A Homeowners Guide to the Galaxy

How one couple built an observatory. In their house.
August 2006
Ron and Alys Moubry are the kind of childless, fiftysomething couple that, never burdened by diapers and college tuition, gleefully throw their salaries at hobbies. For the Moubrys, this means an 11-foot, in-home wine/martini bar, a well-equipped woodworking shop, meticulous landscaping, and an annual trip to Europe.

And an observatory.

They have their very own telescope tabernacle: a slightly menacing-looking, 27-foot-tall stargazing structure that peaks over the top of their Golden home.

“At a certain angle, it does look like a missile silo,” Ron admits.

In an age when baby boomers are building elaborate wine cellars in the basement and Japanese gardens with koi ponds in the backyard, architects and builders are getting used to unusual client requests. But building an observatory is a little more than unusual. And, as the Moubrys found out, it isn’t an easy venture.

Though Ron, a radiologist, is a member of the amateur Denver Astronomical Society and had been tinkering with telescopes on the back lawn for 40 years, the couple didn’t seriously consider constructing an observatory in the backyard until a few years ago. Their initial plans—a small 6-foot-10-inch-high dome—were modest, an attempt to appease their restrictive homeowners’ association. But despite a design no larger than a shed and the neighbors’ approval, the HOA rejected the plans, stating that the project wasn’t consistent with the Golden neighborhood’s design.