twelve weeks of construction I was able to celebrate first light with an observation of U Geminorum at outburst. It was the first of more than 155,000 variable star observations made from this facility, which has more than surpassed my expectations for a simple, sturdy and practical home base for my astronomical activities. I named it Stjernhaven – Norwegian for “star haven,” while hundreds of woodland creatures have attempted to renamed it “Maushaven.” It has continued to serve me well for twenty-seven years.
Only two revisions have been necessary. Firstly, after about five years the one-inch-thick plywood under-floor, upon which the castors run, began to splinter. It has now been reinforced (underlaid) with steel plating for smooth turning as well as greater longevity. Secondly, when the building was moved in 1991, I mounted it on a triangular foundation with two castors at each point. This has worked even better than the original four-point castor system.
Many visitors have been welcomed to my MGRO (merry-go-round observatory) during its twenty-eight-year life time. Perhaps the most illustrious of these was Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto. Rick Lynch arranged for him to be conducted on an afternoon tour of Skyscraper members’ observatories during his 1987 visit to Seagrave Observatory. The visitation party included Clyde and Patsy Tombaugh, Rick Lynch, Brian Magaw, Alan Hirshfeld and Helga Edvardsen (later Edvardsen-Dyck). “Uncle Clyde” had kind words for my construction plan and variable-star observing program and graciously made an entry into my observatory logbook, as seen below.
A few years later I showed my MGRO to a delegation of visitors from Nicaragua, on whom I was able to practice my broken Spanish. I cherish the architectural opinion of one twelve-year-old boy, who pronounced, “Es una casa muy estraña!” (It’s a very strange building!). And so it is – worthy of showing to others via a 1/12 scale model which I sometimes take with me to astronomical meetings. At the 100th anniversary meeting of the American Association of Variable Star Observers my model, my solar award and I were photographed (below) by AAVSO member Al Holm.
All Skyscrapers members have an open welcome to visit our observatory in Assonet MA. Please contact me at 508-644-2419 or firstname.lastname@example.org