In Part 4, the extended effort to move Prairiehill Observatory from Grinnell to Colfax, IA ended successfully. Using a Rough Terrain Forklift, the 10’ x 10’ building was lifted onto its new support structure and the heavy steel pier was hoisted high in the air and lowered down through the open roof to rest on the concrete footing. The following day I dug into the “move” pile of astronomical goodies in the garage. It was obvious that the 6’ Home Dome components needed a thorough cleaning to remove old silicon caulk, lichens and field grime from its years of duty in Grinnell. The cleaning took about two hours and when finished the dome’s white shiny surface emerged. I also located the box of nut and bolts which (fortunately!) were sorted into Ziplock bags and labeled during disassembly in Grinnell. The dome’s assembly manual? …I’d have to scrounge through unpacked boxes in the basement storage room in order to locate that. I decided to wait and see whether or not I really needed it.
With the dome cleaning completed, I then inspected the 10x10’ building. I found the interior a bit weather worn. The dome’s support frame was still in good shape and, much to my delight, it was still square and level! The door needed a new floor sweep but other than that it opened and closed freely. The raised platform surrounding the pier didn’t fare so well with the move. The dome opening was covered with tarps during the nearly 15 month project but they had leaked and the platform was in pretty rough shape. I decided to replace the raised platform flooring with ½” treated plywood. After a quick trip for supplies to repair the floor the building was ready for the dome installation.
Bryan Healy’s son, Shawn, came over to give me a hand reassembling the dome. There are roughly 10 fiberglass components and dozens of nuts and bolts. The dome halves and shutter could have easily blown away in a mild breeze so having Shawn available for support was a good plan. We completed the dome assembly in about an hour (without the manual!). The dome rotated and the shutter operated smoothly. The only blip was a weathered bumper strip attached to the bottom edge of the sliding shutter (I still need to get that replaced). Once we caulked all the seams we declared the building weather tight.
Later I opened the shutter and rotated the dome to survey the skyline. The southern horizon is somewhat higher than what I was used to in Grinnell; however the views east and north would be spectacular. Satisfied, I closed up the observatory, grabbed the ladder I’d been using and headed in to call it a day and drink a celebratory beer. I made it several yards up the hill when I was hailed by the third and hereto silent helper. Colin the cat apparently used the ladder to do some surveying of his own and was stranded on the roof when I closed the dome. One more trip up the ladder and Colin and I called it a day.
The next evening after work I decided to level the pier, and install the mount and telescope. The pier rests on four hefty nuts attached to ¾” anchor bolts at the base. Using a large adjustable wrench and a 3’ level I turned each of the large nuts to raise and lower the base as needed to bring the pier to vertical. The top of the pier has another set of 4 bolts with nuts for fine-tuning a bubble level built into the mount. Several trips up and down the hill were required to transfer the mount and telescope from storage to their final destination. As I carefully fixed the mount to the pier, leveled it and attached the LX200 the space within the observatory suddenly became familiar. It finally feels like home again. And that I believe is the end of this story. And hopefully the beginning of many interesting adventures as I continue my exploration of the skies.
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