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Observatory Nights Open to the Public in Middletown

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."

Credit Kris Mortensen / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Night sky in Connecticut.

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.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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