Explore San Diego: Scripps Ranch man builds backyard observatory

SAN DIEGO -- Paul Krizak is a Qualcomm engineer by day, avid astronomer by night. He loves space so much he turned a childhood dream into reality -- in his own backyard.

“You can see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury," Krizak said. "You can see all the planets; and with a big telescope like this one, you can see them in glorious detail."

The sky has been called the ultimate art gallery and Krizak is one of its biggest fans, his favorite nighttime hobby being stargazing.

“My parents sent me to space camp when I was in 5th grade … it was a whole week of nothing by space stuff and NASA,” Krizak said.

Years later, an anniversary gift from his wife changed his life.

“When I got the telescope and saw Jupiter for the first time and then I was just hooked after that … I try to get out once a week or so unless there’s a full moon or something blocking the sky,” Krizak said.

So he bought the observatory dome as a kit online and built the foundation, concrete center, walls and trim all by himself. It took months to finish. When he was done, they named it the Double K Observatory after their two last names before they got married.

“Not a lot of wives would be thrilled with a giant observatory in the backyard,” Krizak said.

But his wife Lori doesn’t mind it. She planted a garden around it and left a loving note inside.

“It’s really more a way to disconnect from stuff that’s going on and I can just be out here quietly relaxing with the stars,” Krizak said.

Krizak has recorded videos and pictures of planets and galaxies with different scopes and lenses.

Krizak said the most common reaction he gets when he shows off his observatory to his friends is, “Wow, that’s up there? That’s what I’m looking at?"

As for invited guests, he only has one rule inside: don’t break anything.

Krizak used to host public tours, but they got so popular he couldn’t keep up with the requests. He says the San Diego Astronomy Association is a great resource and community for people interested in building their own observatory. He also refers people to Oceanside Photo and Telescope, which he says carries top-quality equipment for astronomy fans.