Welcome to the Rolnick Observatory

The Observatory Tower

This year the Westport Astronomical Society celebrates 40 years of bringing the wonders of the night sky to the thousands who have visited the Rolnick Observatory. We’re a non-profit organization of all volunteers that’s free and open to the public every Wednesday night from 8-10 pm, if the skies are clear. 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. 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, Columbia and 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.


Check out and register on our new forum! Discuss the sky and upcoming events with members of the Westport Astronomical Society.

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, September 15, 8:00pm

Imre Bartos

Imre Bartos

Imre Bartos, Columbia University Astrophysicist

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.

Coming Soon:

The Westport Astronomical Society’s Free Monthly Lecture Series

Dr. Ruben Kier

Dr. Ruben Kier

October 20 – Dr. Ruben Kier

Ruben, author of The 100 Best Astrophotography Targets makes a return visit to WAS and will discuss the very hot topic of DSLR astrophotography.

In addition to deep sky astrophotography, Ruben will also show how anyone with a DSLR and a tripod can take beautiful nightscapes of the Milky Way.


17ivczre2f2jqjpgNovember 17 – David Mestre
The Antikythera Mechanism:  The World’s Oldest Existing Computer

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical computer designed to predict astronomical events. It was recovered in 1900 from the Antikythera wreck, an ancient Roman shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Join David Mestre, Director of the Henry B. duPont III Planetarium as he presents the fascinating tale of the Antikythera Mechanism’s discovery and its fiendishly clever inner workings.  A tale over 2000 years in the making.

Heidi B. Hammel

Heidi B. Hammel

December 15 – Heidi B. Hammel –Planetary Astronomer – Executive Vice President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
Exploration of the Universe with the James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is next in the line of NASA’s Great Observatories, a scientific successor to both the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. This space observatory, scheduled for launch in 2018, will see the first galaxies to form in the universe, and explore how stars are born and
give rise to planetary systems.  It will study exoplanets, investigating their potential for life.  JWST is optimized to detect infrared light, using a segmeted mirror more than 6 meters in diameter and operating a million miles away in the cold, dark environment of Earth’s Lagrange 2 point.
It will carry four science instruments covering wavelengths from 0.6 to 28 microns.  In this public lecture, Dr. Heidi B. Hammel (JWST Interdisciplinary Scientist) will review JWST’s scientific objectives, as well its hardware and technology development. There will be lots of pictures of how NASA builds such a machine, as well as simulations of expected results.  The talk with be suitable for ages 9 to 90.
Elliott Horch, SCSU Professor of Physics, Astrophysicist

Elliott Horch, SCSU Professor of Physics, Astrophysicist

January 19, 2016 – Elliott Horch, Professor of Physics at Southern Connecticut State University
Even if you are a fairly young astronomy aficionado, one of the great questions in astrophysics has been answered in your lifetime: Are there planets orbiting other stars, just as the Earth orbits the Sun? Since the 1990’s the observational data have indicated an increasingly emphatic yes. A surprising discovery is that has been made by combining Kepler data with ground-based results is that nearly half of all planets discovered by Kepler reside in binary star systems. Only a handful of these are circumbinary planets (that is, orbiting both stars in a wide orbit), and most often, the planet or planets orbit one star and the second star orbits this system in a wide orbit. This talk will focus on how that result was obtained, and what it means for our ideas of star and planet formation.

Please Support Science in your Community with a Donation to WAS

84bc2b31-cefa-4954-8026-6044c1b5b2c9The Rolnick Observatory is an all volunteer organization 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.

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.