Dust Prevention

Image result for haboob in phoenix

My observatory is in the Arizona desert. As such we get a tremendous amount of dust in the air.

  1. I’m sure there is a large amount of dust suspended in the air in general.
  2. We get occasional high winds which pick up a lot of dust as they blow across the desert.
  3. We get occasional dust storms which are amazingly dense dust – you can’t see 3 feet in front of your face. Apparently “dust storm” is politically incorrect, so the media has taken to calling them “haboobs”. The image above shows a storm coming across the desert. Notice the mountains in the background; that wall of dust is BIG.

I spent 4 days cleaning the observatory. The dust is tough to get up; it is thick and deposits like mud (probably electrostatically charged). You can’t use a Swiffer or dust cloth – at best that just smears the dust around. You have to use rags and water to pick it up.

I have implemented some anti-dust strategies which I hope will help:

  • I made a cloth skirt which goes around the outside of the dome. The skirt is about 6 inches long, hanging off the rotating dome and dragging on the roof. I’m hoping this will provide another barrier to dust coming in that way. The cloth has two ropes sewed into the edges. The top rope allows the cloth to pull tightly against the plastic band holding it against the dome, making a tight seal. The lower rope weights the bottom edge of the skirt to make sure to drapes down onto the roof.
  • I plan to install some weatherproof sealing against the edge of the shutter. The upper shutter in particular does not seal tightly when closed.
  • I put cloth drapes over the computer table and various equipment cabinets. I also put a drape around the base of the mount. When I need something I just lift the drape (to get at a tool chest, for example). I put Velcro on the computer drape to hold it on the monitor – it kept sliding off to the back.  Now, every so often I will just need to wash the drapes.
  • My electronic cabinets were designed for upstate New York, where I encountered serious insect invasion issues. The cabinets have open front and back doors for air flow, with two layers of screen keeping out bugs. I added a cloth layer to the doors to hopefully keep out dust while still allowing air flow.
  • I changed the scope Park position back to pointing the scope downward. I will need to change this in the summer; the heat causes grease on the Celestron Edge baffling to drip onto the corrector plate. However, the rest of the year I hope that less dust will settle on the telescope glass if it is pointing down.
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