For over 40 years, the Westport Astronomical Society has brought the wonders of the night sky to the thousands who have visited the observatory. We’re an all volunteer-run, non-profit organization that’s free and open to the public every Wednesday night from 8-10 pm if the skies are clear. Remember, near the summer solstice it doesn’t get dark until late, so please plan to come after sunset.
The Dome Observatory covers a 16″ Meade LX200 with an Explore Scientific 102mm f/7 Essential Apochromatic ED Triplet Refractor piggybacked on top. The lawn regularly hosts the HUGE 25″ Obsession telescope, the largest in Connecticut available to the public. You can also occasionally find us doing sidewalk astronomy in the community with various 8-10″ Dobsonian telescopes and we really love viewing the sun with the Lunt LS100Tha double stacked solar telescope.
WAS has free monthly meetings with experts at the top of their fields. We feature speakers from the Hayden Planetarium, The American Museum of Natural History, Yale, NYU, UConn, MIT, Wesleyan, Columbia as well as educators from all over the globe who enrich our community with cutting-edge discussions on cosmology, physics, and astronomy. Additionally, there are additional special, private events scheduled throughout the year for our members and supporters.
The Zoomable Universe | Caleb Scharf, Columbia
This month we move the Westport Astronomical Free Lecture Series to partner with our friends at the Fairfield Library. We’ll be in the Library’s main building on 1080 Old Post Road in Fairfield CT. The meeting begins at 7 PM and will be in the Library’s Rotary Room. There will be limited seating.
The answer to life, the universe, and everything may actually be 63 – the number of orders of magnitude of physical scale that we can access. The journey from the cosmic horizon to the subatomic is full of fascinating waypoints, but what do we really know about the nature of reality and what are the biggest mysteries still waiting to be solved.
Dr. Caleb A. Scharf is Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University and has an international reputation as a research astrophysicist and as a lecturer to college and public audiences. The UK’s Guardian newspaper has listed his blog Life, Unbounded, as one of their “hottest science blogs,” while an editor at Seed Magazine called it “phenomenal. Informed, fresh, and thoughtful.” Scharf is author and co-author of more than 100 scientific research articles in astronomy and astrophysics. His work has been featured in publications such as New Scientist, Scientific American, Science News, Cosmos Magazine, Physics Today, and National Geographic, as well as online at sites like Space.com and Physorg.com.
His textbook for undergraduate and graduate students, Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology, won the 2012 Chambliss Prize of the AAS. His articles and reviews have appeared in such prestigious publications as Science, Nature, The Astrophysical Journal, and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Dr. Scharf is a regular keynote speaker at academic meetings, such as for the American Physical Society, museums, and both public and private venues, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. He has been a guest on Krulwich on Science at NPR, William Shatner’s “Weird or What?” and has served as a consultant to editors and producers at National Geographic Magazine, The Science Channel, The Discovery Channel, and The New York Times.
Pick up his Zoomable Universe book on Amazon today before the talk!
High Powered Rocketry | David Mestre, Director, Henry B. duPont III Planetarium at the Discovery Museum
The WAS Winter Solstice Party invites our friend David Mestre from Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum as he shares his experiences in high powered rocketry. From build to launch, learn the steps to achieve your Level 1 rocket certification. David will also discuss projects under the high school rocketry club, which include the Team America Rocket Challenge, building for a Level 2 rocket certification, and integrating electronic payloads for remote telemetry.
David joined the staff of the Discovery Museum in 2003, becoming the Director of the Henry B. duPont III Planetarium. He is also a Manager of STEM Learning Programs. With a background in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, David brings his passion for all thing space in his work as an educator, stargazer, and scientist.
Stars Around the Milky Way: Cosmic Space Invaders or Victims of Galactic Eviction? | Allyson Sheffield, LaGuardia Community College
The Milky Way is a dynamic galaxy: the outer reaches of the galaxy contains intricate webs of structure in the form of thin streams and diffuse clouds of stars. While some of these structures can be attributed to the Milky Way pulling in smaller satellite galaxies, an alternate scenario is that the structures formed in the Milky Way and were evicted to their current location due to the accretion of a satellite galaxy. In this case, the accretion event caused the Milky Way’s disk to oscillate and ring! I will discuss how the chemical abundances of stars in the Milky Way can serve as a way of unraveling their origin.
Dr. Sheffield received her B.S. in Physics from NYU and her Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Prior to joining the faculty at LaGuardia, she served as a Science Fellow at Columbia University. Her research is focused on the formation and structure of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, through the study of stellar populations and chemical tagging. Dr. Sheffield is involved in public astronomy outreach events in Queens and co-leads a Girl Scout troop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Winter Field Day Contest at K1WAS with GBARC & HARC
It’s Winter Field Day in the K1WAS ham shack (the WAS Classroom) again this year with our partners at GBARC & HARC. We practice emergency communications in a winter environment as it is just as important as the preparations and practice that are done each summer but with some additional unique operational concerns.
There’s always lots of food and a lot of fun and everyone with or without a ham radio license is welcome to attend!
We will operate 630 & 2200 meters bands.
Black Holes and the Galaxies They Grow In – Meg Urry, Department of Physics, Yale
Dr. Urry will cover in her talk:
- How we discovered there is a supermassive black hole at the center of every big galaxy, like our own Milky Way galaxy
- How we use the largest space-based and ground-based telescopes to study the growth of those black holes over the past ~12 billion years of cosmic time
- How black hole growth profoundly affects their host galaxies
- How we harnessed the power of 250,000 citizen scientists to identify the galaxy properties, and how we will transition to Artificial Intelligence for the millions of galaxies soon to be surveyed on a daily basis.
All of which is to try to understand how our present-day Universe came to be.
Meg Urry is an American astrophysicist, who was from 2015–2016 the President of the American Astronomical Society, formerly on the Hubble space telescope faculty and was chair of the Department of Physics at Yale University 2007–2013. She is notable not only for her contributions to astronomy and astrophysics, including work on black holes and multiwavelength surveys but also for her work addressing sexism and gender equity in astronomy, and science and academia more generally.
Life in the Universe: Where Does It Come From? Professor Joshua Tan, City University of New York: LaGuardia Community College
The key ingredients and conditions that allowed for the emergence of life have been identified by biochemists for many decades. What is the astronomical context for this emergence? Where did it come from? In this talk I will discuss the astronomical contexts for the emergence of life and, along the way, look at how seemingly alien and exotic astrophysical events planted the seeds that are necessary for you and I to exist. The implications of this in our search for life outside the Earth will be explored as well.
Prof. Tan is an optical astronomer at City University of New York: LaGuardia Community College and a Research Affiliate of the American Museum of Natural History. He is intensely interested in observing the counterparts to short period binary millisecond pulsars. Aside from that, open problems in binary modeling, neutron star physics, and three-body dynamics occupy most of his research thinkspace. Recently, he became entangled with a project to build a research and teaching telescope at Grand Mesa Observatory
Dr. Sarbani Basu – Chair of the Department of Astronomy, Yale University
Sarbani Basu is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy at Yale University. She is also the current Chair of the Department. Dr. Basu received her training in India, and subsequently worked in the U.K. and Denmark before moving to the US to join the Institute for Advance Study, Princeton, NJ. She has been on the faculty of Yale since 2000.
Dr. Basu specializes in the study of the Sun and other stars using data on stellar oscillations (star quakes). Her past research was devoted to studying the details of the structure and dynamics of the Sun, which allowed her claim, long before the particle physics community, that the solar neutrino problem was a problem with the standard model of particle physics, not that of astrophysics. Her current research focuses on two separate topics: The first is the study of variations in the Sun over time-scales that are of societal relevance. To this end she uses solar oscillation data to examine changes that take place inside the Sun over periods of years and decades. Her second focus is to study stars, in particular exo-planet hosts, to determine their structure, age and formation histories in order to understand those systems as well as to shed light on the past and future of the Sun and the solar system. She has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications.
Dr. Basu was awarded the Vainu Bappu Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society of India in 1996 for her contribution to the study of the structure and dynamics of the Sun. She was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), a Consortium of educational and other non-profit institutions that operates major publicly funded astronomical observatories in the US. Basu was awarded the 2018 George Ellery Hale prize by the American Astronomical Society for her work studying solar oscillations.
The WAS Pre-Summer Star-BQ Potluck Picnic and Elections!
Join your friends and family for the annual summer picnic on the WAS Campus celebrating another great year of the Westport Astronomical Society! WAS supplies the burgers, dogs and soft drinks and you bring some tasty potluck surprises to share. We start at 6 with some grilling, a short meeting and then the 2019 election of the WAS Board of Directors.
The Annual Bob Meadows Stellafane Report!
The Westport Astronomical Society’s Observatory Director returns from the oldest star party in the world, the 84th convention of Stellafane on August 1-4, held yearly in Springfield VT.
Nothing slips through Bob’s cat-like reflexes when it comes to the latest telescope innovations from the talented Amateur Telescope Makers on Breezy Hill.
Visual astronomy only works if you can see the sky!
Astronomers, check these links to plan your observing:
• Hourly astronomy conditions
• Current/Future conditions
• Transparency animation
• Seeing animation
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