The average motor freight for a basic POD XL5 is about $800, but can be
as much as $1200, depending on the distance to you from the SkyShed
factory in Canada. Call us for a current and more accurate freight cost
to your location.
The SkyShed POD (Personal Observatory Dome) XL5 is a sensibly-priced personal observatory with five
built-in equipment bays that is both permanent and portable. While you can use your POD XL5 as a permanent backyard observatory for year-round instant access to the sky, you can also quickly disassemble it to bring it with you to the cottage, a star party, or your club’s dark sky observing site, where you can set it up again in less than an hour. The POD XL5 gives you the ultimate flexibility of allowing both short term mobile or long term stationary installation.
The POD XL5 is made of super strong, yet lightweight, double-walled high density polyethylene – a long-lasting, nontoxic, highly UV resistant material that has been used world-wide for decades in extreme environments for outdoor garden structures, playground equipment, and agricultural products. It is built like a tank, but can be assembled and disassembled very quickly. The POD XL5 is constructed of ten interlocking panels and equipment bays that weigh only 27 to 50 pounds each. The total weight is about 480 pounds. Stainless steel and rust resistant hardware is used throughout.
For those with large amounts of astronomical equipment, the POD XL5 replaces five of the wall sections of the standard POD with 23” deep by 40” tall by 34” wide equipment/storage bays. These are open to the interior of the POD XL5 and provide space to store laptops, photo equipment, LCD screens, charts, eyepiece storage, etc. The POD XL5 is the most popular POD version, as it represents a considerable savings over the cost of buying the basic POD and adding the equipment bays separately at a later date. An optional slide-out equipment shelf is available for the equipment bays to give easier access to open charts, computer keyboards, etc.
Internally, the POD XL5 measures 7.5’ in diameter by 7.5’ high, not counting the five equipment bays which project outwards from the observatory walls. This size lets it accommodate the latest popular fork mount and German equatorial mount telescopes, up to 14” in aperture, including the 14” Celestron CGE and the 14” Meade LX400-ACF, as well as small to medium sized refractors and even Dobsonians. The POD XL5 can be used with a permanent pier or a tripod-mounted scope. While the 7.5’ internal diameter may not seem like much, one of the feature images below shows 21 people, plus a tripod mounted C8, fitting inside the 7.5’ diameter POD XL5. There is more room inside a POD XL5 than you might think.
The POD XL5’s patent-pending design provides you with a huge viewing window. Half of the dome swings up and away to give you an unobstructed view from horizon to zenith, plus east to west, all at the same time. With such a large opening, you can track objects for hours with no need to move the dome. Should you want to observe a different half of the sky, however, the POD XL5’s dome rotates smoothly 360° on 30 wheels housed in divots in the top of the observatory’s wall, allowing you to view in any direction at the touch of a finger. There’s no need to motorize the roof, no need for motors, pulleys or cables, saving you both both valuable observing time and money.
The POD XL5 design allows flow-through ventilation between the dome and the walls. The bottom lip of the dome surrounds the walls and extends below the top of the walls for maximum weather protection. Rain would have to fall up to enter the POD XL5. The POD XL5 can operate in temperatures far above and below the temperatures your equipment can operate in. POD XL5 owners report much greater than expected wind and dew protection, while still having access to a huge sky view. Because of the POD XL5’s very wide sky opening, there is no “chimney effect” of heat waves escaping the dome in front of the scope’s light path, which can be a problem with small domes with slotted apertures in cold weather.
To make sure that the POD XL5 can withstand high wind speeds, SkyShed conducted wind tests with a POD mounted on a flat bed trailer. They drove the POD across the countryside at varying speeds with the dome in both open and closed positions. The POD passed this improvised wind tunnel test with flying colors. The POD XL5’s dual locking bar door and internally locked-down dome keeps your equipment safe and secure against casual attempts at breaking and entering, although common sense should be used when storing expensive optical equipment in an outdoor facility. In addition, the POD XL5 has 12 internal anchor points around the wall base to deter theft and keep your POD XL5 anchored even in extreme wind conditions.
The POD XL5 is available in your choice of permanently molded-in colors. You can specify Desert Tan, Discovery White, Lunar Gray, Midnight Gray, Forest Green, Ice Green, Cobalt Blue, as well as extra-cost ION Green and Neutron Blue colors that gently glow in the dark without affecting your dark-adapted vision. Your color choices can be seen in one of the feature images below. You can mix and match colors, specifying one color for the dome and a separate color for the equipment bays, and even a third color for the door panel if so desired. There is no need to paint your POD XL5. It will retain its molded-in color for many years. Specify the color(s) wanted for the various segments in the comment section of the order form when ordering your POD XL5.
In price versus quality comparisons, POD XL5 outperforms competing products, even some much higher-priced ones, by a country mile! Internet photos cannot portray the huge difference in quality between the POD XL5 and competing plastic products. SkyShed, the manufacturer of POD XL5, uses only expensive poured aluminum molds to create the individual POD XL5 panels. This results in a far more finished-looking and refined product than competitive domes. The differences in quality are easily visible upon close inspection. The most frequent comments to SkyShed from new POD owners are, “The quality is much higher than I expected,” “POD is much larger than I expected,” and “POD is a lot stronger than I expected.” What SkyShed hears most is “I love my POD!”
You can install POD XL5 on the ground, on a deck, or on any reasonably flat and level surface. The ground does not have to be perfectly level, but the flatter the surface, the easier it will be to rotate the dome as needed.
Like any outdoor structure, your POD XL5 can come under tremendous heat from the sun. The material used to create your POD XL5 can withstand temperatures into the hundreds of degrees. Unfortunately, your equipment inside may not.
Approaching the problem of controlling daytime temperatures within your POD XL5 in a passive “green” fashion should be your first choice for cooling in daytime temperatures above 100° Fahrenheit. Your POD XL5’s double wall construction provides up to 3” of air insulation between walls. In addition, the gap between the POD XL5 dome and wall creates passive flow-through “surround” ventilation. However, in extreme temperatures this may not be sufficient to provide adequate cooling for sensitive equipment.
The easiest solution to a heat build-up within your POD XL5 is to open the door and/or dome which will equalize the inside of the dome to outside temperatures within minutes. For unattended cooling, solar powered vents with fans, the type used on boats and RVs, are available at prices starting at $29.00. They can lower interior temperatures to within 10 to 15° F. of outside temperatures and are easy to install.
If additional cooling is needed, 12V w/solar or 120V fans can be added. Even air conditioners at the high energy end of the scale can be added for severe conditions like high temperature desert locations. Many cooling solutions are available. Use your imagination.
You can also have the POD XL5 door and primary dome panels filled with hardened foam insulation when your POD XL5 is constructed. Not only does this option make the already strong walls and dome incredibly strong, it cuts out infrared radiation, ultraviolet radiation, and light. The thick insulation helps keep the outside’s hot and cold temperatures where they belong – on the outside of your observatory dome – in extreme environments.
Another option is an optional UV/IR resistant black liner for the equipment bays. This liner prevents IR waves from penetrating into the bay, reducing the daytime heat load from IR in extreme high temperature environments.
The SkyShed POD was named a Sky & Telescope “Hot Product” for 2008, as well as coming in second only to the TeleVue 100° field Ethos eyepiece in a Cloudy Nights “Best Product of 2007” poll. In a Cloudy Nights ongoing observatory popularity poll, SkyShed has garnered about as many votes as all other observatory companies combined!
Unlike other observatory domes, the POD XL5 is not a “Do It Yourself” project. It is ready to go right out of the box. With just a few basic hand tools, you can have a fully functioning observatory up and operating within a short time of your POD XL5 arriving at your front door. How much is your time worth to you? Don't forget to take your labor time into consideration when determining total project cost.
The POD XL5 ships via truck freight in four LARGE boxes (two dome boxes and two bay boxes). The boxes are shrink-wrapped and bundled on custom pallets. Each dome box measures 67.75” x 25.5” x 67.5”. Each equipment bay box measures 49” x 50.5” x 49”. The dome boxes weigh less than 100 pounds each, while each bay box (each holding either three complete bay assemblies or two bay assemblies and one door panel) weighs over 100 pounds. The total shipping weight is approximately 480 pounds. The boxes have built-in handles and “This Way Up” markings, but someone must be at your location to receive and unload the boxes. The freight company’s responsibility is to deliver the boxes and move them to the tailgate of the delivery truck. It is the recipient’s responsibility to off-load the heavy and bulky boxes from the tailgate and move them to a safe storage location until the POD XL5 can be assembled. Unloading is at least a two-person job, so be prepared.
The average motor freight for a basic POD XL5 is about $800, but can be as much as $1200, depending on the distance to you from the SkyShed factory in Canada. Call us for a current and more accurate freight cost to your location.