Stargate Observatory - History
The Warren Astronomical Society has had an observatory in Ray Township, in the far northern suburbs of Detroit, since 1969. We've been adding equipment and buildings ever since. Here's the history of our buildings and our important telescopes.
Stargate Observatory was built in 1969 by the WAS and the Rotary Club of Michigan. Dick Polus, then-president of the WAS, was informed of an available observatory site on the Rotary Club Campgrounds by his neighbor, Harold May, who was a Rotary member. The original plan for the observatory was to have a simple building with a roll-off roof. The Rotary members, however, wanted a building with a dome, and offered to help substantially with construction if that design were chosen.
Hofley Manufacturing provided material for the dome framework, and shaped the pieces free of charge. The WAS cut and finished the dome framework over three evenings at Polus's house, then welded it together onsite. Sheet aluminum was cut and riveted to the frame, and placed atop the completed building with the help of member Mel Mazzline. Stargate Observatory went into operation in the Spring of 1970.
After forty years' service, the accumulated stress of Michigan winters and the number of leaks took a substantial toll on the roof of the building. On July 4 weekend, 2009, WAS members tore off the roof and built a new roof, substantially redesigned to eliminate flat spots at the corners of the building. All the sheet metal on the dome was refinished, and the metal on the door was replaced. Since then, the floor was replaced and new carpet installed with other areas of concern in the observatory reworked.
The Stargate Telescope
The telescope at Stargate Observatory was originally designed as an f/4 Newtonian and debuted during 1966 under a dome on the roof of Warren's Lincoln High. The telescope was refigured by founding member and former president Gerry Alyea as an f/17 Classical Cassegrain and was moved to Stargate Observatory during the spring of 1970.
The telescope underwent a major refurbishment during 1992-4, and reopened as a dual-purpose telescope, easily convertible between its f/17 Classical Cassegrain design and its f/4 Newtonian design.
In 2014, a funded by a generous donation from Mark Kalinowski, a D&G Optical 8” f/12 refractor with an Astro Physics focuser was installed on an Astrophysics 1200 GTO mount donated by Andy Khula. An Explore Scientific 80mm APO refractor donated by Ken Bertin was added to the assembly.
The Big Dob
In 1996, the Warren Astronomical Society decided that we wanted to construct a telescope of large aperture. This would supplement the Stargate Telescope, permanently mounted on a pier at Stargate Observatory. John Herrgott, who was the club president in 1996, proposed building a 22" truss reflector telescope on a Dobsonian mount. This was going to be a major undertaking for a club that had not too many years earlier found themselves strapped for cash. Even in 1996, the cost was going to exceed $5,000 and that was with club labor to construct the telescope. A Telescope Making Subgroup was formed to decide on the design, procurement of components and to assemble the new scope.
Notably, the primary mirror box features the autograph of astronomy writer and comet discoverer David Levy, preserved under a plexiglas plate.
The Dob Shed
Construction was completed within a few years, which led to a new problem: where to store it. The Dob Shed was built on MemorialDay Weekend 2002 by a volunteer team including Steve Greene, Dennis Schmalzel, Bill Beers, Blaine McCullough, Mark Kedzior, Bob Watt, and others.