For decades the Westport Astronomical Society has been bringing the wonders of the night sky to the thousands that have visited the Observatory. We’re a non-profit organization of all volunteers that’s free and open to the public every Wednesday night (clear skies only!) from 8-10 pm. Please check the front page of the website, Twitter or Facebook posts to make sure we’ll be open.
In the summer, near the solstice, the sun doesn’t set until 8:30 and it’s best to wait until it’s dark around 9. We show visitors star clusters, galaxies, planets, nebulas, and other objects in the night sky, and discuss their discovery, significance, and physical characteristics. The Observatory is also available to the public and groups by appointment.
The Dome Observatory has a 16″ Meade LX-200 telescope with a 102mm refractor piggybacked on top and whenever we can we will take out the portable 25″ Obsession telescope, the largest in Connecticut.
WAS holds its regular meetings at 8 pm on the third Tuesday of each month featuring occasional internationally recognized speakers and everyone is welcome!
The Westport Astronomical Society, Inc. (WAS) was founded in 1975 to rebuild and maintain the Observatory. Today, more than 145 people have joined WAS. Many of them are teachers, astronomers, researchers, and technicians who specialize in such fields as physics, computers, optics, photography, and lasers. The Observatory houses a high-quality telescope with which we explore the night sky from one of the highest (and darkest!) points in Westport.
Our goal is multifaceted. First, we aim to supplement Connecticut school systems by offering hands-on astronomy to students at all levels. For students and non-students, we make astronomy simple and approachable.
We believe that by exploring space, people can gain an understanding of themselves and their environment. Astronomy is a window to nature in its pristine state; it helps people appreciate the special qualities of our planet and comprehend how rare an event our home, Earth, really is.
Our goal is also to strengthen the crucial bridge between amateur observation and professional astronomical research. Amateur contributions to astronomy are nothing new: Astronomy has always depended on amateurs observing the sky with their modest equipment. For example, amateurs scout variable stars, comets, and novas, and professionals use those observations as starting points in their research. In astronomy, a Ph.D. is not required to get your name in history books. By offering a venue for exploring the night sky — searching for novas and comets, for instance — WAS provides an important support system for the scientific community.
WAS maintains and operates our Observatory. It resides on the 40-foot South tower and we have two other buildings on the campus at 182 Bayberry Lane in Westport. The tower houses the Meade LX-200 while the North Tower is home to various ham radio antennas. One of the adjacent buildings serves as the WAS office, containing a library of books and some storage. The other building is the Fred Bump Education Center, where classes and regular meetings are held. In addition, WAS owns an incredible Obsession 25-inch Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount. This telescope is often transported to dark-sky sites.
We also complement the science curriculum of area schools by providing speakers and materials to teachers and inviting student groups to the Observatory to explore the night sky. We have served many school systems in Fairfield County. There are many other WAS stargazing activities, ranging from private star parties for our members, casual sessions to the annual Messier Marathon. We schedule public “star parties” throughout the year and public observation sessions whenever a special event such as an eclipse or meteor shower occurs.