The Hamptons are Full of Stars…
Just Look Up
by Donna L. McCormick
The Montauk Observatory (MO) is one of the east end’s littlest-known yet most valuable educational treasures. Their stars have beauty…and substance.
You may have seen their astronomers in parks, on beaches, or street corners using laser pointers and telescopes to show people the wonders of the night sky. Maybe you caught a lecture or attended one of their frequent events. Who are these people? They deserve an explanation.
The Montauk Observatory is a nonprofit that’s been around since 2005. Their mission is to foster interest in science, particularly astronomy, by providing free, quality educational programs that they hold at other nonprofit organizations throughout the South Fork. Indeed, they have the hardware to support their mission. In 2017, the MO established the first public astronomical observatory on the South Fork, which now houses Long Island’s largest telescope: a research-grade Meade 20” RCX-400.
While the original plan was to take advantage of the dark skies and build the observatory in Montauk (hence “Montauk” Observatory), efforts to set down roots there did not work out. The Ross family heard of the group’s search for a home and generously offered a spot on the campus of the Ross School in East Hampton, next to the Tennis Center. The MO now has a state-of-the-art observatory that, later in 2019, will be fully automated and accessible (for free) via the internet to students, educators, researchers and the public. Although the observatory doesn’t have regular visiting hours, you can join its mailing list to receive notices about star parties and other events held there.
The MO is not endowed but operates largely thanks to the kindness of volunteers, through public support and private offerings. For a donation, astronomers will even bring telescopes to homes or businesses for private star parties and portable planetarium shows.
This summer many events are planned to get the public involved. For instance, on July 20 — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing — MO and Stonybrook Southampton will host a free commemorative event from 1:00-6:00 PM at the Avram Theater in Southampton, featuring a free screening of the highly acclaimed documentary “Apollo 11” followed by a Q&A with production team member & NASA software engineer, Ben Feist. And on July 25 at 7:00 PM at the East Hampton Library, author and co-founder of Princeton University’s Center for Theoretical Science, Prof. Paul Steinhardt, will talk about a new kind of matter he discovered.
For more information about the MO and its programs and events, or to contribute, visit MontaukObservatory.com. To join the mailing list for event notices or for questions, email MontaukObservatory@gmail.com.