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, December 15, 7:30 pm

This meeting will be held at the Westport Library’s McManus Room

20 Jesup Road, Westport, CT

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
Heidi B. Hammel

Heidi B. Hammel

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 is suitable for ages 9 to 90.


The Westport Astronomical Society’s Free Monthly Lecture Series

Coming Soon:


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.
Dr. Eric Raymer

Dr. Eric Raymer

February 16, 2016 – Eric Raymer, Columbia Science Fellow in the Department of Physics
Supergiant Fast X-ray Transients
When black holes or neutron stars are in binary systems, they can sometimes eat material from their companion stars. This behavior is interesting because as the gas falls onto the surface of the black hole / neutron star, it’s heated to the point where it emits extremely luminous X-ray flares. Observers are watching these flares with satellites such as XMM-Newton, INTEGRAL and Chandra. In the case of Supergiant Fast X-ray Transients, the flares are much faster and much brighter than we would expect, and we don’t know why!
March 15, 2016 – Tabetha Boyajian, postdoctoral Fellow at Yale
The PlanetHunters and the case for the Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy
Dr. Tabetha Boyajian

Dr. Tabetha Boyajian

Dr. Boyajian’s research interests involve determining the fundamental properties of stars and characterization of exoplanet host stars.  Her observing experience includes long baseline optical/infrared interferometry, and optical spectroscopy.  Boyajian also works on modeling data from the Kepler space telescope for the PlanetHunters project (www.planethunters.org).

Boyajian recently made headlines across the world with the announcement of a very peculiar star (KIC 8462852) imaged by the Kepler space telescope. The Atlantic’s story on The Most Mysterious Star in our Galaxy became an instant water cooler topic. Dr. Boyajian will have the latest data and explain the current theories of what makes this star so interesting.

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.