Rattlesnake Observatory (the original)
After camping out for so many years, attemping to get a couple of hours sleep in a tent during a summer day in 110+ degree heat, loading and unloading equipment from my house to truck and back, I decided that it was time for an observatory. I really wanted a permanent setup in the high desert of eastern Arizona or New Mexico, but I did not want my equipment to be restricted to one location, nor did I want to do most of my imaging sitting on the couch at home via the internet as I enjoy getting out of town. Thus the concept of my mobile observatory was born.
The Rattlesnake Observatory is a 20 ft. Carson toy hauler complete with A/C, heat, XM radio, generator, range, oven, fridge, shower and toilet. However guests of the observatory are required to use the outside facilities, shovel provided. I power my equipment via 12V Optima batteries which are charged with either a 128 watt solar panel or the observatory's on board generator. The observatory is pulled by a 2005 Dodge 2500 4X4 with a Cummins turbo diesel powerplant. The 4X4 diesel enables me to pull the observatory up the steep mountain swtchbacks of the high Sierras or through deep sand in the California and Arizona high and low deserts. The idea is to get my observing and imaging equipment into stunning, remote dark sky sites with many of the comforts of home, no campground required. All of my astro gear is housed in the trailer, so the only prep I have to do for a trip is to hit the grocery store, hitch up, and happily get the hell away from the madness of the city and out of town.
Of course, it requires more set up time than sitting on the couch and logging onto the internet capturing images. But, its good for the soul to get out into the middle of nowhere with only your equipment, your thoughts, and no other distractions, oftentimes not even cell phone service. Some would disagree with my approach. However, for me part of astro imaging is getting the hell out of town to a peaceful, remote location. I have set up at numerous isolated fantastic spots in the American Southwest, many of which I would have never experienced had I opted for the permanent observatory. If you enjoy travelling to untouched remote locations sporting the darkest skies on the continent and spending time in the wilderness with your astro gear, this is the ticket.
The observatory in the California low desert