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.
Evolution of the Telescope – from 100 inches to 100 feet, and beyond… | Gabor Furesz, MIT Kavli Institute
NEW DATE NOW MARCH 13!
One of the most iconic telescopes, the Mt. Wilson 100 inch reflector, saw it’s first light 100 years ago in November 1917. Today, telescopes of 100 feet in diameter are being planned and constructed. In this talk we dig into a bit of history first, to see how the 100” came about, what discoveries it gave to science, and how observational astronomy and instrument making moved from Europe to the U.S. for most of the 20th century. Think of the 200” Hale telescope, which was the 4th ‘largest in the world’ in a row built in the States (preceded by the 40” Yerkes, 60” and 100” Mt. Wilson instruments – and amazingly all these we can thank the dedication of one man, George E. Hale.)
However, looking at the recent decades and comparing the scientific productivity of the Keck telescopes vs. the quartet of the European VLT, and especially seeing how the European Extremely Large Telescope is advancing compared to the Giant Magellan and Thirty Meter Telescopes, we seemingly arriving at an era where the old continent takes a lead once again. We look at the advances in technology and science, as well as astro-politics behind this 100th year of astronomical instrumentation. We also look ahead a bit, what does the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and ALMA means, and whether the future is on the ground or in space with the James Webb Telescope. But of course, we cannot close without some elaboration on what is left into the hobby astronomer these days of Giant Telescopes on Earth and in Space.
Furesz will be launching The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) as early as March 20th in Florida, so the talk has been moved back a week to accommodate the anticipated launch schedule.
Building the Milky Way – Professor Mary Putnam, Columbia
We live within the Milky Way galaxy and this provides us with a unique view. The band of light in the night sky represents the disk of stars that we live within. Gas fills the space between the stars and represents the fuel for future stars and planets to form. Prof. Putman will present the view of our galaxy from within with radio eyes, discuss how the Milky Way has built itself up to be the galaxy it is today, and the insight it provides on structure formation throughout the universe.
Mary Putman has been a professor in the Astronomy Department at Columbia since 2008. She was previously on the faculty at the University of Michigan and a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Colorado. Putman has published over 100 refereed publications with over 5,000 citations and is frequently invited to give review talks and write review articles in her field of gaseous galaxy evolution. One of her favorite parts of her job is completing research with the impressive Columbia undergraduate and graduate students.
Galactic Archaeology: Finding Fossils in the Sky – Dr. Keith Hawkins, Columbia
Dr. Keith Hawkins is currently a Simons Junior Research Fellow at Columbia University in the city of New York primarily exploring the Milky Way Galaxy (its formation, evolution, and structure) using stellar spectroscopy as his tool. In the Fall of 2018, he will be moving to the University of Texas at Austin as an Assitant Professor of Astronomy.
Hawkins main interest is in using multi-object spectroscopic surveys to better understand the chemo-dynamic properties of the Milky Way (Galactic Archaeology). His expertise is in high- to low-resolution spectroscopy and stellar chemical abundance patterns.
He completed his Ph.D. in 2016 at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge UK, under a Marshall Scholarship, and King’s College Cambridge Studentship. Hawkins primarily worked with Prof. Gerry Gilmore and Prof. Paula Jofre (now at UDP, Chile). Before his time at the University of Cambridge, he received a B.S. in Astrophysics (with minors in Mathematics and African Studies) from Ohio University in 2013.
Ph.D. Astronomy — University of Cambridge, August 2016
B.S. Astrophysics (summa cum laude), minor in Mathematics, certificate in African Studies, Ohio University, Honors Tutorial College, May 2013
The WAS Annual Summer Solstice Star-B-Q Picnic and Elections
We roll out the WAS Grill of Carbonation for another celebration of the many successful years of the Westport Astronomical Society! Members are invited to join us for a family fun picnic with deliciously grilled goodies ending with our annual WAS Board of Directors election.
Charles Liu, Associate Professor, College of Staten Island and The City University of New York
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
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