Observatory Nights Open to the Public in Middletown | Connecticut Public Radio

Observatory Nights Open to the Public in Middletown

Feb 12, 2015

You may not think there are a lot of stellar wonders visible from Middletown, but astronomer and professor Wesleyan Univeresity Meredith Hughes disagrees.

"It's actually pretty amazing that in the middle of a city, we can see a ton of beautiful things in the night sky," Hughes said. Her observatory, located on a hill at Wesleyan, is now opening its telescope to the public every Wednesday night.

"For example, tonight," Hughes said this week, "our list of cool objects to observe -- if the weather is good enough -- includes Jupiter; the Orion nebula, which is a million years old -- which sounds old, but is actually very young in stellar terms -- a stellar nursery where stars are being born; we have the Beehive Cluster, which is a cluster of stars that is relatively recently formed; and the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest neighbor galaxy to our own."

Hughes said she was a relatively late bloomer when it came to looking up. She peered through a telescope for the first time when she 17 and saw Venus. "I remember looking through the telescope and seeing this tiny white dot and thinking, that's it?" she said. "Actually, I see that a lot when people look through the telescope for the first time."

Night sky in Connecticut.
Credit Kris Mortensen / Creative Commons

To that end, Hughes said the Wednesday night program will also include student-run lectures that prepare people for what they'll see through the telescope and address more general space issues -- things like planetary formation, exploration, and stars.

Hughes said giving the lectures will also help her students become better science communicators. And the best part? It's all free.