D Little Observatory

A New Beginning

At the end of July 2021, the Southland Astronomical Society INC was generously donated a small backyard Observatory. This building was donated by David Little, both a life member of the Society and likely one of our founding members. As well as a keen interest in aviation, going so far as to build a small aircraft of his own, David always had a keen passion for astronomy. This building was one of two Observatories he had on his property. The other has gone with David to a local rest home.

This generous donation will allow the Society to grow and supply a more dedicated service and to put down roots at our current location at Links Road, Sandy Point.

Since the closure of our original building, the Southland Savings Bank Observatory in 2017 the Society has aimed for a new building. This opportunity before us is too good to let pass by. We are working with the Invercargill City Council, and many other local partners to ensure we have the D Little Observatory up and running by the start of April 2022.

Help Support and Community

As we begin this project the Southland Astronomical Society would like to thank those community groups, funding organisations and companies that have offered us help in getting this project off the ground. This project would not be happening with out them. As we move along in the project we will introduce the new helping hands, as they become involved, here.

From the bottom of our hearts and on behalf of the astronomical community in Southland we would like to thank the following groups;

ILT Foundation: Supplying funding for the restoration and upgrading of the D Little Observatory and shelter.

ICC Community Wellbeing Fund: Supplying funding for the restoration and upgrading of the D Little Observatory and shelter.

Mitre10 Mega Invercargill: Supplying materials, tools and funding towards the restoration and upgrading of the D Little Observatory and shelter.

TrueSouth Survey Services: Supply topographic work for the new site and aid in aligning the plinth and telescope.

KM-MEC: Supplying time, advice, foundation design work and geotechnical assessments for the observatory's new location.

Jaycar: Supply of security surveillance system and weather station.

The First Update

First of all, welcome to 2022, doesn't time fly when you have a project on the go. Late in 2021, the Society, represented by Liz King and Joseph Roberts, had a couple of successful meetings with some funders; ILT Foundation, Community Trust South and the ICC Community Wellbeing Fund. While we are still waiting to hear from the Community Trust South, the Southland Astronomical Society has successfully secured portions of the necessary funding from the ILT Foundation and the ICC Wellbeing Fund. With the secured funding and conditions met, we have started our project in January of 2021.

Additionally to the funding, the SAS has received the design for the new foundation of the D Little Observatory. The Invercargill City Council, whom we have been working with since day one of this project, required us to investigate the best foundation for the terrain. The Society was generously donated the investigation and design work for the foundation by KM-MEC engineers in Invercargill. A unique design was needed to be placed on dunes and required a hole to keep the scope plinth separate from the building. The design makes me rather hungry; it is named after a favourite food, waffles. A waffled foundation sits on a raft of gravel, with the underside of the raft ribbed with hollows to create a difference in air pressure. This difference in air pressure helps hold the slab in place. This slab type is used in areas like Sandy Point or Christchurch, where liquefaction is a risk. As this is not a simple slab, we will be engaging some expert foundation layers to place this building on site soon.

Meanwhile, Mitre10 has also contributed to this project through their Mucking In program to support community projects. They have discounted the materials and items we need to undertake this project and granted $1000.00 towards our purchases. With the first order ready for pick up on the 8th of Jan 2022, some of the Society members got together to begin.

First on the list of tasks to do was remove the observatory's current floor. This task was necessary for KM-MEC to complete their foundation design and the attachment points for the building. The second task was to remove the rotten cladding and rusted roofing iron from the old shelter and then re-clad and re-roof it. As it stands, we are partially through this with the cladding up. We are waiting for the new roof materials and flashing for the building. This will be completed over the next couple of weeks. To bring in another awesome supporter of our project, Resene has offered us the paint we need to paint everything in the new colours. While we were hoping to do some of this work last weekend, the optimal painting temperature was exceeded. This task will be undertaken on the next overcast weekend.

Lastly in this update, another task was to strip some of the old paint off of the observatory rails to assess the rust damage. It was not as bad as we thought to our surprise and relief.

That's it for this update. We look forward to updating you on a finished shelter and then concrete and moving the observatory in the future.

The Second Update


A small update today, although we have been taking advatange of the great weather. Between this and the last update the re-cladding and painting of the old bus come gold shelter has been completed and it is looking rather tidy and ready for another 20 years in the Southland elements.

The shelter as it was can be seen above, and the photos beside show it part way done. Future posts you will be able to see it finished.

The Third Update


It has been a long time since the last update, we can blame winter, more COVID lockdowns, and the international shipping delays.

Progress re-started on 18/08/22 with our builder, Southern Edge Building were contracted to produce our unique and specially designed foundation. What makes our foundation unique is a hole in the middle of it for the plinth that will hold the telescope. This hole is filled with a concrete block and plinth, that cannot touch the building foundation. This is to ensure any vibration from the building is not passed to the telescope. Also the sandy soils of Sandy Point (I understand the name now) means a standard foundation is prone to liquefaction. This means the foundation needs to be waffle design, with the underside of the foundation looking like a waffle (another name that is easy to understand).

Southern Edge Building have been great to work with providing great thinking and taking this challenge to heart. Further they provided the Society with a great price to get the work sorted. Southern Edge also organised the moving and placement of the building on the new foundation.

We couldn't be more thankful for the work completed by the team.

The Fourth Update


Just a small update before the holiday season. Some important test fitting was carried out with the scope and mount to ensure clearances, direction and levelling.

Everything went swimmingly.

The Sixth Update


After a break for the holidays, most of used some of the remaining time to make serious progress on the D Little Observatory. A week long working bee was held to reclad the inside and outside of the building, painting, fixing up, and breaking up old concrete.

The photos really speak for themselves in this instance.