August 18, 2008 – Victoria Centre Observatory Official Opening
The Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO) was officially opened, with RASC members, corporate partners, and NRC staff helping to celebrate this milestone in Victoria Centre’s history. All the participants and volunteers that made the VCO a reality were thanked by President Joe Carr and Project Manager Bruno Quenneville. A special commemorative award was presented to Jim Hesser, Director of the DAO – a key supporter of the project from within NRC.
“Today is an historic occasion for Victoria Centre, since in its long history this is the first observatory that Victoria Centre can call its own. The project would not have completed on time and under budget without help from our corporate partners, generous donations of funds and labour from Victoria Centre members, and especially without the goodwill and support from the National Research Council. Victoria Centre members put their hearts into this project, and can be justifiably proud of the result. Thank you everyone!”
Joe Carr, President (2008)
- Project Overview & Budget
- Project Reports 2007
- Project Reports 2008
- Photo Galleries
Thank you to our two vice presidents during 2008, Sid Sidhu and John McDonald for the significant amount of work they have put into this project.
Thank you to Bruno Quenneville, who volunteered to be our Project Manager for building the observatory, and who’s enthusiasm for the project has infected us all.
Thank you to all our volunteers, who gave freely of their time and talents. A project such as this brings out the best in people, and so many of our members genuinely wanted to help out. Please have a look at our Online Photo Gallery to see our volunteers in action: Victoria Centre Observatory Construction.
Thank you to Geoff Jones, a member who opened his house to the Technical Committee, so testing of the Paramount ME, computer systems and weather station could take place in town. Geoff’s generosity enabled the Committee to complete their work in record time.
Without these folks’ efforts and dedication, this project would not have completed on time.
A special thank you must be offered to all our corporate supporters, who donated their time and materials (either outright donations, or by offering us discounts), estimated to be worth over $4,000:
- Software Bisque
- Slegg Lumber
- Home Depot
- Harbour Door
- Shanahan’s Building Supplies
- Camosun College – welding trades
- Victoria Powder Coating
- Emerson’s Lock
- McLaren Electric
Please patronize these (mainly local) businesses, and let them know why.
Project Overview & Budget
Victoria Centre has built an observatory on the former site of a NRC-run16″ telescope/observatory on the NE side of Observatory Hill. The National Research Council very generously agreed to give Victoria Centre use of this site on Observatory Hill. They also agreed to contribute $5,000 to our Observatory Project, and they have further agreed to provide telephone and electrical services at no cost to us on an ongoing basis. NRC and Victoria Centre mutually agreed to build a 10’x14′ SkyShed design observatory on this site, and the current structure adheres to that design.
The ultimate aim is to make this observatory available to the public through online access, however currently we do not have that capability. At present, our members manually operate the equipment, until we pull together the systems to provide automated online service.
Many active observers already make good use of the old 16″ site under our License to Use Land Agreement with NRC, but having an observatory on this site is a milestone for Victoria Centre.
Victoria Centre Council endorsed the project budget for 2007 (please see below). Scope of the project for the first year (2007) included:
- Part of the cost of the Skyshed not covered by NRC’s contribution
- Building the pier – both the concrete base and the steel pier itself
- Wiring installation for hydro, telephone and Internet service
Project Reports 2007
Victoria Centre is building an observatory on the former site of a NRC-run16″ telescope/observatory on the NE side of Observatory Hill. The National Research Council has very generously agreed to give our members use of this site on Observatory Hill. They have also agreed to contribute $5,000 to our Observatory Project for 2007, and they have further agreed to provide telephone, ADSL Internet, and electrical services at no cost to us on an ongoing basis. NRC and Victoria Centre have mutually agreed to build a 10’x14′ SkyShed design observatory on this site.
January 2007 – Concept presented to NRC
At least once each year NRC and Victoria Centre meet to discuss mutually beneficial plans and any issues that come up between our two groups with regard to the past year of public outreach at the Centre of the Universe. This year, Victoria Centre shared our desire to build and operate an observatory on NRC land atop Observatory Hill. After some negotiations, this concept was approved by both sides.
January to June 2007 – Observatory Plans
During the first half of 2007 the specifics of the proposed observatory were discussed with Victoria Centre members and Council. Details of the proposed use of their land were shared with NRC staff, and approvals in principle were obtained from NRC.
June 20, 2007 – Observatory Budget approved
Victoria Centre Council approved the budget for the Observatory Project and authorized purchase of the Paramount ME. More details: President’s Message – June 2007
Both NRC staff and our Vice Presidents dug the hole for the concrete pier, placed the rebar and j-bolts, and poured the pier. This was all hand work – thanks everyone!
Summer 2007 – Fundraising
Council members contacted every member by telephone over the summer to appeal for funds for our Observatory project. Our goal was to raise $10,000, and we have exceeded that target – thanks everyone! These funds will be used to pay for our share of the observatory infrastructure: More details: President’s Message – Summer 2007
Our Paramount ME robotic mount was purchased directly through Software Bisque, who very generously took US$500 off the price due to our non-profit status. On August 6th we had a Paramount ME Box Opening event at another special mid-summer Astronomy Café. This mount gives us a superb tracking platform upon which to build our robotic telescope atop Observatory Hill.
Thanks go to Brian & Joanne Robilliard at Island Eyepiece and Telescope for offering to act as a receiver for the Paramount ME, and to allow us to make use of their preferred shipping rates and customs broker.
December 14, 2007 – Agreements in place with NRC
The formal Project Description and other related paperwork is now signed and in place with the National Research Council, so the building of our new observatory can officially begin.
Our Project Manager Bruno Quenneville placed the first order for lumber to construct our Skyshed observatory. Our building supplies are being purchased from Lumberworld, who is very generously giving us preferred contractor prices and service, despite the relative small scale of our project.
December 28, 2007 – First day of construction
Malcolm Scrimger, Nelson Walker and Bruno Quenneville had a very busy day cutting all of our wall framing stock and starting our South elevation assembly. The pile of lumber seems to have reduced somewhat with all of the cutting behind us now. A very productive day !! Many thanks to the volunteers for a fine job and a great clean-up.
December 30, 2007 – Basic frame in place
Despite sub-zero temperatures, black ice, overcast conditions and high winds, volunteers Bruno Quenneville and Nelson Walker returned to the site today to resume assembly of the wall sections. A quick mounting of these shed sections now clearly show a true perspective of what will be! A great location and observing facility generously supported by the RASC members and the NRC management and staff.
Project Reports 2008
Victoria Centre is building an observatory on the former site of a NRC-run16″ telescope/observatory on the NE side of Observatory Hill. The National Research Council has very generously agreed to give our members use of this site on Observatory Hill. They have also agreed to contribute $5,000 to our Observatory Project for 2007, and they have further agreed to provide telephone, ADSL Internet, and electrical services at no cost to us on an ongoing basis. NRC and Victoria Centre mutually agreed to build a 10’x14′ SkyShed design observatory on this site.
January 5, 2008 – frame bolted
Charles Banville, Malcolm Scrimger and Bruno tackled the placement of the building’s anchor bolts. A total of 17 anchors were placed, each having a 3,000 lb. capacity ( that should be enough to handle high wind conditions experienced lately ). Despite heavy showers around 2:30 pm, Malcolm and Charles executed a great clean-up and moved our plywood stock closer the building. As usual our volunteers performed well! Project wise, we’re right on target.
January 6, 2008 – the main track beam sections installed
Malcolm Scrimger, Bill Almond, Charles Banville, John McDonald, and Bruno installed the main track beam sections.
January 9, 2008 – track run-outs
We accomplished the final placement and anchoring for the track run-outs. Present on site were Steve Pacholuk, Chris Gainor, Bill Almond, John Mcdonald, Michael Wheatley and Bruno Quenneville. Many special thanks to Michael for giving us a hand on very short notice. He provided the 12″ sono tube along with the expertise to transfer the topographic profile and cut the tube for a perfect fit! By the end of the day Bruno was able to grout the rebar in place and make ready for a concrete pour this weekend.
Bill Almond drilling the holes for the anchor rods
Michael Wheatley transferring the profile to the sono tube
Steve Pacholuk and John McDonald standing under the run-outs
Roof tracks and roller system was delivered on site today ( Special Delivery – see photo!). Harbour Door Services Ltd. of Victoria understood our needs and provided us with commercial grade components. Many special thanks to Val Hollingshead (owner) for supporting our project and minimizing costs by giving us their maximum trade discount.
January 12, 2008 – roof trusses in place
Today saw completion of the roof framing segment, and also the concrete was poured for the bases for the roof rolloff supports. Many thanks again to Nelson Walker, Charles Banville, Bruno Quenneville, and Malcolm Scrimger. The weather cooperated in only allowing light rain & mist to keep the crew cool and motivated.
January 13, 2008 – wall sheeting and runouts
Plywood sheeting was completed, and the concrete footings are also in place for the roof runout. The runout framing was assembled, ready for final alignment, and work on the roof framing progressed well. This Sunday’s crew included: Geoff Jones, Bill Almond, Nelson Walker, Charles Bamville, and Bruno Quenneville. We are exceeding our projected schedule, thanks to our dedicated volunteer workers crews.
Concrete footings for run-outs
Inside view. Crew: Charles Banville, Nelson Walker, Bruno Quenneville, Geoff Jones
Wall sheeting and run-outs in place
January 19, 2008 – the roof is rolling
The roof roller assembly was nearly completed today, and the roof system is running effortlessly! Alignment of the roof run-outs was finalized by John McDonald and crew. Sid Sidhu and Malcolm Scrimger focused on the wheel components and support beams. The field assembly was completed by Bruno Quenneville and the whole work party – we needed lots of hands to handle this demanding and heavy task. Special thanks to Michael Wheatley for picking up and delivering the remainder of the building materials to the site on Friday.
Clyde Donnelly, facility manager for the NRC reports that trenching and conduit for the main power and data underground feed should begin early this coming week. We are definitely on track…and rolling now! Again and again, many thanks to our dedicated volunteers for making Bruno’s job as Project Manager so rewarding.
January 20, 2008 – the roof is rolling to the end of the track and the siding is mostly installed
The green steel siding and flashing progressed well today with 90% of the walls now complete. The roof is rolling it’s full distance now and is proven to be an excellent design with minimal friction (you can move it with 2 fingers!) Today’s crew included, Bruno Quenneville, John McDonald, Malcolm Scrimger, Geoff Jones and Charles Banville. RASC Victoria Centre president Joe Carr stopped by to view first hand our successes to date. We will be meeting our construction deadline of January 31st for building lock-up. Great work was accomplished by today’s volunteers and of special note, the Sun came out to cheer us on (it’s been a wet 3 weeks thus far). Charles and Bruno started at 8 am and worked until 5:30 pm – a long day. BTW a great clean-up by Charles and Geoff, paving the way for the electrical work to begin this week by NRC’s contractors.
Roller assembly close-up
Bruno showing John how smoothly the roof rolls
Geoff Jones, Charles Banville, Malcolm Scrimger tacking on tarpaper – roof fully retracted
Geoff, Charles and John with new siding
January 21, 2008 – electrical trench dug & conduit in place
The trenching for the Power and Data cabling was in full progress today. NRC reports that all was covered over by the end of day and a service panel inside the RASC Observatory is soon to follow. Note our new custom fabricated steel door and frame assembly, donated by Shanahan’s Building Supplies of Victoria. They are in full support of our Observatory Project.
January 26, 2008 – plywood sheeting for roof and gable ends
Work on the RASC Victoria Centre Observatory progressed well on our 9th day of construction. Framing for the gable ends and plywood sheeting is nearly complete. Plywood covering of the roof frame structure has also started. Today’s crew included, Bruno Quenneville, Nelson Walker, Malcolm Scrimger and Charles Banville.
South elevation showing progress on the roofing
Roof sheeting starts – Nelson, Charles and Malcolm
Gable ends nearing completion
January 27, 2008 – gable ends and roof sheeting completed
Despite sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions, work on the project continued without hesitation by our dedicated crew. The gable ends were completed with metal siding and flashing trim. Plywood sheeting of the roof is also complete, with metal sheeting to follow next. The facility interior should be drying up in the next few days in anticipation of the electrical power rough-in and activation. It was a long day for all, and in less then ideal working conditions – slippery slopes and frozen finger tips. Today’s crew included, Bruno Quenneville, John McDonald, Geoff Jones and Charles Banville. Today’s challenges were accepted head on, with little hesitation or slowdown caused by the weather, however by 3 o’clock work stoppage was called so we could all make it safely down the Hill and warm up at our favorite Tim Horton’s coffee shop.
Bruno and Charles (igloo builders)
showing the completed roof sheeting
East wall showing completed gable ends
John McDonald and Bruno showing completed roof
February 1, 2008 – the outside of the shed is nearly completed
Bruno returned to the site to place a proper rain tarp on the exposed plywood roof sheeting. The product we will use as water barrier is a high-end product that requires a dry surface and ambient temperatures of 10 C plus (won’t happen anytime soon). Work on the shed proper is nearing completion with minor work on details remaining. Activity will now slow down, so future progress reports will be released when substantial milestones are reached ie: power installation, and the custom steel pier installation. The steel pier is now being fabricated by Camosun College, special thanks to Geoff Jones for his excellent efforts and the College’s commitment to our project.
Again many thanks to our member volunteers for their dedication for this first phase of the RASC Victoria Centre Observatory. Project budgets for 2008 are being developed, pending on the results of the B C Gaming Commission funding to be announced soon. Please note that to date our actual RASC construction costs are $3,800 from a budgeted $7,180. Special thanks to all commercial business supporters for their generous donations which now exceed $2,800 (and growing).
February 7, 2008 – Building locked & steel pier in progress
The door lockset is installed, and the steel pier is constructed, and is in to be sandblasted and powder coated.
February 24, 2008 – the steel roof is on and the pier base and interior are in progress
Work on the Observatory progressed well this weekend with the roof system now complete, minus minor flashing. With a clear break in the weather, conditions were ideal for the installation of the roofing membrane and sheeting components. John McDonald, Geoff Jones and Bruno Quenneville were well focused to execute this delicate task. Joe Carr dropped by to see first hand the resulting Green Roof. We would like to thank the Langford – Home Depot for donating all of the metal sheeting and flashing materials to give our new Observatory a professional and durable finish.
In the past few weeks, progress was also made on: general clean-up, trenching for the mount cabling conduits, electrical panel rough-in, as well as bits of flashing and trim.
Inside view showing power panel and pier base
The roof is on! Bruno and Geoff – happy volunteers.
John making careful measurements
March 8, 2008 – steel pier in place
Work on the Observatory continued today with the arrival of our new powder coated steel pier. As reported earlier, the pier was custom made by Camosun College ( Interurban Campus ) staff and welding class. RASC member Mr. Geoff Jones took on this task and the results speak for themselves… a great 180 lb. fabrication that will serve the observatory for decades to come. Special thanks also to Rob Chalmers owner/manager of Victoria Powder Coating for the final finishing of the pier, textured flat-black. In mid afternoon, Charles Banville and Bruno returned to site to begin the installation of the power and data conduit systems with the hope of completing the concrete infill this Sunday.
Michel Michaud, Charles Banville, Geoff Jones & Bruno Quenville standing proud by the new pier
Geoff Jones approves he final level of the pier
John and Geoff review the installation
Power, data and control conduit in place
Again our dedicated members, Charles Banville, Michel Michaud, Bruno Quenneville, John McDonald and Geoff Jones were contributors today in helping us reach this long anticipated major milestone in the project’s development.
March 30, 2008 – wiring
The electrical power conduit system is now complete and the wiring is in full progress. Concrete repairs and patching on the south wall was also addressed. Bruno Quenneville, Sid Sidhu, Charles Banville and Rand Collins were on hand to assist in these final stages of the project. As previously reported we now have permanent power to the building with half of the electrical distribution now complete minus devices and terminations. As usual, a very good productive day. The power circuits should be fully activated in the next week or so. Light rain did challenge the concrete crew but they prevailed with the help of tarps and a dedication to overcome this minor setback and get the job done ( we’re use to it by now ! ).
Building power feed encasement
Wiring in progress – Charles
Concrete repair and infill along south wall
Rand and Charles completing north wall circuits
April 12 & 13, 2008 – wiring and motorized roof system
Work on the electrical and steelwork on the project continued this weekend with the electrical power conduit and wiring now complete. Final connections and terminations to the panel will be undertaken by NRC staff. On Saturday the new LiftMater motorized roof system was mounted. This equipment came to us via ” Depend a Dor ” of Victoria. This professional series incorporates various safety and electronic features that will serve us well at present and can be fully integrated for remote operation in the future. Many thanks to NRC for picking up the cost on this one-of-a kind custom horizontal roof operator.
On Sunday, Bruno Quenneville, Charles Banville and David Griffiths were busy finalizing the electrical power controls to the roof operator and installing a few light fixtures. These weatherproof lights, 2 whites and 2 reds were supplied by McLaren Electric of Victoria and in full support of our project were donated at better then wholesale rates. Finally, newly acquired galvanized steel angles were incorporated in our run-out frame, replacing the original wooden braces. Special thanks to member Sid Sidhu for hunting these down and donating them to the project. The exposed exterior components of the shed now appear to be as weather resistant as can be, ensuring minimal maintenance for years to come. Many thanks to our supporters and crew for a job well done.
Electrical system ready for final connections
Liftmaster motorized roof system
Roof opener and lights, North wall
Steel cross braces now replace the wooden ones
John McDonald, Charles Banville and Bruno Quenneville returned to the site Saturday to clean-up a variety of loose ends, including the steel braces and the crossover spreader bar. Inside duties included a general cleaning in anticipation of the NCR electrical staff starting the final connections including the activation of the telephone and Internet services. Fascia boards and misc flashing details were also completed on the roof edges. Clyde Donnelly of the NRC reported that the custom handrail/barrier is now in the shop for welding and modifications as discussed. This work should be completed this coming week and installed next weekend. The barrier function was deemed necessary to ensure a safe exit from the observatory under dark skies.
May 10, 2008 – observatory commissioning
Our project manager Bruno Quenneville had an unofficial deadline in mind as the construction phase of our observatory project neared an end. He wanted the observatory to be finished and operational by Astronomy Day, which was held on May 10th this year. Bruno and his volunteers finished enough of the concrete work outside to make the site safe, and the inside was wired, the pier installed, and the floor finished. The Technical Committee had previously done enough off-site work on the Paramount ME, weather station, and computer systems to confidently install all this gear into the observatory a few days prior to Bruno’s deadline. All the pieces were in place except for one rather critical bit of hardware: a telescope! Nelson Walker had previously offered to loan Victoria Centre his 11″ Celestron SCT, so he and Bruno installed the scope the day before Astronomy Day.
Victoria Centre’s observatory was unofficially debuted to RASC members who were on Observatory Hill volunteering for Astronomy Day activities. Bruno was a gracious host, and everyone shared in the excitement of the moment. The observatory has not had “first light” yet, but stay tuned! Congratulations to the construction volunteers, the Technical Committee, and our corporate sponsors. Special thanks must go to our passionate Project Manager Bruno Quenneville and to John McDonald, who takes overall responsibility for this project at Council.
Geoff Jones, David Lee, Nelson Walker, Mark Wheen, John McDonald, Bruno Quenneville
Nelson Walker, David Griffith, Bruno Quenneville
John McDonald with the Paramount ME, and the 11″ Celestron SCT
May 26, 2008 – Bruno Quenneville, master observatory builder
At Astronomy Café held on May 26, 2008, John McDonald presented Bruno with a token of our appreciation for his pivotal role as Project Manager for the building of our Centre’s new Observatory.
Project Reports 2009
Dec 27, 2008
I ventured to the hill to have a peek-see at the conditions, et voila ! Ice packed road and snow drifts abound. Took a minute to hike in to the site to have a closer look. All is fine and our Observatory is buried in snow! A pretty site none the less…
March 25/26, 2009
Victoria Centre’s First Annual Messier Marathon was held at the Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO), and its environs. This was an all night session. Several hardy members attended this “baptism by icy air.”
This is the first of what is hoped will be the annual Messier Marathon for the RASC Victoria Centre. March 28, 2009 was the predicted best weekend of the year for a marathon, however March 25 gave us the best weather. Messier Marathon Photos
May 19, 2009
Work started today on building the concrete sidewalk from the parking lot to the VCO. A a new concrete observing area is also being constructed, which will fill in the foundation ring of old 16″ dome (and a bit more).
May 21, 2009
Work on site prep and formwork was completed today and now near ready for the concrete placement. Base grades were compacted and supporting side banks roughed-in, minor work will be required to better fair edging details to existing site topography once the forms are removed. Clyde from NRC and Bruno from Victoria Centre inspected today’s progress and were very satisfied with the final results and workmanship.
May 25, 2009
Concrete work and finishing was completed today by the Dennis and crew from Capital City Concrete. Trio Ready-Mix easily made it to site to deliver 7 cubic meters. All went as per plan, giving us an excellent viewing platform. The deck will be ready for use by members this Friday.
Thanks go to Trio Ready-Mix (1971) Ltd for giving us 8 yards of concrete and Capital City Concrete Ltd for constructing the sidewalk and observing deck at a greatly reduced cost.
June 14, 2009
Charles Banville and Bruno Quenneville started framing the shed extension today. The North, East and South exterior walls are nearly complete. The internal dimensions are roughly 8′ 6″ x 6′ 0″ giving us ample room for the clubs 20″ Dobsonian.
June 20, 2009
Charles and Bruno completed framing the roof and sheeting the exterior surfaces, with minor framing at the entrance door remaining. Work progressed smoothly and we look forward in having the green metal siding in place at our next visit. Details on the flashing and trim will happen later. A trial fitting proved successful today in allowing the 20″ Dob an easy and effortless fit!
It appears we will bring this project in under budget thanks to judicious use of materials left over from the construction of the main VCO building, along with anticipated donations from our generous suppliers.
July 4, 2009
Charles and Bruno framed the doorway and wrapped the shed with tar paper
July 5, 2009
Charles and Bruno installed the metal siding and roof.