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.
July 27 – August 3, 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM (weather dependent)
This year, in late July, the planet Mars will make a very close approach to Earth and WAS will open late in the evenings on July 27th to August 3 from 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM (if the weather allows) to observe this beautiful alignment. Mars reaches opposition on July 28th. A “Mars opposition” occurs when planet Earth passes in between the sun and planet Mars. The term refers to the fact that Mars and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky. Because of their orbits, Mars oppositions happens about every 2 years and 2 months – 779.94 Earth days to be precise. From our perspective here on Earth, Mars appears to be rising in the east just as the sun sets in the west.
Opposition and closest approaches are two different things and just a few days after opposition Mars will be closest to Earth on July 31st. Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) and reach its highest point around midnight — From the Westport Observatory, it will be about 22 degrees above the southern horizon or one-fourth of the distance between the horizon and overhead. Mars will be visible for much of the night.
By mid-August, Mars will become fainter as Mars and Earth travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the Sun. So, if you miss it this year, the next close approach is October 6, 2020. Find out more about Mars 2018 on EarthSky.
SEE ALL THE PLANETS IN JULY
Family Fun Day with WAS at Wakeman Town Farm
Join us in the garden as we take out our incredible solar telescopes for unforgettable live views of Westport’s most popular star during Wakeman Town Farm’s Family Fun Day! We’ll have several telescopes available for you to safely view the surface of the sun and plenty of our volunteers to explain everything!
Join WAS July 14th from 11-3 pm at 134 Cross Highway, Westport, CT, 06880 – if the skies are clear.
Rain Date July 15th.
Charles Liu, College of Staten Island and The City University of New York – The End of Star Formation
Charles Liu is an extragalactic observational astronomer. His research focuses on colliding galaxies, starburst galaxies, and the star formation history of the universe; and it also wanders into the realm of quasars and active galactic nuclei. He also has a great love of teaching – informal as well as formal – and he feels a great need to help make the scientific community a better place for all people who wish to be a part of it. He currently serves as faculty director of the Macaulay Honors College and The Verrazano School at CSI, and as Education Officer and Councilor of the American Astronomical Society.
The Annual Bob Meadows Stellafane Report
Bob Meadows returns from the world’s oldest star party – Stellafane. It’s the 83rd Convention of Amateur Telescope Makers on Breezy Hill in Springfield, Vermont from August 9-12.
Bob sits through all the lectures so you don’t have to, noting all the amazing new innovations from the amateurs during the telescope competition on Breezy Hill.
Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos | Professor Priyamvada Natarajan, Yale
Priyamvada (Priya) Natarajan is a professor in the departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She is noted for her work in mapping dark matter and dark energy, particularly with her work in gravitational lensing, and in models describing the assembly and accretion histories of supermassive black holes. Recipient of many honors and awards for her research, she is also deeply invested in the public dissemination of science and de-mystifying the scientific process. She authored the award-winning, book Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos published in 2016.
Dr. Natarajan was recently featured in Janna Levin’s PBS special NOVA: Black Hole Apocalypse
Gravity: A Status Report | Dr. Rachel Rosen, Columbia
Rachel Rosen is a physicist and Assistant Professor of Theoretical Physics at Columbia University. Her research involves quantum field theory, cosmology, astrophysics and massive gravity. In particular, she has investigated the problem of the inconsistencies known as “ghosts,” and how to formulate models of massive gravity that avoid them.
Rosen received her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Physics from Brown University. At New York University, she studied the Bullet Cluster with Glennys Farrar and helium-core white dwarfs with Gregory Gabadadze. She received her Ph.D. from that institution in 2009. In 2013, she received a Blavatnik Award for a Young Scientist for work on massive gravity. She is a Visiting Fellow at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
In July 2017, the Simons Foundation announced that Gabadadze, Rosen and Claudia de Rham would lead a “Cosmology Beyond Einstein’s Gravity” research effort as part of the Foundation’s new cosmology initiative.
The Zoomable Universe | Caleb Scharf, Columbia
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.
Mark Richardson, American Museum of Natural History
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.
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