First Light was Polaris
by Nick and Genny Dudish

Hello from the new "Peekaboo ICU" Observatory in Ilion, NY. Long name...interesting viewing. We had fun determining the new name of our observatory.

North East Astronomy Forum (NEAF) is the place to go to spend money on astronomy. It all started when I saw the Explora-dome at NEAF. I read the reviews and found that the structure was sound and well planned out.

It was also affordable. Dan Johanneck is the factory representative. Their web-site is

Dan is a straight shooter when it comes to the deal. You go away knowing that he gave you the best price possible while still making a profit.

The following Monday he and his crew (his wife and his nephew who was the tractor driver) delivered it utilizing an eighteen wheel tractor trailer.

Peekaboo ICU Observatory
Nick Dudish in front of his “Peekaboo ICU” observatory
It was 54 feet long and had a height of 13.7 feet high. They carried the dome top to my backyard. The circular wall was rolled on its side to my site and flipped to a horizontal position. The roller wheels were installed on the circular molding and the dome was placed on top. That convinced me that it was sturdy and almost indestructible.

Because I wanted the wheel attachments and the motor for easy dome rotation he helped get it set up. I also purchased the motorized dome accessories and I am glad that I did. The whole package proved that “let's get it done right the first time rather do it piece meal” is the way to go for me.

One hour later, I had a telescope in there for the evening clear skies. I am still in awe of my purchase and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. No more getting chilled by a cold wind, fogged equipment, and neighborhood lights to contend with.

Now I can have a home for my CCD and web cam, laptop computer, digital cameras, eyepieces, and not have to go in the house for them. The universe awaits for me to discover its many facets.

The next day there was a knock at the door. There were some children who asked “Mr. Dudish, may we see your space station?” It looks like a neighborhood star party is in order.

Oh yes, ever since I had the dome it has been clear skies.

I am getting to know more about the care of the Explora-dome.

Perhaps this will solve some of the queries.

To answer some of the questions written to me I lifted the dome off the wall, photographing certain areas. The wall is 43 inches high...just right to view the horizon and whatever is above it.

The interior wall is covered with thin layer of foam insulation and then with masonite. The two layers are enough to keep it quiet and look well on the inside. It also keeps the dome cool during the day when it is not used.

The motor bracket is mounted on a wood panel using a door hinge.

This hinge keeps the motor flexible to make contact with the large gear.

There is a strong rubber strap that is secured to the wall and other end is connected to the motor. This allows the motor to flex as it turns the dome.

I noticed that there is some dome flexure during rotation.

Consequently you need the horizontal rollers to keep the dome from flexing too much. I adjusted them just enough for the dome to maintain easy rolling. You can check this by pulling the roller ring towards and away from you. There should be enough of a movement in the horizontal direction (3/8th inch) as you walk around the dome wall pushing and pulling the roller ring.

Nick's Peekaboo ICU Observatory
Nick says, “ET followed me home from Roswell”

The wall weighs about 200 pounds. Make sure it is placed on a flat and level surface. I used 64 one foot square stepping stones placed on top of a mixture of soil and crushed stone. Then I used 6 mil black plastic on top of the squares. I then cut out a circular indoor-outdoor carpet to place on the plastic. It is a pleasure to walk on carpeting as well as knowing that a dropped eyepiece will survive the fall. In retrospect I should have built a concrete circular foundation. My thinking was “should I move from this residence, the dome is sure to go with me”. Now it is "just leave the concrete foundation behind and let the next home owner figure on what to use it for”.

It took three persons to set the dome on top of the wall. Make sure that none of the rollers are caught underneath it. If there is one, just have someone lift the dome up a couple of inches while you use your 7/8th wrench to adjust and tighten the horizontal roller underneath it. Recheck the dome for approximately 3/8th inch flexure. In other words the dome should turn freely.

My current issue is that after using the dome all evening it is difficult to close the pull out dome door. Do the dome walls contract with the cooling temperature?

Future projects: adding shelves to the wall and installing a red light inside the dome. With a black interior it gets quite dark in there.

I need to install some rubber bumpers for the dome door to stop on when it is fully opened. Yes, I do use the dog leash attached to the door handle to control it.

In closing I must write to inform you what a pleasure it is to use the observatory. No more wind, stray lights, and assembling and disassembling equipment for an evening view. No more dew on the scope to diminish viewing. The skies look a magnitude darker. I should have purchased one years ago. Thank you Explora-dome for an affordable observatory!