An observatory that's bigger on the inside

By Phil Plait | June 22, 2011 6:43 am

Duncan Kitchin is an amateur astronomer in Oregon. Like many of us, he has a telescope that’s kind of a pain lugging outside (my old ‘scope was the same size and shape as a water heater, leading to much hilarity as it sat in the living room). Duncan got tired of dragging it out when it was clear, then hauling back inside when the observing was done.

What’s a guy to do?

Well, if you’re an astronomer and a Doctor Who fan, the solution is obvious: pour a concrete pad, install the permanent mount for the ‘scope, and then make yourself a protective shell around the whole thing… shaped like the TARDIS!

FanTAStic. How flippin’ cool is this? It’s an excellent replica, and it’s functional (hmmmm). The side with the handles comes off, revealing the mount; the rest of the TARDIS is on wheels and can be rolled back, leaving just the ‘scope itself to bring out and install:

That makes for a much easier night of observing. Duncan notes it’s designed to keep water out. I hope it keeps water in as well, in case of any mishaps with the Doctor’s pool.

I want one of these (and that telescope, a very yummy Takahashi FSQ-106ED) SO BAD! And Who wouldn’t? After all, it may look small on the outside, but it has access to the whole Universe on the inside.

Images courtesy of Duncan Kitchin.

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Blastr: My favorite TV scientists
Space Girl
Dammit, Jim, I *am* a Doctor!


Comments (45)

  1. FoxtrotCharlie

    OMG THAT IS SO AWESOME… ehem… sorry…

  2. Aubri

    I can’t believe you would post something so inaccurate! This just goes to show the kind of shoddy research your blog is known for!
    …EVERYONE knows the TARDIS’s pool got deleted like a month ago in “The Doctor’s Wife”. :)

    Seriously, though, this is awesome. I would have to hook up the light so it could pulsate properly. Oh, uh, and nice scope…

  3. Shawn R. Hill

    If my area wasn’t so murky with light pollution I would build one of these. The idea is Brilliant!

  4. DrFlimmer

    I want one of these (and that telescope, a very yummy Takahashi FSQ-106ED) SO BAD!

    I thought, you already had a bigger one!


  5. Ravell

    Don’t forget that as an added advantage the telescope will already be at outside ambient temperature throughout, allowing the optics to work far better straight away.

    Well done to Duncan!

  6. James H. (south of Dallas)

    Ok that is just too cool. I want one.

  7. James H. (south of Dallas)

    Ok that is just too cool. I want one.

  8. Shawn,
    light pollution can be dealt with, with a suitable camera and narrowband filters – I’m actually in a very heavily polluted area. You can still do stuff like this:

  9. Grand Lunar


    Perhaps one can also do this with a Dalek? What to make of that?


  11. MikeS

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but have you blogged lately on Season 6 and quality thereof?

  12. Greg W.

    I do astronomy now…Astronomy’s cool!

  13. Michel

    That´s a uberkewl solution!
    I like it.
    A lot!!
    Now I have to something to top this when I´m gonna make something more permanent.
    On the other hand. I want to be mobile. So maybe a mobile observatory. A van of sorts.
    Dragging scopes is a…. ehm… drag.
    Grab and go. Hrmppffff. Sell babble talk.
    There is no grab and than go when it comes to scopes. The scope might be grabbable, but the tripod etc is an other thing.

  14. xaaronx

    That’s badass.

  15. Keith Bowden

    This is sweeet. I’ve had ideas for doing a police box storage closet/book shelf or front door (or at least a room’s door). This is wunderbar!

    [Hmph, I haven’t seen “The Doctor’s Wife” and so I didn’t know the pool is gone.]

  16. Meg

    That is so awesome. I want one, too.

  17. Mike

    It’s bigger on the inside!

  18. Good for storing a telescope! I wonder if it’s difficult to get at the telescope?

  19. Sam H

    That’s quite geekily sweet, but kunniget: what does “IFOS” mean exactly?

    Anyway, living in light polluted Calgary (the added proximity to the mountains that can breed MAJOR weather screw-ups notwithstanding) is kind of a drag for this young space fanatic – and while I have managed to identify a very suitable stargazing site south of city limits it’s still over 100 km away, and even there a prominent dome of light to the north easily identified the city’s location. Because of this, plus the facts that a) I still haven’t practiced driving at all, and b) our whole family is VERY hard pressed on time constantly, we’ve only ever been able to go on out-of-city stargazing about once a year, during the summer (for the past few years it’s been around the date of the Perseids, although I’ve never seen the actual shower). This scheme has it’s benefits of course, but it’s drawbacks as well – what I’d give to see the winter sky from such a dark location… But still, last summer’s trip was absolutely amazing – you have know idea how much fun it was being able to see the nebulae in Sagittarius with your naked eye, seeing objects you thought you wouldn’t see with just a cheap 8-inch dob (which hopefully isn’t irreparably damaged after I made the mistake of trying to GENTLY clean its primary with a Swiffer duster), and seeing our galaxy spread across the sky literally clear as day.

    Sad thing is that, even though I know all those points of light are suns vastly bigger and brighter than our own, all those dim gaseous wisps are really distant nebulas that are so huge and rich they could form thousands of these suns, and all those fainter ovoid smudges are really cities of stars, often bigger than the one that encompasses the whole night and so much more I can’t see even with magnification; galaxies so utterly far away that I’m seeing them as they were since long before humanity even breathed and could barely reason its way around the simple tool – even though I know all of these things and they’re all hugely awesome facts, I’ve know it since early childhood. I’ve seen all the pictures, and while they’re all very beautiful I’m not truly wowed by them anymore. And it breaks my heart to think that I’ve looked at those real galaxies with my own eyes, but never truly felt even a hint of their real size and existence – they’re just images and mental facts. Like all things, I once felt the wonder and newness of these awesome facts, but now they’re just facts – they no longer impact my soul as they used to. That’s the fear – all the things that were at first unknown and stirred our souls and passions seem to become less impacting and stirring as I learn more about them. I’ve lost the wonder, and I hate that I have. However, it’s probably just because I don’t get outdoors and see the REAL universe that often – all my time is spent reading these blogs and contemplating the universe without really SEEING it. I can say that I felt a pleasantly simple, refreshing joy being able to see what I did and relish in my childhood-and-lifelong love (space and all things related!!), and I want to feel it again as soon as possible :)

  20. Georg

    Wasn’t there a story about a girls stolen Tardis recently?

  21. Sean H.

    WANT! I couldn’t, on my meager income, afford the telescope (but a boy can dream, right?), but I think I could build a TARDIS to house my less impressive telescope. Or maybe I should buy a big Dobsonian just to have an excuse to build one of these. Oh, I would have to make some fancy electronic lock that is opened with a sonic screwdriver. And, of course, my Tom Baker-era Doctor Who costume would keep me warm in those fall and spring months.

  22. So much awesome. One day I will also own a garden large enough for my telescope….

  23. It really is bigger on the inside. You can put the entire visible universe in there.

    Well done, sir. A Tak on an Atlas! Schweet!
    It looks like the scope stays indoors until the Tardis is rolled back.
    Try doing some outreach with kids. That should restore your sense of wonder.

    What could be more appropriate than this to cover an honest-to-FSM time machine?
    Telescopes -ARE- time machines after all…

  24. Calli Arcale

    Keith Bowden:

    [Hmph, I haven’t seen “The Doctor’s Wife” and so I didn’t know the pool is gone.]

    Not to worry; it’s not a major spoiler. (Short version: they find themselves needing extra thrust. If you’ve seen “Logopolis” or “Castrovalva”, you can guess how they get it. “The Doctors’ Wife” is entirely watchable for new viewers, but it has LOT of candy for old fans.) And anyway, the TARDIS interior is reconfigurable; the Doctor can always program up a new one. 😉

  25. Tom K.

    Nice! What does the brass plate say on the front of it? How deep in the ground would the base have to be to stay level? Great job! Always wanted to knock a hole in the roof and put in a spiral staircase to a platform.

  26. Tom,
    the brass plate has the latitude and longitude engraved on it – it’s kind of handy when I need to type it in to the hand controller…

    As for the footing depth, it depends on where you live. You need to find out how deep the frost line is in your area, and then dig 6 – 12 inches below that to prevent “frost heave”. In my case, the frost line is only 12 inches deep, so I didn’t have to go down very far.

  27. One more thing I should have mentioned – the footing is much wider than the above ground part – about two feet square – there’s actually about 3/4 ton of concrete in the pier, and almost all of it is below ground.

  28. Crux Australis

    Pffft! One of my friends built his *telescope* to look like the TARDIS.

  29. Woof

    My guess: IFOS = It’s Full Of Stars

  30. Tom K.

    3/4 ton! wow! Thank you for the reply.

  31. Old Man Sedgwick

    Sam H: –

    Woof is right. ‘IFOS’ is shorthand for ‘It’s Full of Stars!’ – a ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ reference. Rather apt, in this case.

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    Classic! Love it! 😀

    Hope its either not quite to (outside) scale or it is really bigger on the inside than out though or it’ll be rather cramped. 😉

  33. MadScientist

    I would have added rails to pull away the shell – that should make the housing last much longer (although it would make mowing the lawn a nuisance and some would complain about how ugly the rails are).

  34. Simon

    And you pull to open – The Tardis will be pleased!

  35. Tobin Dax

    @Simon (#38) Darn it, I was going to say that! I scrolled all the way to the bottom to find that I’m two posts too late.

  36. Delores

    Wonderful ! Can I have the blueprints for your Tardis ? I would love a Tardis?

    Your neighbor up in WA state.


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