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Dome & Automation System

The selection of the dome and the automation system was a fairly easy one. We had a very firm idea of what we were looking for and quickly narrowed the choice down to three manufacturers. Once at the final three, (we wont name names), it really came down to two key factors, one, we were really leaning towards a bi-splitting horizontal door assembly rather than one that was lowered or raised. Secondly, we wanted an all metal construction with no wood or fibre glass. After finalising that criteria the only obvious choice in our mind was the domes constructed by Observa-Dome and we have not regretted that choice one bit. External factors that influenced the decision included the fact that Observa-Dome now work hand in hand with Meridian Controls to the extent that they can now install the control system directly into the dome whilst it is being fabricated at the Observa-Dome factory. Previously it was a two stage process of having the dome fabricated, installed then having Meridian Controls come out to the customer site to install the automation. Also the local University, (ASU - Appalacian State University), has contracted a number of Observa-Domes in the past and continue to do so, which was fairly re-assuring.

Our dealings with Observa-Dome and Meridian Controls have been superb. The dome was fabricated, delivered and installed on schedule. We were invited down to the Observa-Dome factory to see the dome be disassembled and they were wonderful hosts. We would have no reservations in recommending either company to anybody else.

The Dome

Observa-Dome offer a variety of sizes, and will even create a custom size dome on request, (at a price of course). We decided to go with a 4 meter dome, (overall diameter), and had the control system installed at the time of fabrication at their factory. The extra options we ordered with the dome, other than the control system, was a 'Fixed base angle ring', which was needed to attach the dome to our observatory structure, and the neoprene insulation which coats the inside of the dome.

The Meridian Dome Automation System

The specifications for the Meridian control system are as follows :

· 17-bit closed-loop DC servo azimuth drive
· Wireless encoded data link for automated dome remote control
· Computer controlled dome operation with RS-232 and manual control
· Power conditioning circuitry built-in for lightning strike and surge protection
· Dome initializing time estimated to be less than 2 minutes
· Dome opening/closing time estimated to be less than 30 seconds
· Solar powered dome shutter operates via regulated charger and 12V battery

Pictures of the control system will be taken once the observatory is completed.