For over 41 years 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.
The Dome Observatory houses a 12.5″ Newtonian telescope and on moonless nights, we take out the newly upgraded and portable 25″ Obsession telescope, the largest in Connecticut available to the public.
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 consists of a 40-foot tower and two auxiliary buildings at 182 Bayberry Lane in Westport. The tower houses a 12.5-inch, f/4.8 Newtonian reflector, which was refurbished with optics by the Perkin-Elmer Corporation. One of the adjacent buildings serves as the WAS office, containing a library of both books and videotapes. The other building is the Fred Bump Education Center, where classes and regular meetings are held. In addition, WAS owns an incredible 25-inch Newtonian reflector with a Dobsonian mount. This telescope can be transported to dark-sky sites.
WAS opens the Observatory to the public at no charge every Wednesday night from 8PM to 10PM, if the skies are clear. In the summer, near the solstice, it’s better to come after 9 since the sun doesn’t set until 8:30. 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.
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 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.
WAS also holds monthly meetings at the Observatory. We offer talks on the latest celestial discoveries and theories, observation techniques, astrophotography, and astronomical equipment. We publish a monthly newsletter, Field of View. It features a calendar of WAS events and original articles geared to provide astronomy information to all age groups.