CCSU Astronomy Students Shine in Free Public Observing Sessions


[Former AST 278 student Vanessa Swenton running the 10 inch Newtonian during a public observing session]

Each Fall semester, the students in AST 278 Observational Astronomy get an opportunity to shine. The capstone project of the course is for the students to plan, publicize, and carry out a series of four consecutive nights of free public observing sessions.


[Poster for the 2017 observing sessions. Designed by current AST 278 student Hayley Comstock]

This year’s class creatively adopted a Van Gogh theme, using the slogan “Gogh and experience a Starry Night at CCSU.” On December 3-6 from 7-8:30 PM, if the skies are clear, the 15 students will run four different telescopes and two sets of mounted binoculars, each instrument observing a different double star, star cluster, or galaxy. The students have spent a great deal of time preparing for this event, practicing how to operate the instrument they are assigned to and finding their object, as well as researching information about the instrument and object (including mythology and “fun facts”). But the success of this event really depends on you, the general public, to attend and allow these students to prove what they can do. I hope you will join us – I know you will be as proud of our CCSU astronomy students as I am.

For more information, including directions, visit the Copernican Observatory and Planetarium website.


Giving Thanks on Giving Tuesday


On this Giving Tuesday I wanted to give thanks for the honor and opportunity of serving as one of CCSU’s celestial tour guides since 1989. Last night my Observational Astronomy class practiced for their public observing sessions (this coming Sunday through Wednesday, December 3-6 – more on this tomorrow!) and I was impressed with how far they’ve come since the first night in the observatory in late August. Some of them had never looked through a telescope before seeing Saturn and Jupiter that first night. Now they are operating the instruments without my help, slewing across the night sky by hand and finding galaxies, star clusters, and double stars.

It definitely took hard work on the part of the students to get to this point, and the Copernican Planetarium here at CCSU played an important role. On cloudy nights we would use the planetarium to hone the students’ skill in pointing out the constellations and bright stars and navigating their way across the sky from horizon to horizon.

As you might imagine, planetariums and observatories need upkeep, and it isn’t cheap. While the university graciously supports our endeavors to keep the night sky free for all to enjoy by paying for our base budget, yearly service contract, and single fulltime staff member, we sometimes have to rely on the funds we raise ourselves to supplement this (for example, when we brought in a contractor to service the observatory dome). I am proud to say that I donate to the planetarium fund every year, but I don’t want to be selfish – I want to invite everyone to be a “star” and have the joy and satisfaction of knowing that they helped support our good work in bringing the universe down to earth for the citizens of Connecticut and beyond.

So on this Giving Tuesday, I am giving thanks by renewing my support for our projects, and invite you to do so as well. The sky belongs to all of us; let’s hold hands and support it together!

Gogh and Experience a Starry Night at CCSU



You’ve seen the famous painting, now experience the real thing by viewing galaxies, star clusters, double stars and more through a variety of telescopes and mounted binoculars at Central Connecticut State University. On December 3-6 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM, if the skies are clear, join us for free public observing sessions hosted by CCSU astronomy students. Bring along your own binoculars to learn how to use them to paint a picture of the universe from your own backyard. We promise it will make an impression on you! For more information, visit or call 860-832-2938.