As we prepare to celebrate International Astronomy Day on 9th October, we look at what is involved in building a simple home observatory shed. Whether you are a budding amateur astronomer, or simply have an interest in the night sky, this guide will cover what to consider, and hopefully inspire you to develop your interest in stargazing and more.
An observatory is a structure featuring a telescope and other equipment that will allow you to observe the night sky. It can be used for general enjoyment, or for more professional purposes.
There are a number of benefits to building a home observatory.
Firstly, it will protect you and your astronomy equipment from the elements. A comfortable experience as you observe the night sky is essential. As far as your equipment goes, it is vital that it’s protected against rain and snow, which is essential for observational quality and to ensure your investment lasts. An observatory will also shield your telescope from the wind so that your view is not marred by shaky equipment.
When you have a home observatory, you have a permanent setup ready for observing the night sky whenever the mood takes you. If you had to bring your equipment out of storage and prepare it all every time, you may not get around to it so often.
A purpose-built observatory will also help to block or reduce interfering light. You can also fit light-blocking panels to help improve your view of the galaxies.
It is important to think carefully about where you site your observatory. A few trial runs with your telescope will help you explore different locations in your garden so that you can choose the one that gives you the best views. Taking a look at some sky maps could prove helpful too. Always bear in mind that for lunar and planetary observations, you are going to need an uninterrupted view of the southern sky.
Consider whether your view may be blocked by trees or hedges that may not pose an issue now, but that may grow over time. What about house lights, will they interfere with your experience of the night sky?
Planning permission won’t usually be a problem, but you will need to be mindful of the size of the observatory and its proximity to the main house and the public highway. Our guide to planning permission for garden buildings should prove useful.
Warmth is a major consideration when constructing astronomy observatory sheds. It is vital that telescope equipment is kept consistently warm. If it is exposed to temperature fluctuations then it could be negatively affected. In particular, prolonged exposure to cold could prove damaging. A well-insulated garden shed observatory is therefore the order of the day, plus you should consider garden room heating options.
You’ll also need to pay attention to the materials from which your home observatory shed is constructed. Concrete or bricks are a no-go, because they absorb heat during the day and radiate it at night, which can negatively impact upon the quality of your astronomical observations. This is why a wooden shed is perfect as an observatory. When constructed from Western Red Cedar, you will have natural thermal insulation properties to rely on for year-round warmth.
Security is a vital consideration for your garden shed observatory. Astronomy equipment can be expensive, so it is essential that you take steps to protect it. Fully lockable doors are a must, and you may wish to consider installing a smart sensor alarm too. Do bring it up with your home contents insurer too, in case you need special cover.
Finally, you will also want to think about whether you install a specialist observatory roof on your astronomy shed, or whether you will keep things simple and aim your telescope through a window.
You could opt for a roll-off roof observatory garden shed, designed to allow the roof to slide off so that you have a full view of the night sky. Many budding astronomers choose to convert a traditional shed to an observatory shed using a rolling roof. Other options include a dome roof, or an electric roll-back roof.
You are welcome to visit one of our dedicated show sites for garden shed inspiration. Our family run team is on hand to provide you with friendly, expert advice to help you create the perfect home observatory shed.
You are also welcome to get in touch to discuss your garden shed ideas. We look forward to speaking to you.