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The Rolnick Observatory

The Tower

The Rolnick Observatory, located at 182 Bayberry Lane in Westport, CT, is situated at the highest point in Westport. The observatory dome rests on top of an old NIKE radar tower (BR-73) as seen in the picture above. The observatory is named after Gerry Rolnick, one of the founders of WAS and the person who ground the 12½ inch mirror which is still in use today. The center building is known as “The warm room”, simply because it is just that – a little room where members and public alike can go to rest and warm up after observing. It is especially used in the winter!

Another building on the site is the Fred Bump Education Center. It’s where the monthly WAS meetings are held, along with various continuing education classes. The building is named for Fred Bump, a founder and former president of WAS. Fred was instrumental in securing and building up the observatory site over the years.

The Fred Bump Education Center

The main observatory located on top of the NIKE radar tower houses a 12½ Newtonian reflector. The mirror was originally ground by Gerry Rolnick, and was later repolished and resurfaced by Perkin Elmer. The fork mounting is made of ¼” plate steel. The picture below was taken after the scope was refurbished in 2004.

The 12½ Newtonian Reflector

The 12½ Newtonian Reflector

The tube was replaced along with the rotating ring system. The optics were recoated with enhanced aluminum, and the scope is now driven by Software Bisque’s Telescope Control System. The desk was also completely rebuilt as seen below, it now houses the eyepieces along with an LCD monitor.

 

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

View from the tower on June 5, 2012 during the Transit of Venus

Contrary to popular opinion, the biggest telescope is not up in the dome but usually out on the campus of the Rolnick Observatory during clear, moonless nights. WAS owns an f5 25 inch Obsession Newtonian Telescope that has recently been upgraded to use the StellarCAT go-to and tracking system utilizing the Argo Navis digital telescope computer. The telescope, shown below, is the largest in the state of Connecticut available to the public and actually has 4 TIMES the light gathering ability as the 12½” dome telescope. The primary and secondary mirrors are from Galaxy Optics. With telescopes, most times it comes down to aperture and the 25 Obsession has plenty!

Bob Meadows and the 25″ Obsession

As you can see by the wheel barrel-like handles, the scope breaks down fairly easily and is transported to various dark sky sites all over the East Coast.

A view of the custom table, the ArgoNavis, the wireless receiver under the table and some of the gearing for the go-to functionality that makes the telescope move automatically and track objects. The wheelbarrow handles of the telescope are always removed at night and have been modified to easily pop off with several pins so no one trips!

After surviving a close encounter in 2011 with Hurricane Irene, the Obsession sits at 3500′ on top of Spruce Knob Mountain in West Virginia at the Almost Heaven Star Party, the darkest area with the least light pollution on the East Coast.

The 25″ Obsession at our annual trip to Stellafane in Springfield VT with some of the Unusual Suspects

One of the darkest locations in the North East is the Stone Tavern Farm in Roxbury NY the former location of the annual AOS Starfest in the Catskills. The Obsession is covered in a blue tarp on the left.

Our Obsession in a crowd of great optics at the Connecticut Star Party in Ashford CT

Cherry Springs Star Party PA

Cherry Springs Star Party PA