Is there an observatory nearby?
Yes, indeed there is. To appreciate the universe in all its mesmerizing glory, you don’t have to blast off to a galaxy far, far away. The best intergalactic journey in Litchfield County is a trip to the John J. McCarthy Observatory, located on the New Milford High School campus on Route 7. The all-volunteer staff has been introducing students and adults to the wonders of the heavens since it opened 2000.
Built with largely private funding, the non-profit McCarthy Observatory holds Second Saturday Stars every month, inviting the public to free lectures and into the 16-foot-high dome for an opportunity to peer through a behemoth telescope at planets and stars, asteroids, and comets. The staff has discovered new asteroids, one New Milford student won the Intel International Science Fair, and hundreds of space objects have been viewed.
Outside the building, a main landing-gear tire for a 1997 Space Shuttle mission to the Hubble telescope rests against the wall—a space artifact on loan from NASA. Since opening, the observatory has expanded, adding a 1,000-square-foot deck with four telescope piers and light blinds to give visitors a “dark sky” experience. A scale solar system, sundial, and a sunflower garden were also installed.
Says Elaine Green, an American Airlines flight attendant who became star struck with astronomy after completing an adult-education course taught by staff: “I’m probably the most non-science person here, but I just love sharing the wonder.” Visiting the observatory is simple and free: mccarthyobservatory.org.