Bob Lindsay’s Roll-Off Observatory

Bob Lindsay, former chemistry teacher in northeast Kansas, spends quality time in the coolest hangout a guy could ask for- a backyard observatory! Many astronomers and astrophotographers are adding an observatory to their wish-list of necessities. A backyard observatory eliminates much of the setup and take-down time of equipment resulting in maximum time for observing and imaging the sky.

Bob designed and built his 12′ x 20′ roll-off observatory himself (with the exception of pouring the slab and welding the rails) after studying various designs that he found on the Internet: “I looked at many observatories on the Internet that other amateurs had built and tried to benefit from their insights. I’m really glad they made the effort to share their pictures and experience with the rest of us”.

Attached to one side is a 6 1/2′ x 12′ control room where he operates his telescopes and cameras in comfort!

Bob's Roll-Off Observatory Control Room
Click Photo to Enlarge

Housed within his observatory, is a Meade 10″ SNT on an Orion Atlas mount (on a homemade pier) and and a 4″ Sky Watcher refractor on a Meade LXD75 mount. Cameras for astrophotography include a Canon 10D, 20D, and 5D.

Bob has quite a history with building his own observatories. In fact, he has built four of them! He recounts his story to AstroPhotography Tonight:

It’s sort of a long story about astronomy and observatories with me. I built my first one (with my dad’s help) when I was in high school, in California. Woodland Hills, actually. It was a 12 foot diameter aluminum dome on plywood ribs. Pretty cool, but very basic. Then, when my son [Tom] was in high school, my dad took a skilsaw to that dome and brought it out to Kansas on a trailer. My son and I re-built it on a much more substantial building. Then Tom went off to college and so I lost interest (Not much fun to do astronomy alone). When we sold that place, it got left behind. Then, about 20 years later, we bought a cabin up in Holton [Kansas], and the sky was so dark and clear, and since the digital revolution had empowered us amateurs with such new capability to “see” things, I just had to get back into astronomy. I bought a Meade AR-6 refractor. Then I started thinking about an observatory. But I didn’t want to be restricted to seeing the sky through a slit, so I opted for a roll-off roof design. About the time the exterior was complete, we sold the Holton place (I’ll skip the story behind that), and moved to Dover [Kansas]. I never got to the point of doing any imaging with that telescope/observatory. After the move, I started the observatory all over again. So this is sort of my fourth observatory, and the first one that doesn’t have water problems.

As for the current observatory, Bob designed the building, poured the pier base, and finished the slab in the fall of 2007. That winter, he framed the walls and built the trusses in the comfort of his Morton building. He selected straight and lightweight 2×4’s to keep the roof from getting too heavy. Then in the spring of 2008, Bob hauled the framed walls out of the barn (where they’d been stored) and started putting the building together. He insulated it very well.

Bob likes the idea of being able to “play” in the observatory in all seasons, day or night. A sidewalk to it is the next project scheduled.

“As to why I am doing this, it’s sort of hard to say. It just appears that the Lord has wired me this way. I know He has created us all with interests and creativity, and this just seems to be how mine has been working out”. Bob Lindsay

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  1. AstroPhotography Tonight

    Feel free to add comments here regarding Bob Lindsay’s Roll-Off Observatory article. Registration is not required!

  2. Jeffry Turner

    Very nice looking observatory. I love reading articles and seeing pictures of everyone’s home observatories!! I keep taking it all in hopefully will have chance to build one of my own in near future!!

    J. Turner

  3. It does make it convenient, that’s for sure. I need to do some rework in my observatory before the new CGEM will work right in it. That mount is SO heavy!

    Ray Shore

  4. Miranda Heller

    The astronomy group I am a part of is in the process of building either a 20’x20′ or 24’x24′ roll off roof observatory but don’t know how to go about building one this large… any ideas?

    1. All I can say is you’d have to build the roof as light as you can … and devise a way to use more than one person to give the roof the necessary heave-ho to roll it off and on since that would be such a large roof! My 12X20 roof is about as big as I can handle by myself. Be sure to use steel wheels on a steel track, and foam panels under your steel roof to keep water from condensing on the bottom of the roof and dripping on your scopes (as well as controlling the daytime heat).

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