About Astro La Vista Observatory


As a kid I was fascinated by astronomy. It must have been because of all the Apollo launches at Cape Canaveral. I signed up for an astronomy class in my freshman year in college, but my college astronomy days soon came to an end. As fate would have it, my rational self interest at that time took me in other directions. Over the last half century I have rarely seen an amateur telescope that I didn’t covet. Sky and Telescope magazine was never out of reach. I always wondered what was the best I could do in my back yard with a small telescope like a 70mm Televue Ranger or a 3 1/2 inch Questar.

Amateur astronomy is difficult and expensive. I have devoted much in the way of resources to get where I am in the hobby. The challenge of turning what is visually just a white fuzzy object into an attractive color photo is what makes it all worthwhile. Over the years, my collection of telescopes, cameras, accessories and books has blossomed. In my retirement I now have the opportunity and the dark skies to employ them.

This is a hobby that has many facets. No one can become an expert in all of them. It will be my greatest pleasure just to get what comes into the big end of the telescope exported to my computer as a digital photo. The construction of an observatory gives me the opportunity to digitally capture many astronomical targets that would have been difficult or impossible to obtain any other way.

This observatory website has been set up to further organize myself and to share my astronomy hobby with you. Enjoy!

Astro La Vista, Baby!

Jim Matzger

Prescott, AZ
April 3, 2014

6 thoughts on “About Astro La Vista Observatory

  1. Hi Jim, We’re planning to install an AstroHaven 12′ dome on a new site adjacent to our public observatory. What are the dimensions of your mounting pier pad, i.e. width & depth? Soils differ, but your pad will provide a basis for discussions. Thanks.
    Forrest Lockhart, Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory, Placerville, CA

    • First, I followed instructions on the Pier Tech site for the portion of the cement that supports the pier. This area is isolated from the rest of the pad. The entire pad was 20 feet wide from East to West and 30 feet long from North to South. The portion that is under the dome is 20×18. The remaining 20×12 area currently has a picnic table and enough space for an exterior dobsonian telescope or any other scope on a portable mount. The area is particularly useful for solar work. The pad is about 6 inches thick except for the area that supports the pier (see link below). I had the concrete company use a fibrous non metallic material mixed in the cement rather than rebar. I was concerned about lightening strikes and magnetism affecting compasses. The electrical was placed beneath the cement with enough passageways for any future changes. Exterior power connections were also installed. A star pattern of drainage lines was etched into the concrete. The highest point on the pad is at the pier so water would naturally drain to the sides. BTW, if you need a Astrohaven Dome Ascom driver you will probably need to get it from the folks at Foster Systems for $200. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I was always interested in the stars and the planets. When I was in elementary school, I told my friends that I wanted to be an astronaut. But then, I realized that I was just a wee bit claustrophobic. Uh oh. A claustrophobic astronaut wouldn’t work out at all! But there are telescopes and observatories like you have, which are absolutely wonderful. Lets my mind travel into space, without having to physically go there! It took me a while to get a clear picture, but I was able to capture the moon once–with my camera. I was pretty thrilled about that! http://storieswithnobooks.com/2012/11/28/cold-november-moon/

    • Mary, that is a beautiful picture. Actually there are some folks, like Dennis Mammana, who specialize in nightscapes with regular camera equipment. There is much to learn!

  3. I have visited your website a couple of times for seeing the amazing amazing astrophotography. I am thinking of building my own observatory.
    (I think a better theme would make appearance of this website much better)

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