End of an Era

Over the summer of 2003 I have been fighting a loosing battle with the weather... no, not in the sense that I can't use the observatory because it is cloudy, but in the sense that the observatory is essentially weather-damaged beyond reasonable attempts to keep it repaired. Hurricane Claudette nailed central Texas last summer and that was the beginning of the end. Almost every dome seam and wall panel look like they have been blown out from the inside (I suspect the building survived an encounter with a small twister). Aditionally, the west side of the dome was struck with hundreds of heavy hailstones, leaving numerous star-shaped splits on the interior of the dome skin. Though the dome supperficially looks OK from a distance, it has fatal damage ot it. Water penetration will finish it off soon.

The facility has served me well for 17 years, but on November 20, 2003 I used it for the last time and bade it farewell. The following morening I began dismanttleing it to save all the hardware items. On the next trip up on November 24 I took a chain saw to clear the building off the slab. Only after I began to cut the dome up did I see how extensive the water damage had been after the summer storms. The upper structure was solid and gave a chain saw a good fight, but where the dome ribs mated with the base ring, I was able to tear them off with my hands and find the wood was damp.

I plan to simply leave the pier and wedge in place on the slab and use it as an open-air observing site with the comfort of clean concrete under me. I will add full length pick-nik tables to the east and west sides to hold my equipment

I have always called my observing site the von Braun Photographic Station instead of "observatory". Now the name will be more fitting as the place will continue to be used, although without walls and a dome.

The many star-shaped patterns are hail damage on the inside of the dome, some with accompanying water damage. A look at the final sunset during the observatory's opperational life.
Nearly every seam in the dome has been sprung open and is deteriorating. The outer wall panels all look like they have been kicked out from the inside.
To add insult to injury, wasps and spiders have taken over the building during the long summer wet season. This massive wasp nest took root just above the door. If I didn't habitually look up before entering, I would have stuck my head into this!.
The skin of the dome was cut away first to expose the dome ribs, they were then cut out as well. Once a large portion of the dome was cut away, the remainder was pushed over onto the ground.
The remains of the dome were then cut into pieces small enough to transport in my Ford Bronco. The dome support structure came off next.
Finally the walls were knocked down and cut up into small pieces. Once the slab was cleaned off, the mount was replaced and the place is ready for my next observing session.

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