Beginning in 2009 the LHAAC started a popular series of star parties at the observatory at White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield with the goal of bringing opportunities to enjoy the sky to the local community. We also have done events for the Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield, the Morris Public Library, the Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury, schools (in 2017 we did two events at Litchfield Minds in Motion), scout troops and private organizations.
As of early 2017 the club has done more than 90 events, so we have developed some experience. A typical evening star party features a talk by a club member on an astronomical topic, followed by stargazing, weather permitting. We have also done daytime solar viewing events at Oliver Wolcott Library and the Morris Public Library as well as our regular solar viewing event at White Memorial’s Family Nature Day in late September. A talk usually runs about 45-60 minutes, stargazing an hour or two, or until everyone loses interest or gets cold.
Talks: Some of the talks are just that: a talk with Powerpoint; some involve interactive activities such as examining meteorites and deciding which are meteor-rights and which are meteor-wrongs; identifying elements created in a supernova; seeing how telescopes form images; working out the distances between planets, and more. After the talk we usually hand out star charts for the current month and do a 10-minute presentation on what can be viewed this month and how to find it. A list of talk topics is below.
Stargazing: We can run an event at your site or ours. Obviously, your site needs to have a clear view of the sky, preferably at least half of it. Our site is the observatory at White Memorial, which was built in 1997 by the Mattatuck Astronomical Society and has a 17.5″ reflector (large by amateur standards) currently being upgraded with computer controls. Club members bring their own telescopes as well, and you are welcome to bring a telescope or binoculars to a star party. If we are at your site, we’ll arrange for club members to bring telescopes.
Cost: There is no cost to libraries, schools, scouts or other non-profits, as outreach is part of our mission. (Of course, we will accept an honorarium to help defray the club’s operating expenses.) For private organizations, we’ll work out a reasonable arrangement with you.
To get started, decide whether you want only a talk, only stargazing or both. (Since Connecticut weather is iffy, we suggest including a talk so you don’t have to cancel.) Then pick a date and location and contact club secretary Denis Williamson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Available talk topics (new ones are added each year):