Brunstein Observatory

Kreiensen, Germany

The story of the observatory

The current setup

Telescope(s):  8 inch reflector, f/6 (made by Eagle Eye Optics
5 inch reflector, f/5 (currently not in use) 
10cm Maksutov, f/10 (currently not in use)
CCD camera:  ST5 from SBIG (Santa Barbara Instrument Group)

The remote    

P120 for imaging inside the dome, running LinuX and DOSEMU 
P233 for image processing and star charts, running LinuX and WINE 
A network link between the two computers allows complete remote control of the CCD-Camera and the Super Polaris DX mount (the camra control box provides relay outputs which are simply connected to the mounts' handset). Remote control in this case means moving the telescope for a few degrees, automatically selecting objects is not possible.
Software  MIDAS from the ESO (European Southern Observatory)

The history of the observatory

My astronomical interest was awakened around spring 1979. During a weeks trip from our school we were then visited by the astronomical group of the school to tell us something about our solar system. As we were lucky and the group members brought their telescopes along, they gave us the opportunity to take a look at some interesting objects in the sky - Jupiter, Saturn, and the Orion Nebula were among the highlights of that night.

When we came back I joined that group - which actually still exists and has access to the old observing place in our school. On one of the astronomical meetings in Violau, the place of the MEPCO and a yearly meeting of the german planetary and cometary community, my interest in imaging astronomical objects grew as I had the first contacts to ccd cameras in the form of a video camera.

Around that time a friend of mine, Rudolf A. Hillebrecht, the owner of the Grasweg Observatory in Bad Gandersheim (abt. 7km from my place) started with his first ccd camera - an ST4. He later upgraded to an ST4X and then to the ST5 which he still uses today. I soon started to develop a special interest in processing the images as at that time I had neither an own camera nor a telescope which would be useful to aquire ccd images.

In the summer of 1993 I bought a five inch reflector with a Super Polaris DX mount. I then ordered a small ccd camera from a german engeneer (autumn 93) who inbetween offers many good cameras. But the starter kit turned out to be not as good as thought. Only very few images were taken with that camera. We sson discovered that the ST5 showed a lot more detail at integration times of 10 seconds as the other camera did after 60 seconds of integration.

During spring 1994 I had the chance to use Rudolf's ST4 camera at my place. I wanted to find out in how far the 5 inch reflector would be useful for ccd imaging at all. The results were astonishing: M51, M57, M27 and M1 were captured during a few good nights. At that point I decided to buy a new camera - an ST5 as it has more pixels with almost the same chip size. For the smaller telescope I would not make the same mistake again to buy a camera with large pixels! The camera reached me in the end of 1995.

At that time I did not really think about building an observatory. I was lucky to have the camera running in the garden. But soon enough I found out about the problems of our weather conditions. While I could use only good nights for observation and imaging as I had to bring out the whole equipment each time, Rudolf used nights with only 30 or forty minutes of clear sky to take his images of comets and planets. Now the idea of building the observatory was born!

In spring 1996 I started to calculate the costs and size of the observatory. After knowing all related facts and costs I decided to order a 2.5m dome from a private dome builder here in germany. The work in my garden started during the summer months and end of August the walls were ready to get the dome. But at that time it had already turned out that this would definitly be the last dome of its kind as the good man had lung cancer. He did not even manage to finish this dome in the end so when Rudolf and I fetched the dome the opening mechanism was still missing.

The dome is closed with a transparent foil at the moment and can be used for observations. But as there is no way to lock the dome I still can not leave any equipment in it. The only thing which is better now is the reduced problem with light from our street and that the Super Palaris DX mount must not be moved each time. This at least reduces the setup time to get started.

At the beginning of March 1997 the door was fit to the wall and the Super Polaris DX was placed on a stone socket. The instrument is much more stable now and disturbances from walking around the telescope have gone as the socket and the floor are seperated from each other. Still no equipment can be left in the dome but working has become a bit more comfortable. The two images show the dome in its current state and the CCD camera with the laptop computer used for taking the images at the moment. The camera head can not be seen as it was connected to the telescope.

The dome from outside.  The camera setup.

Finally we (Rudolf A. Hillebrecht and myself) managed to find a day with rather good weather conditions and enough time to continue with the work on my observatory. It was mid august already but at least we managed to finish 3 of the missing elements for the dome. The forth element is already cut out of the aluminium material but has to be fit into the dome. The main problem now is how to build an opening mechanism. Since this has been done, a lot of time has gone by again - rain, work and other things made further work at the dome almost impossible. The only positive news is the new telescope which had its first light images taken during autumn 1997...

"Man at work"Rudolf doing some cutting work.

At the moment we are waiting for good weather conditions to get some more images taken. The work at the dome will be continued (and hopefully finished) this year.

... Again one winter has passed. We are now on stardate...

But - who would have believed that some major work has been done during autumn and the first months of summer 1998 and that finally, after almost two years the observatory itself is finished. But what did happen?

Well - during some nice days in late autumn I took the chance to finish the dome myself. It took me two hard days cutting and assembling the slide, but it turned out to be working although I never did a work similar to this. There still has to be some finetuning done but the dome can now be opened and closed within a few seconds from inside. The whole setup to start doing some imaging work now takes me about five minutes as the telescope and the computer must not be moved each time any more. This is one of the major achievements with the slide. Secondly of course is the opening itself. With the old "solution" (plastic foil) I could only get up to about 70 degrees above the horizon - now the whole sky can be observed (at least those parts which are not obscured by trees or houses. This gives me a great area to the west and east, south is covered up to about 45 degrees above the horizon and north is obscured by a large tree leaving me little more than polaris. But this is the most I could get and it is a lot more compared to the view from a big city as at my place the milky way is easily visible within a clear night.

The dome was finished on May 1 1998 while some other work was finished on July 17 1998. On July 18 a small feast was held to "open" the observatory. The two images which  finally close this story were taken during that feast.

Rainbow over the Brunstein ObservatoryRainbow over the Observatory  Some guests at the opening ceremony  Some of the guests

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