An Introduction to Backyard Observatories

Backyard Observatory×452.jpg

The blog has been taken over by my friend Mark to talk about building an observatory in your garden and then using it as an excuse to not spend time with your family, if this is the sort of thing you’re into why not check out for other ‘manly’ ideas for your domestic getaway.

If you’re passionate about celestial objects and already own a significant amount of (no doubt expensive) equipment for viewing them, you may be asking yourself what the next stage is. If you have the space, time and budget, nothing comes close to having your own backyard observatory.

Hauling your bulky telescope in and out of the house can become tedious, especially when taking into account the amount of time it takes to properly set up, balance and polar-align. A permanent observatory eliminates this time consuming process, allowing you to take full advantage of perfect viewing conditions.

There are various types of observatories that you can realistically build by yourself, ranging from small sheds with retractable roofs, to domes built from the ground up for astrophotography, where great care needs to be taken to prevent the slightest vibration from ruining a long exposure. There are various vendors specialising in kits and pre built domes if you’re looking for the easy route, but there are plenty of resources available on the internet (just a Google search away) on how to build your own. Below is a list of essential factors you must take into account when planning your observatory.


Observatory Location

It’s vital to ensure that you position the observatory in the best place possible, using the space that’s available. A solid concrete foundation is often a necessity of an observatory, meaning relocation can be pretty hard work. If you already own the telescope you wish to use you’ll have a good idea of how big the observatory needs to be. If you haven’t decided on a telescope, it’s best to make the choice before starting on construction.


It may seem obvious, but an observatory should be constructed away from any trees. Take into account growth over the years and seasonal changes.

If you do have to construct near trees, be prepared to actively maintain them to ensure they don’t encroach within 360 degrees of your observatory.

Light Pollution

Observatory Light Pollution

Although unavoidable for some, best efforts should be made to construct the observatory away from street and security lights. A discussion with nearby neighbours may be required; hopefully they are understanding enough to allow you to shut off their security lights while you are observing, and turn them back on when finished.

Also take into account any passing cars. You may think your observatory is suitably blocked from headlights, but it only takes the tiniest amount of light to completely ruin a long exposure you have been working on for three hours.


Your observatory will most likely need multiple power points, especially if you will also be using a computer. Allow for as many outlets as possible, and be sure to ground your observatory to prevent electrocution.


Inside Observatory

It’s important to ensure your observatory is secure as possible, as it’s likely to house multiple expensive pieces of equipment. Invest in strong locks and potentially a budget (or pretend) CCTV system to further deter potential thieves and vandals. It’s sad to think someone might intentionally damage your observatory for no reason whatsoever, but unfortunately it happens in this day and age.


Amateur Observatories – Great collection of amateur build logs and guides
Amateur Observatory List – Extensive list of dome vendors and amateur builds

Related space facts:


  1. Or perhaps get you neighbours to destroy their security lights for good!then the night sky will be available to all and all the time.

  2. Sir,
    I love your Observatory and website. Your pictures are awesome. I have my own observatory in my backyard in KY. I finished the 3 year project 2 months ago. I will be observing and Astrophotography work as well.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *