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Hi, and welcome to sunny East Anglia! I live about six miles from the fine city of Norwich, in a small village with no street lights. Even by modest British standards, Norwich is a fairly small city (we like it that way!) but even so, if the night is not perfectly clear, there is a small amount of background light pollution from the city, though I realise that I am fairly lucky as regards this modern bugbear of many observers.
I have a 14.25" Newtonian reflector on a simple "Dobsonian" altazimuth mount built by Beacon Hill Telescopes which I use for the visual observation of variable stars, chiefly the Dwarf Novae and Nebular types. I do not need an expensive equatorial mount since I observe purely visually. Neither do I use any kind of "Go To" facility.If you are sufficiently familiar with the night sky, these adornments are completely unnecessary - and slow! It takes me seconds to find the vast majority of the stars I observe. All that is needed is a good star chart that enables you to make finder charts for each variable where necessary. Of course, the more familiar you become with your stars, the less you need any charts at all, and I find that I can memorise many sequences. The money saved from not acquiring unnecessary frills can then be put to better use such as investing in more aperture, better eyepieces, or something totally radical like a holiday in Hawaii... (watch this space!)

The Observatory

I used to live in the same road as I do now, but at another house. A house with a very large garden, and three bedrooms. I knew a family at what is now my house who wanted to exchange - and they had a smaller garden with a shed! A shed which would do very nicely as an observatory. So when my son Will went to live in London, a 3-bed house was no longer necessary, so we exchanged, to a two-bed bungalow which is easier to maintain, and with a rather smaller garden.My Observatory A builder friend (thanks, Dave!) agreed to turn my 8-by-10 shed into an 8-by-10 observatory. The plan was to have the roof slide off on runners, and after a few weeks we were there. The roof itself is tongued-and grooved timber, covered by thick gauge pond liner, a material which is impervious to more or less anything. It runs on thick plastic wheels which fit inside a shallow channel running the total length of walls-plus-runners. The weight of the roof is sufficient to keep the wheels within their channels, but light enough to be moved with one hand. The runners themselves extend out (southward) for a distance about equal to the width of the side walls, so that when the roof is fully slid away, the shed is open to the sky. The picture here shows the roof slightly open. One slight problem is that the shed is not square, so that the view to North and South is rather less than East to West. But one can't have everything, and a free shed (sorry:observatory) was just too good an opportunity to refuse. The picture to the left shows a view taken from the inside, and illustrates how the roof slides along in the channel. The axles on which the wheels freely run are large galvanised bolts, whose heads are visible in the first picture.Inside view of the roof
The interior of the observatory was painted flat black, and the windows were also covered. I also cut a hole in the floorboards, two feet by two feet. The base of the mount fits inside here, standing off about an inch on each side from the floorboards so that any motion made in the shed is not transmitted to the stand. I also laid a black carpet, and ran a timber rail along each side, both as a strengthener and as a "hook" to hang a clipboard on, for recording observations made at the scope. View of the 14-inch tubeThe interior of the observatory, and in fact the entire scope, is uniformly black to cut down on unwanted reflected light. A lot of the time I am observing very faint (sixteenth, even sometimes seventeenth-magnitude) stars, so all unwanted light needs to be banished. Even the edge of the secondary mirror is matt black! This can be seen here. Note the dew-cap at the end of the finder. This at the moment is a necessity in our rather damp climate. At some stage I would like to have the observatory heated somehow - not a blazing fire, just something sufficient to stop the optics dewing up. The scope has a skeleton tube, and while the main mirror is protected, the flat is more exposed. It dews up more than anything else. Maybe something else to think about is some sort of dew-buster. But these all appear to be designed for circular tubes, or smaller ones.

The Scope

This has partly been mentioned already, so I won't dwell too long on it. In 1991, I decided to buy a bigger telescope, so I sold my harp (that's another story!) and my previous scope, a short-focus 6-inch refractor. Various firms were scouted for Dobsonian telescopes. I wanted at least a twelve-inch aperture, and lusted after sixteen inches, if the truth be told. Size after all, as any girl will tell you, is everything. And then one day I saw an advert in an astronomy magazine for a firm, Lincoln Optics, who had a clearance sale of large mirrors with one-third of the price off. The biggest they had was a 14" with 70" focal length (thus making it f/5). Perfect!
I then contacted Barry at Beacon Hill Telescopes for the rest of the scope, and in June 1991 my mate Steve and I took off oop North. We'd calculated that his car was just big enough to fit the square skeleton tube into. The emphasis was on the just: "What size is the mirror?" he'd asked. "Fourteen inches" came the reply. But it wasn't - it was 14.25 inches, and that extra made all the difference! It was very good of him to ignore the scratches to his interior paintwork where we'd had to cram the tube in.
I'd never had a reflector before and was feeling queasy about the whole process of collimation - you know, that bit where you have to align all the optics and mechanics so that you get an optimum image, with as few wasted photons as possible. But the scope had come with exhaustive instructions, and an auto-collimating eyepiece. So I did everything I was told and waited for a clear night. The first star I looked at was Arcturus. It was amazing! A needle-sharp image, and a star so bright it dazzled you to look at it. Twelfth-magnitude stars stood out like beacons. That night I observed the Mira star BU Cygni at a faint minimum - 16.1, more than a whole magnitude below its catalogued minimum brightness!
Of course, an f/5 telescope has its drawbacks. Planets such as Jupiter aren't as imposing as you might think, but I never look at them anyway, so it doesn't really make a lot of difference! You also need to collimate the optics more often for the best results, but now that the scope is permanently mounted this is not such a chore. My ancient Norton's Star Atlas (1966 edition, its maps all but illegible under hundreds of additional variable stars added by me in red, green, black and pencil) contains simple but excellent instructions and diagrams for this, and googling for newtonian collimation will bring up lots of useful sites and YouTube demonstrations.