From Relic to Modern Observatory: The Story of my "Antique" Baader Dome

Note from Baader Planetarium: The following article was kindly provided to us by Christoph B. for publication.


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Background

My journey to establishing my own observatory began with an extraordinary heirloom, a Baader observatory dome over 30 years old, carrying its own remarkable history. This dome had been in the possession of Mr. Ernst Blättler (✝) for decades, who had donated it to his club, the Astronomical Society of Zürcher Oberland (AGZO), some years ago. Until his old age, he was active as a passionate demonstrator. A few years ago, however, the club expressed the desire to operate a modern dome with the latest technology, which could be remotely operated by the club members.

Therefore, the club ordered a new 2.1m split dome, which was installed in September 2020. The heirloom, the over 30-year-old manually operated dome, was kindly left to me by AGZO. This dome, a testament to artisan craftsmanship and enduring quality, thus came into my possession and offered me the unique opportunity to transform it into a functional, modern observatory – a project that not only reflected my passion for astronomy but also a deep appreciation for astronomical heritage.

The challenge was to restore this historic dome, which had observed the sky for decades, and equip it with modern technology. It was a journey full of technical, physical, and emotional challenges. This dome had its own personality – shaped by its past, age, and many stories it had collected over the years. My goal was to not only breathe new life into it but also transform it into a modern observatory that could utilize the latest astronomical technologies.

Refurbishing the Classic Baader Dome

Restoration and Construction

The restoration of the dome was a mix of challenge and passion. Thanks to the know-how and materials from my brother-in-law's boatyard, I was able to breathe new life into the dome. The dome quality was impressive, and after replacing the rubber parts and rollers and repairs to the gelcoat, the dome shined like new.

In May 2023, I was finally able to start assembling the dome. The previous months were marked by continuous rain, which slowed down the excavation, formwork, and reinforcing work. I chose self-leveling pump concrete for the foundation, as direct access for a conventional concrete mixer was impossible. Within 10 minutes, the nearly 2.5 cubic meters of concrete were poured, and after two weeks, I could de-shutter. Then in early June, the dome and mount were set up in one day.

Technical Challenges

An important step was determining the precise position of the pillar. I had previously set up all the equipment in the dry in the shed to test the positioning. After Baader Planetarium warned me about the dimensions of the large refractor in a 2.1m dome, I left nothing to chance. A few days after the dome was set up, the mount and finally the telescope were installed and both were put into operation. More on this below.

Weather Resistance and Practical Test

The dome was already exposed to extreme weather conditions, including a heatwave of over 36° C and two thunderstorms, one with 120 km/h winds and heavy rain. The dome withstood, and thanks to the replacement seal kindly provided by Baader Planetarium for free, the interior remained dry.

As already mentioned, I am thrilled at how well the dome could be renovated. Although it was a lot of work as mentioned above, without the substance of the object, the best polishing machine is useless. And the substance of the dome is first-class.

State-of-the-Art Instruments

Commissioning the Mount

The mount, a 10Micron GM3000 HPS, was another crucial factor. The commissioning was surprisingly simple:

I started with a short drift alignment as I was used to, and already saw that there was no PE. Then I conducted a 10-point alignment with Mount Wizzard 4. After adjusting Polaris and generating a 60-point model, I was impressed with the precision and performance of the mount. The images in long exposures, such as 15 minutes on M101, were visually and metrically flawless – only turning the dome made me sweat.

First Astronomical Successes

After these results on the first evening, I was overwhelmed. The mount enables absolutely precise and clear shots, commissioning completed successfully in one night! Particularly impressive were the results in unguided long exposures.

In the following weeks, I stayed with the Crescent Nebula and was able to collect 7h Ha and OIII with 10min subs each, as well as 14*3min RGB for the stars. All un-guided! Below I show the first finished processed image, for a First Light I am already extremely satisfied.

NGC 6888 – 7h Ha and OIII with 10min subs and 14x3min RGB

Final Remarks

As you can see, I am thrilled so far. The 30-year-old dome is brilliant and now shines again in full splendor – the mount alone could already become a hobby. The next project step will be the automatic rotation of the dome, so I don't have to turn it every 15 minutes – but this is currently only in the planning phase.

I am extremely pleased that this dome with a long history will continue to serve me well for many years.


Sure, here's the English translation:


FROM A FOUND OBJECT TO A MODERN OBSERVATORY: THE STORY OF MY "ANTIQUE" BAADER DOME Note from Baader Planetarium: The following article was kindly provided by Christoph B. for publication.

Discover this 2.1M Classic Split Dome also on our world map Background My journey to establishing my own observatory began with an extraordinary heirloom, a Baader observatory dome over 30 years old, carrying its own remarkable history. This dome had been in the possession of Mr. Ernst Blättler (✝) for decades, who had donated it to his club, the Astronomical Society of Zürcher Oberland (AGZO), a few years ago. Until his old age, he was active as a passionate demonstrator. A few years ago, however, the club expressed the desire to operate a modern dome with the latest technology, which could be remotely operated by the club members.

Therefore, the club ordered a new 2.1m split dome, which was installed in September 2020. The heirloom, the over 30-year-old manually operated dome, was kindly left to me by AGZO. This dome, a testament to artisan craftsmanship and enduring quality, thus came into my possession and offered me the unique opportunity to transform it into a functional, modern observatory - a project that not only reflected my passion for astronomy but also a deep appreciation for astronomical heritage.

The challenge was to restore this historic dome, which had observed the sky for decades, and equip it with modern technology. It was a journey full of technical, physical, and emotional challenges. This dome had its own personality - shaped by its past, age, and many stories it had collected over the years. My goal was to not only breathe new life into it but also transform it into a modern observatory that could utilize the latest astronomical technologies.

Refurbishing the Classic Baader Dome Restoration and Construction The restoration of the dome was a mix of challenge and passion. Thanks to the know-how and materials from my brother-in-law's boatyard, I was able to breathe new life into the dome. The quality was impressive, and after replacing the rubber parts and rollers and repairs to the gelcoat, the dome shined like new.

In May 2023, I was finally able to start assembling the dome. The previous months were marked by continuous rain, which slowed down the excavation, formwork, and reinforcing work. I chose self-leveling pump concrete for the foundation, as direct access for a conventional concrete mixer was impossible. Within 10 minutes, the nearly 2.5 cubic meters of concrete were poured, and after two weeks, I could de-shutter. Then in early June, the dome and mount were set up in one day.

Foundation Preparations

Finished Foundation with Self-Leveling Pump Concrete

Assembling the Dome

Technical Challenges An important step was determining the precise position of the pillar. I had previously set up all the equipment in the dry in the shed to test the positioning. After Mr. Risch warned me about the dimensions of the large refractor in a 2.1m dome, I left nothing to chance. A few days after the dome was set up, the mount and finally the telescope were installed and both were put into operation. More on this below.

The GM 3000 HPS on the Baader Steel Column

My CFF 185mm APO on the GM 3000 HPS Mount

The Finished Dome Shines in New Splendor Weather Resistance and Practical Test The dome was already exposed to extreme weather conditions, including a heatwave of over 36 degrees and two thunderstorms, one with 120 km/h winds and heavy rain. The dome withstood, and thanks to the replacement seal kindly provided by Baader Planetarium for free, the interior remained dry.

As already mentioned, I am thrilled at how well the dome could be renovated. Although it was a lot of work as mentioned above, without the substance of the object, the best polishing machine is useless. And the substance of the dome is first-class.

State-of-the-Art Instruments Commissioning the Mount The mount, a 10Micron GM3000 HPS, was another crucial factor. The commissioning was surprisingly simple:

I started with a short drift alignment as I was used to, and already saw that there was no PE. Then I conducted a 10-point alignment with Mount Wizzard 4. After adjusting Polaris and generating a 60-point model, I was impressed with the precision and performance of the mount. The images in long exposures, such as 15 minutes on M101, were visually and metrically flawless – only turning the dome made me sweat.

First 60-Point Model

45 minutes later 3.1 RMS and 55” PA Error First Target, 10 min. exposed: WOW – absolutely round stars

Next Target: M101 15 min exposed, still round measured stars

Third Object NGC 6888 - 20 min exposed on the other pier side First Astronomical Successes After these results on the first evening, I was overwhelmed. The mount enables absolutely precise and clear shots, commissioning completed successfully in one night! Particularly impressive were the results in unguided long exposures.

In the following weeks, I stayed with the Crescent Nebula and was able to collect 7h Ha and OIII with 10min subs each, as well as 14*3min RGB for the stars. All un-guided! Below I show the first finished processed image, for a First Light I am already extremely satisfied.

NGC 6888 – 7h Ha and OIII with 10min subs and 14x3min RGB Final Remarks As you can see, I am thrilled so far. The 30-year-old dome is brilliant and now shines again in full splendor – the mount alone could already become a hobby. The next project step will be the automatic rotation of the dome, so I don't have to turn it every 15 minutes – but this is currently only in the planning phase.

I am extremely pleased that this dome with a long history will continue to serve me well for many years.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank AGZO for generously leaving the dome to me and especially Baader Planetarium for their support and the provided seal. Without their products and their service, I could not have realized this project. My dream of owning my own observatory has become a reality.

Christoph B., November 2023

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