Welcome to the Rolnick Observatory

We’re a non-profit 501c3 organization comprised of dedicated volunteers that is dedicated to bringing the wonders of the night sky to the public. Come and join us every Wednesday night from 8-10pm (weather permitting & when the skies are clear) for our public nights and enjoy the views of planets, nebulae, and other deep sky objects through our telescopes. The Dome Observatory houses a 12.5″ Newtonian telescope and the lawn regularly hosts the newly upgraded and HUGE 25″ Obsession telescope, the largest in Connecticut available to the public.

In addition, please join us for our free monthly lectures, featuring the best speakers from around the world in diverse fields such as astronomy, cosmology, and physics.

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday August 19, 8:00pm

The Westport Astronomical Society’s Free Monthly Lecture Series




Stefan Nicolescu

Stefan Nicolescu

August 19 – Observatory Director Bob Meadows runs down all the latest and greatest innovations from Stellafane.


September 19 - Stefan Nicolescu, the collections manager of the Yale mineralogy division returns to give his full talk on meteorites.



occultationOctober 21Kevin Green, Adjunct Professor of Astronomy at Uconn-Stamford and WAS member will talk about his passion for getting the Westport Astronomical Society to do some REAL science by observing occultations.

An occultation is when one celestial body passes in front of another, hiding the more distant body from the observer. Occultations of stars by solar system asteroids, planets and planetoids are visible daily somewhere on planet Earth if you have the proper equipment and are in the right place at the right time. While it can be pretty cool to watch a star disappear and then reappear, occultation observations are rather useful scientifically. Kevin will discuss occultations, how they are used in different scientific pursuits, and how the Westport Astronomical Society can get involved locally in what is now a very global pursuit.

Stan Honda - Total Lunar Eclipse

Stan Honda – Total Lunar Eclipse

November 18Stan Honda, a New York-based photographer for Agence France-Presse, the French news agency. He covers a wide range of topics including news events, politics, economics, sports and human interest stories. Photographing the space shuttle program for five years was a highlight.

Recent projects involve night sky landscapes, combining his interest in astronomy and photography. In 2011 he worked as artist-in-residence at the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks and most recently completed a week of photography at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

Dr. Ashley Pagnotta

Dr. Ashley Pagnotta

December 16 – Dr. Ashley Pagnotta – Observational Physicist at the American Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Pagnotta is interested in a wide variety of stellar explosions, specifically those that occur on and in white dwarfs, the leftover cores of stars like our Sun, everything from classical novae to Type Ia supernovae. She uses a variety of observational tools to conduct her research across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from the latest space X-ray telescopes to archival glass plates taken more than a century ago. Dr. Pagnotta is currently working on a survey program to determine how novae behave after their eruptions, and continues to remain interested in solving the Type Ia supernova progenitor problem.

Studying the CMB in Exquisite Detail

Studying the CMB in Exquisite Detail

Michele Limon

Michele Limon

January 20, 2015Michele Limon – Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University. “The CMB from Curiosity to Tool”

Discovered in 1965 the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the relic thermal radiation from the hot Big Bang that gave birth to our Universe 13.7 billion year ago. In the nearly 50 years since its discovery the CMB has developed in one of the most powerful tool in the hands of cosmologist to study the evolution and compositions of our Universe. In this talk I will walk thought the major theoretical and observational milestones of the last five decades, describe the current state of the art in CMB research and speculate about its future.
Dr. Carter Emmart

Dr. Carter Emmart

February 17, 2015 – Dr. Carter Emmart, Director of Astrovisualization at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium – Carter is the Director of groundbreaking space shows and heads up development of the interactive 3D atlas The Digital Universe.

Imre Bartos

Imre Bartos

March 17, 2015 - Imre Bartos, Columbia University physicist. Black Holes, and What We Can Learn from Them without Falling in

Breakthroughs in our understanding of the physical world often come from the exploration of Nature at its extremes. In many cases these explorations lead us far away from Earth, into the cosmos. From the earliest times and greatest distances, to the strongest forces and highest energies, astronomical observations helped us reach depths unachievable on Earth. Black holes are one of the most mysterious creatures of the cosmos. They are barely observable from afar, but show peculiar behavior once something or someone is nearby. We have surprisingly little information about them (none has been directly observed so far!), and we seem to have no mechanism at our disposal, even in principle, to peek into their inner workings. Beyond being distant, enigmatic objects, black holes are also one of the best tools to examine extreme phenomena and expand our horizon of fundamental physics and astronomy. I will present black holes from this, somewhat unusual, perspective: their role in helping us better understand Nature.

Please Support Science in your Community with a Donation

The Rolnick Observatory is 100% supported by your donations and memberships. We are all unpaid volunteers and completely rely on YOU for financial support. No tax-deductible amount you can give is too small and no amount is too great! Please donate or become a member today: Individual, Family and Corporate memberships are available.

tjcPLSIUpcoming 2014 Astronomical Events:

July 24, 25, 26, 27Stellafane

July 25 to Aug 3 - The Summer Star Party
July 26 – New Moon
July 28, 29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower – A thin crescent moon shouldn’t affect viewers in dark skies to see up to 20 meteors per hour.
August 2 – A close conjunction of Mercury and Jupiter occurs, with the planets just 0.9 degrees
August 10 – Full Sturgeon Moon, the Closest Full Moon of the year & “Super” Moon (2 of 3) for 2014 occurs
August 12, 13Perseids Meteor Shower – Always a favorite, with up to 60 meteors per hour. A waning gibbous moon will wash out some of the meteors this year.
August 18 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter – The two bright planets will come unusually close to each other, only a quarter of a degree, in the early morning sky. The closest conjunction of two naked eye planets in 2014
August 22, 23 – The Conjunction
Aug 22, 23, 24Black Forest Star Party
August 25 – New Moon
August 29 – Neptune at opposition
September 9 – Full Corn Moon, the final Full “Super” Moon (3 of 3) for 2014
September 23 – September equinox – Fall begins
September 24 – New Moon
September 26, 27, 28The Connecticut Star Party (CSP)
October 7 – Uranus at opposition
October 8 – Full Hunters Moon
October 8Total Lunar Eclipse – Umbral shadow begins around 5:20 am, totality at the Rolnick Observatory around 6:27 am, more details HERE.
October 8, 9 – Draconids Meteor Shower – The Full Moon will drown out most of the 10 meteors an hour this shower produces
October 19 – Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring passes just 7’ from the planet Mars.
October 22, 23 – Orionids Meteor Shower – No moon so possibly a great year to see up to 20 meteors per hour
October 23 – New Moon
October 23Partial Solar Eclipse – Barely visible from the Rolnick Observatory beginning around 6:45 pm
November 1 – Mercury reaches its greatest elongation 18.7 degrees west of the Sun, shining at magnitude -0.5. The best morning apparition of Mercury for 2014 as seen from the northern hemisphere.
November 2 – Daylight Savings Time
November 5, 6 – Taurids Meteor Shower – 5 to 10 meteors per hour will be drowned out by the Full Moon
November 6 – Full Beaver Moon
November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower – Up to 15 meteors per hour at best and will not be dramatically affected by the waning crescent moon
November 22 – New Moon
December 6 – Full Cold Moon
December 9 – A double shadow transit of Jupiter’s moons occurs from 11:18 to 11:27 pm, visible from the Rolnick Observatory
December 13, 14Geminids Meteor Shower – Arguably one of the best meteor showers, possibly producing up to 120 meteors per hour at peak. The waning gibbous moon will wash out the dimmest meteors but there’s plenty to choose from!
December 21 – December Solstice – Winter begins
December 22 – New Moon
December 22, 23 – Ursids Meteor Shower – With no moon visible this could be a very good shower, producing 5 to 10 bright meteors per hour

A 360 degree, scrollable view of the Rolnick Observatory campus with the 25″ Obsession

Live Sky Views from the Rolnick Observatory

Click the panorama for an animated series of recent images

What’s this thing?

Clear Sky forecast

Clear Sky Forecast for the Rolnick Observatory

It’s the astronomer’s forecast. It shows when it will be cloudy or clear for up to the next two days. It’s a prediction when The Rolnick Observatory will have good weather for astronomical observing. Hint: If you see white blocks at night near the red vertical line (midnight), there’s a good chance we’ll be closed. Click the image to refresh.