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ROR Observatory in AZ desert

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#1 fxmodels


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Posted 30 March 2020 - 12:01 PM

I wanted to pass this by everyone here for some thoughts. I am putting an observatory out in the Sonoran desert at about 2000' elevation and about 65 miles west of Phoenix. I am using local contractors for any paid work I need since they are familiar with conditions and longevity of materials there.

The sky is a bortle 3 from S to W to N and Bortle 4-6 directly East. Thats the setup so you can see what kind of skies I will have. I want to do a 12'x12' building with a ROR system and want to use a garage door opener. The roof will be framed out and have metal roofing for the desert.  I am figuring that a 3/4 horsepower opener will be fine  but do offer opinions. The building  is a prefab shed from a local vendor that will be built on site. The walls will be cut down from 7 to 6 feet and the telescope will have a view down to 10 degrees above the horizon. It is not a useful value but I want to have the option of a lower elevation in the desert skies which are outstanding and could prove useful  ath that lower elevation. I have talked with Wayne Parker (SkyShed) and he can get me the jacks I will need for the occasional adjustment needed for the take up rail ends where the roof ends up on clear nights (grin). So I have done SOME homework on this and know what I want I just have a few little sticky points. One follows and it may be a no brainer.


I have looked at many links here and photos but none seem to show the opener to roof attachment in detail. I am going to center the opener at the end where the roof rolls off and have the long center rail go out to the ends of the roof take up rails. So effectively when the "door" or roof is OFF the building this will be in the closed position as far as the opener is concerned and when the roof is secured on the building it will be in the open position as far as the opener is concerned.

This seems logical thus far but please do weigh in if I am missing something.


Lastly I would like to know how the opener rail travel chain and gear is attached to the roof which will be above it. I know this is like a normal garage door so it cant be that difficult. It is the last point to all this before starting an install of building and opener. A few pics would be great I guess.. IF that is, my above question is clear... [scratching head]


Thanks for any help

Marc Dantonio


#2 tjschultz2011



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Posted 30 March 2020 - 12:10 PM

Thanks for posting. I'll be keeping an eye on this one since I plan to do something similar in the near future. 

#3 Simcal


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Posted 30 March 2020 - 01:01 PM

..Just had a wild thought.  You know those garage door sensors that come with the opener, which you place at the bottom of the door jam? The ones that prevent the door from squishing your kids?   Wonder if it would be possible to place them on the rolling roof part so they would sense equipment or person sticking up into the path, thereby preventing collision.  hmm.  scratchhead2.gif   ..Now back to your regular programming..


ps: an observatory in Sonora (or heck anywhere in AZ!) is my dream .. subscribed smile.gif

Edited by Simcal, 30 March 2020 - 01:03 PM.

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#4 cwaitman


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Posted 30 March 2020 - 01:06 PM

Pay a great deal of attention to secure closure to keep the rodents from eating your wires and cables - plus leaving a mess.  Our club's building has problems with openings around the rails that extend from the building (our door slides off to one end of the building) and the area where the pier foundation comes thru the floor.  Those critters will get thru almost anything.

#5 Coconuts


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Posted 30 March 2020 - 06:24 PM

I'm a complete newbie starting to build a small ROR for imaging only, and when I brought up garage door openers with Jim Collins of Interactive Astronomy, he strongly advised me to instead use a driveway gate opener from Aleka.  It consists of a gearmotor and long, buttable 13' gear racks.  That's what I'm planning to use now.  More info here:




All the best,



#6 LoveChina61


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Posted 31 March 2020 - 09:25 AM

I followed this example down to the tee including same 1/2hp door opener and rail extension for my 12x10ft observatory.




I found that the included distance-limit sensors worked as good or even better than other ones that I could come up with. Use a brillo pad on the contact points occasionally and they should work like a charm.



#7 fxmodels


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Posted 10 October 2020 - 08:41 PM

Sonoran Desert Observatory update


Construction on the new ROR observatory in the desert 65 miles west of Phoenix will start this coming week. It will be 11x11 with two initial piers, one for our SkyTour LiveStream group and one to be rented by another streaming group. That will leave one pier open for rent. We fired the first contractor because after 6 months of having the contract and money in hand, they called to say they were coming out to build the 'shed'... I said the roof is separate right? He said, NO of course its not separate it is what holds the building together..


[awkward silence]


Maybe you arent the right folks to do this job... they were summarily fired a short day or two later and refund is coming back. Second contractor had to back out after a legal case arose for him. Finally we have a third contractor who si more than happy to get the work. He will be building the metal roofed and walled building for us...




So the project, after 5 false starts due to contractor hoaxery and Covid, is finally underway... Its ok... Gave me time to write a better program to run toe observatory.


Regarding critters in the building.. YES they will be an issue. The buildings ONLY entry point will be as someone suggested, where the rail tracks leave the building. I was thinking of putting an electric charge  on the outside of the building so it would always carry a mild sting if anything tried to climb the metal walls outside to gain entry. But my luck it will get ME not the rats. The idea though is that a small charge can go a long way when the roof and walls are made of metal.

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#8 Calypte


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Posted 11 October 2020 - 02:16 AM

In Anza CA, I have mice all over the place, like in the house.  But they haven't been a problem in the ROR observatory.  I've had a couple of whiptail lizards, but no mice.  This is over eight years.

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