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Observatory
The Rio Rancho Rainbow Park Observatory is located at 301 Southern Blvd.  It was officially dedicated on Nov. 9, 2013.

The Rainbow Park Observatory is open to the public each month during the Rio Rancho Astronomical Society's (RRAS) regularly scheduled meeting.  The meeting is traditionally held on the Friday closest to the first quarter moon starting at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. in the summer).  Detailed scheduling and meeting time information is available on the RRAS Web site (http://www.rrastro.org).

The Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department oversees the management/operation of the observatory.

Project History and Detail

The city of Rio Rancho worked with the RRAS, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, for several years to construct a roll-off top observatory to house three telescopes provided by the RRAS.  Two permanently mounted telescopes were donated to the RRAS by the family of the late Walter Hiltbrunner, a Rio Rancho resident.  A 25” Obsession Telescope was a gift from John Sefick, a part-time Rio Rancho resident from Chicago, Ill., who helped initiate the Chaco Culture Historical Park’s observatory and night sky program, and augmented the astronomy program at Rio Rancho High School. 

The observatory, constructed on city-owned park property, includes storage and inside observation space for astronomical studies.  The observatory’s outdoor space has been designed for public and educational youth programs that is programmed by RRAS and the Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.  The outdoor educational space will be expanded in the future to include an outdoor planetarium (Phase 2).

Construction work started in October 2012 and included donated work and materials through three Eagle Scout projects (building foundation – Michael Brown, Troop #338; building framing – Tyler Mertens, Troop #417; and concrete patio and landing - Calvin Simmons, Troop #338).  Design and professional services were also donated by URI, Inc. and K-Star Electric. 

Direct construction costs for Phase 1 were approximately $29,000. Funding sources included $36,000 from the city of Rio Rancho ($20,000 in City Council District 1 discretionary funds and $16,000 from city general fund and park impact fee sources);  Sandoval County Commission allocation of $15,000; and $2,000 raised by the RRAS.  Remaining available funds will be applied towards the development and construction of the outdoor planetarium.