We asked POD customers and Yahoo Group members what questions they'd like to see answered here.  Robert Lilly sent us the following list of questions and answers. It would appear Robert knows his POD stuff so well that we can post them pretty well as they were received.

If you have any questions you can't find an answer for on the website please email us and we'll be happy to reply with an answer ASAP.

 
What is a POD?
How do I choose a POD?
What is a POD made of?
How much space does a POD take up?
How hard is it to assemble a POD?
How many people can I fit into a POD?
Can I leave my equipment set up in a POD?
How secure is POD?
Why should I choose POD over another observatory?
Can I motorize the Dome?
Okay, I'm sold
 
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What is a POD?  Top

POD is the friendly name for SkyShed's Personal Observatory Dome. It is a low cost, permanent or semi-permanent astronomical enclosure designed to allow the amateur astronomer a chance to enjoy more under-sky time with their favorite hobby. Utilizing a new take on a classic design, you get the protection of a covered dome while still enjoying a full majestic view of the nighttime sky we all love.

How do I choose a POD?  Top

POD is available in several configurations to best match the kind of astronomy you want to do. The basic POD consists of a 6-wall circular enclosure and a two-part rotating dome, perfect for visual observing or quick transport on weekend trips to dark skies. The XL-3 and XL-5 models provide three and five "rooms" (respectively) ideal for storing everything from log books and star charts to computers and photographic equipment. Optional accessories can be added to adapt the POD for almost any requirement.

What is a POD made of?  Top

After reviewing several construction materials, we decided on HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). This material has been used for many years to manufacture outdoor structures and agricultural products. Its strength and durability, combined with its resistance to weather and high UV damage made it an ideal choice.

How much space does a POD take up?  Top

The minimum size of a POD is around 8 ft across by 8.5 ft high. A full size XL5 requires a circular space approximately 12 ft across and 8.5 ft high. This does not include any walkway area leading to the door, or any area you may want to set aside for lounge-chair viewing outside the POD.

How hard is it to assemble a POD?  Top

Make sure you start with a reasonably level base. POD can be placed on bare ground, grass, gravel, a wooden deck or concrete pad. Smooth operation of the rotating dome, though, is dependent on having a fairly level base. Once the site preparation is complete, two people can have a POD fully assembled in about 2-3 hours for a first time assembly. If you plan to regularly pack your POD and take it with you to star parties or other dark sites, experienced assembly can be accomplished in under 60 minutes.

How many people can I fit into a POD?  Top

While the current record for the number of people in a POD is twenty-one (see photo gallery), the design of the basic POD allows two or three adults to operate comfortably with a tripod mounted telescope. Mounting your telescope on a pier will provide additional room.

Can I leave my equipment set up in a POD?  Top

From the beginning, the whole idea behind the POD was to provide a quality, low cost way for the amateur astronomer to get more time under the stars. In order for that to happen, you need to be able to go outside and begin observing without a lot of setup. We believe we have met our goal. After field-testing in conditions from searing heat to blistering cold, POD has proven itself to be a great protector of your astronomical gear. When correctly assembled and mounted, POD does an excellent job of keeping the elements at bay. You should still protect your gear as you would if it was stored indoors - cover the scope and mount, keep eyepieces in sealed containers, etc. - but by having your telescope instantly available when the clouds clear, you'll find yourself doing more astronomy than ever before.

How secure is POD?  Top

Your POD is as safe as any other outdoor building or your car. Probably more so than most. The dome is held in place by five support brackets and two threaded lock-down bolts. The door is secured by a key-locking handle and two-point locking bar. When properly anchored to the ground via the 12 anchor points on the inside of the POD wall, your POD is reasonably secure from most passing opportunists. Anyone with the proper tools, who wants in, can get in. In high risk areas many security solutions are available to help protect outdoor buildings.

Why should I choose a POD over another observatory?  Top

We believe that POD offers the best combination of value, performance and ease of use. For the cost of some competing dome-only products, you receive a complete observatory in a box; ready to install and use the same day it arrives. Our construction materials are easier to handle than the fiberglass or metal used in most competing products. Besides, how many other observatories can be thrown in the back of a pickup truck and taken with you on that weekend trip to the mountains?

Can I motorize the Dome?  Top

The intent of the POD was to provide an alternative to the more specialized dome solutions at a price available to the amateur astronomer. With our unique 'half sky' opening, there is usually little need to rotate the dome, even during long exposure photographic sessions. However, as with any new and popular product, its users will find a way. We are already hearing about designs to motorize the POD's opening and rotation by owners.  3rd parties in the industry are already working on automation packages. Check out the SkyShed POD Yahoo discussion forum for the latest scoop on POD automation.

Okay, I'm sold.
 
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