Since 1975, 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.
David Mestre, Director, Henry B. duPont III Planetarium, Discovery Museum
Fairfield County Giving Day – Our Annual Fundraiser!
Help Us Make History | Fairfield County’s Giving Day
We’re mounting a major upgrade! Last year the Westport Astronomical Society made plans to renovate the donated Roundhill Observatory as a second dome on our campus. While construction on that project was unexpectedly pushed to later this spring, we’re moving forward on another exciting improvement: a new 14” Celestron EdgeHD telescope to serve as our main instrument on public nights. The highly corrected optics of Celestron’s largest Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope are expected to provide a vast improvement in clarity and brightness over our current scope. It’s the biggest upgrade to the dome telescope in club history, and we just need one more piece for installation: a heavy duty mount to hold the scope. We’re hoping to raise $4000 for a CGX-L (or similar) mount and pier to inspire observatory visitors for many years to come. This is your chance to LITERALLY support science in Fairfield County!
Please join our campaign and help us reach our goal of $4,000 and 100 donors! We need you to tell your friends and family members about the important work we do and ask them to join us in helping to make a difference.
Here’s how to help…. On Feb 27, starting at 12 AM, visit https://www.fcgives.org/organizations/westport-astronomical-society and make a donation to us, the bigger the better! You will have 24 hours to make your donation, and all giving will end at 11:59PM on Feb 27.
Dr. Jonathan Trump, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, UCONN – Mapping the Census of Supermassive Black Holes
The past 20 years have revealed that supermassive black holes play an essential role in the formation and growth of galaxies. But a reliable census of supermassive black holes over cosmic time has only now become possible, with the advent of two new emphases in astronomical surveys: massively multiplexed spatially resolved spectroscopy, and industrial-scale time-domain monitoring. I will show how Hubble WFC3 grism spectroscopy spatially resolves a population of nuclear black holes that are otherwise missed due to host galaxy dilution. CANDELS/3D-HST grism data uniquely reveal the black hole content of low-mass hosts, discriminating between models of black hole formation at cosmic dawn. Meanwhile the pioneering new SDSS-RM project is now vastly expanding the number of supermassive black holes with reliable mass measurements through time-domain echo-mapping. Beyond mass, SDSS-RM is also starting to enable the first survey measurements of the other two fundamental black hole quantities: accretion rate and spin. I will conclude by looking forward to the next generation of observatories: JWST, WFIRST, and Euclid for a new spatially resolved frontier of the supermassive black hole census, and SDSS-V and LSST for a new time-domain frontier of black hole mass, accretion, and spin.
Professor Trump specializes in observation studies of active galaxies: that is, galaxies with an accreting supermassive black hole. Co-evolving growth of black holes and galaxies: how do galaxies feed their black holes, and how do black holes influence star formation in their host galaxies. Use telescopes spanning the electromagnetic spectrum: observation in X-rays (Chandra, XMM-Newton), ultraviolet (GALEX), optical (Hubble, Keck, Subaru, Magellan), infrared (Spitzer, Herschel) and radio (VLA) light.
WAS Annual Messier Marathon – CLEAR SKIES ONLY!
What is the Messier Marathon you ask? A Messier marathon is our attempt to find as many Messier objects as possible during one night.
Typically an observer attempting a Messier marathon begins observing at sundown and will observe through the night until sunrise in order to see all 110 objects. An observer starts with objects low in the western sky at sunset, hoping to view them before they dip out of view, then works eastward across the sky. By sunrise, the successful observer will be observing the last few objects low on the eastern horizon, hoping to see them before the sky becomes too bright due to the rising sun. The evening can be a test of stamina and willpower depending on weather conditions and the physical fitness of the observer. Particularly crowded regions of the sky (namely, the Virgo Cluster and the Milky Way’s galactic center) can prove to be challenging to an observer as well, and a Messier marathon will generally budget time for these regions accordingly.
Cal Powell – Confessions of a Meteorite Collector
Cal’s presentation will approach the topic of meteorites from a collector’s point of view. In addition to a brief overview of meteorite types accompanied by specimens from his collection, Cal will offer tips and suggestions to attendees who are considering either starting a collection or buying a meteorite as a gift.
Please bring your meteorites for show and tell!
Cal Powell is a Life Member of WAS. He joined WAS in 1981 and served as WAS President in the mid-80s. A native New Yorker, Cal’s interest in astronomy began at the age of eight. Now retired from a career in IT, he is a member of the Northern Virginia Astronomical Club (NOVAC) and the Analemma Society, as well as a volunteer at the Roll-Top Observatory in Great Falls, VA and a lead volunteer in the Astronomy Education program at the National Air and Space Museum. Cal has given astronomy presentations at libraries in northern Virginia and at the observatory in Great Falls. He has been a featured speaker at several NOVAC meetings and has conducted sky tours at NOVAC’s Astronomy Day and Star Gaze events. Although he has lived in Alexandria, VA since 2010, Cal continues to participate in WAS with his “Astro-Web” column in the newsletter and his “Cal’s Corner” segment via Skype at the monthly WAS meetings.
Tomer Yavetz, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Columbia – Dark Matter
WAS Pre-Summer Solstice Star-B-Q Picnic and Elections
This is a member, friends and family occasion. We break out the mighty WAS grill of Carbonation and cook up tasty bits of bovine, some mystery meats as well as veggie favorites for our annual picnic and Board of Directors election. (You can only vote if you’re a member in good standing)
It’s always a good idea to have a little sun protection and some bug spray.
As usual, WAS provides the meat & veggie burgers, brats, condiments, and drinks. The picnic is a potluck so please bring some of your favorite snacks/salads to share.
We make it all official at the annual Pre-Summer Solstice Star-B-Q Picnic and Election at 6 PM on June 16th!
The Bob Meadows Annual Stellafane Report!
Bob Meadows, Director of the Westport Observatory returns from the 85th Annual Stellafane Convention in Springfield VT with a full report on the latest amateur telescope innovations and all the other things you may have missed.
Bob Meadows catches the stories that fell through the cracks and brings Stellafane full circle.
Professor Gregory Laughlin, Yale – Oumuamua, Borisov and the discovery of Interstellar Objects
Talk outline soon. Until then, here’s a primer story.
The Connecticut Star Party – CSP30 – Connecticut’s Premier Star Party! RAIN OR SHINE
Never been to a star party with large aperture telescopes? Here’s a great opportunity!
For the 30th consecutive year, our friends at the Astronomical Society of New Haven will open online registration later this year for Connecticut’s premier star party CSP30 in one of the darkest locations in the state! This is the sixth year at the beautiful Edmund D. Strang Scout Reservation in Goshen, CT.
Join the WAS Away Team this weekend and take in the cool and beautiful skies of Northwest CT!
WAS Telescope Training Classes Begin
How would you like to control one of the largest telescopes in Connecticut? Now you can! Observatory Director Bob Meadows will host a series of classes to show interested WAS members how to operate our 16″ telescope and observatory dome. In just a few sessions, you’ll learn how to use an instrument that the general public only gets to glimpse once a week. It’s a fun first step toward getting a key that would allow you to stargaze any time.
* This class is offered only for current members of the Westport Astronomical Society and you must be a member for at least one year to receive a key. If you’re not yet a member yet and would like to take the class, please become one by going HERE.
All dates are dependent on decent weather with additional classes to be scheduled if needed. Class size is limited to 8 per evening, so first registered, first trained. You must RSVP and invitations will go out in early September.
If you complete 3 classes and show mastery of the telescope, and have been a member for over a year, you will pass the course The course includes opening and closing procedures, the observatory grounds checklist, what to do when things go wrong and using the program The Sky X to operate the telescope. All keyholders are expected to volunteer for telescope duty on our public nights. Please, serious inquiries only.
International Observe the Moon Night
International Observe the Moon Night is a worldwide celebration of lunar science and exploration, celestial observation, and our cultural and personal connections to the Moon. One day each year, everyone on Earth is invited to observe, learn about, and celebrate the Moon together – you’re invited to come to the observatory and see the moon (and other stuff) through many of our telescopes.
This year the event occurs in September, when the Moon is just past first quarter – a great phase for evening observing. Furthermore, the best lunar observing is typically along the Moon’s terminator (the line between night and day) where shadows are the longest, rather than at full Moon.
If the skies are clear, we’ll open the dome and use the observatory telescopes, to look at features on the 10 day old, 79% illuminated waxing gibbous moon.
The giant satellite has been Earth’s constant companion for an estimated 4.5 billion years and viewed by every human that’s ever walked the Earth. It’s one of the solar systems’ most remarkable objects and is quite likely a major reason that life even exists on our planet. The Moon is an incredible body that has fascinated and puzzled our ancestors from the very first time we looked up.
Don’t know your Mare from a Mons? Can’t tell a Sinus from a Vallis? A Crater from an Oceanus? Saturday night is the night to find out! We’ll be pointing out the Apollo landing sites as well as craters, the “oceans” of the Moon and features like the Straight Wall.
WAS Pre-Winter Solstice Holiday Party
Bring some sweet goodies to share with your WAS friends as we bring in the Winter Solstice! We’ll have our usual fun and probably have an interesting speaker.
Joshua Tan, LaGuardia Community College CUNY
Visual astronomy only works if you can see the sky!
Astronomers, check these links to plan your observing:
• WAS on Weather Underground • Hourly astronomy conditions
• Current/Future conditions
• Transparency animation
• Seeing animation
Since 1975, the Westport Astronomical Society has been introducing new generations to the wonders of the night sky. Become a member today for special access to members-only benefits while helping support science in your community.Become a Member
We want to see you here at the Westport Observatory. Get directions and come to our events!Directions/Talk To Us