They are seeing stars in Western Connecticut—not to mention planets and galaxies. The opportunity to view the heavens close up though a professional telescope is a rare treat, and Fairfield County in Western Connecticut is lucky enough to have four observatories that invite the public to share the thrill of star-gazing. Experts are on hand to guide beginners and viewing should be prime on the clear autumn nights ahead.
The Stamford Observatory
The Stamford Observatory at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, a research facility used by members of the Fairfield County Astronomical Society, is open to all every Friday night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting. The Observatory’s 22-inch research telescope is better than ever, thanks to recent updating with state of the art high precision components. When visitors spot the moon, planets or deep space objects, computer controls automatically prompt the telescope to zoom in on the object.
On specially scheduled Astronomy Nights, informative talks on the planets and galaxies are presented before the viewing hours. These lively programs are suitable for children ages 5 and up as well as for adults.
The Observatory is located behind the Hecksher Farm off Scofieldtown Road. Viewers enter at 151 Scofieldtown Road. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children. For more information, see http://www.stamfordmuseum.org/observatory.html or phone 203-322-1646.
Rolnick Observatory, Westport
The Westport Astronomical Society has its own long-running program for visitors. The domed Rolnick Observatory houses a 12.5-inch Newtonian telescope. On a moonless night when visibility is prime, the portable 25-inch Obsession telescope, the largest available to the public in Connecticut, is brought outdoors. The program at 182 Bayberry Lane is free to the public every clear Wednesday from 8 to 10 p.m. See details at was-ct.org, or phone 203-293-8759.
Westside Observatory, Danbury
Westside Observatory, located atop a five-acre hill on the Westside Campus of Western Connecticut State University, is dedicated to astrophysical research by students and faculty. The observatory’s 20-inch Ritchey-Chrétien reflector telescope is equipped with a computer-controlled pointing and tracking system as well as a powerful CCD camera that takes multi-color digital images of planets, faint stars and other deep-sky objects. The University also has its own planetarium. Free public viewing nights are scheduled regularly depending on weather conditions, but planetarium shows go on rain or shine. The one-hour shows are not recommended for younger children. Schedules are posted at https://www.wcsu.edu/starwatch.
Bowman Observatory, Greenwich
A new 16-inch telescope is being installed by the Astronomical Society of Greenwich at the Bowman Observatory, with the reopening scheduled for sometime this fall. Check the website, seocom.com/asg or phone 203-413-6762 for exact fall viewing dates, usually the second and fourth Tuesdays each month.