COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A local man's dream of exploring the universe, decades in the making, came to fruition as a two-story personal observatory, now sitting in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs.
Neighbors may have noticed the structure atop the hill along Flying W Ranch Road being built earlier in the year. The same neighborhood that was destroyed five years ago by the Waldo Canyon Fire.
"When we had the Waldo Canyon Fire, of course we lost our home," Bryan Gibson said at an open house unveiling his observatory. "But everybody in the neighborhood lost so much; I mean, more than 300 homes were lost."
Bryan's observatory stands just feet from his house, both of a similar "Tuscan" style design. At first glance, it looks like a simple addition to the house.
"The reason I have an observatory: my wife finally gave me approval," Bryan explained with a chuckle. "She had one requirement, it couldn't look like a shed!"
It wasn't until after the Waldo Canyon Fire, a chance to rebuild, Bryan was able to really plan out the structure. With his wife's approval, of course.
"If it weren't for the fire, this probably would not happen," Bryan said in reference to the observatory. "I guess I could say that when you go through a difficult time like a fire and you lost just about everything you have and you have 30 minutes to get whatever you can in a car and get out, that's hard. But what a testament to the human spirit, and a motivation to use any tragedy that may come in your life and use it for good."
Bryan has had an interest in astronomy since he was a young man. One of his many hobbies over the years has been astrophotography, the process of taking pictures of anything in space. One of the main uses of the observatory.
There are still some final touches that need to be added to the observatory, but Bryan says the entire structure can be remotely controlled and even set to automatically take pictures through the telescope.
"So many people will live their whole lives, and very seldom go out of their city, out of the state and out of the country. To realize there's a whole universe out there, that's really powerful," Bryan said as he motioned to the star-filled sky above Colorado Springs.
Bryan says thanks to recent advancements in technology, his telescope mounted at the top of the observatory under a movable dome has the ability to take pictures almost similar to the quality of pictures produced by the Hubble Space Telescope. With that ability, Bryan is in talks with UCCS of possibly using the observatory to search for Planet X.
According to NASA, Caltech researchers have found evidence suggesting there may be a Planet X in the solar system, which they have tabbed "Planet Nine." It could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbit about 20 times farther from the sun on average than Neptune. It may take between 10,000 and 20,000 Earth years to make one full orbit around the sun.
"That would be amazing if Colorado Springs could be known for finding the next planet," said Bryan. "I'm hoping to do some work with and collaborate with UCCS."
Bryan goes on to say he and the university are still in the very early stages of possibly working together to search for the ninth planet. Although, that isn't the sole reason for his observatory.
"The reason I have a telescope. The reason I love astronomy. The reason I built the observatory, is because thinking about looking at, observing, and trying to understand the universe and the cosmos, what is out there, is so amazing. It challenges my mind in the way that nothing else can," he said.
Once Bryan programs it to run remotely, he will have the ability to put together a script of what pictures he wants taken. The observatory has the ability to run automatically overnight, adjusting how pictures are taken based on cloud cover and weather.
"It's possible to do real research with this telescope."