Visiting Frosty Drew Observatory
Frosty Drew Observatory opens every Friday night year round to the public free of charge. Being a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization we do accept and greatly appreciate any donations. The weather plays a very important role in what we are doing at Frosty Drew Observatory on Friday nights. If the sky is clear and the wind is manageable the observatory will be in full observation mode and we will be looking to the sky through one or more of our telescopes. During cloudy, rain, or snow conditions we will have astronomers on hand to answer questions and give tours of our observatory, sky theatre, and astronomical equipment. Below are some tips and information for planning your visit to Frosty Drew Observatory. We hope to see you soon under starry skies!
- Hours of Operation
- Frosty Drew Observatory opens every Friday night weather permitting.
During the months closest to the winter solstice Frosty Drew Observatory will open at 6:00 p.m. and remain open till the crowd dies or the weather crashes our sky. Usually around 10:00 p.m. but sometimes much later.
March - October Frosty Drew Observatory will open a half hour after dusk and stay open till the crowd dies down or unfavorable weather attacks. On dark, clear nights we will usually stay open till 2am - 3am Saturday morning with the occasional all niter.
We periodically update our Twitter from the Observatory with status messages which will also be displayed on the Observatory Home Page. Once we begin our shutdown preparations we will post a "Closing Up" message. If you do not see that message than we are still open and observing.
- Contacting the Observatory
Frosty Drew Observatory has no telephone or Internet connections. The telephone in the Frosty Drew Nature Center cannot be heard in the Observatory and will not be answered on Friday evenings. Any e-mail sent to us within an hour or two of opening on Friday, we will not see it until the following morning.
If you are trying to determine whether we will be open on Friday, please visit the Observatory Home Page. A status message will be printed in the right column in the section titled "Twitter Updates". This status message will be updated during the day on Friday and periodically from the observatory on Friday nights. We also post status messages on the Frosty Drew Observatory & Sky Theatre Facebook page and on the Frosty Drew Observatory Twitter.
For further contact information please visit the Frosty Drew Contacts page.
- Questions about Astronomy
If you have general questions about astronomy or Frosty Drew Observatory you can contact an Astronomer at Frosty Drew Observatory. You'll be put in touch with one or more of our astronomy staffers. We'll do our best to answer your questions. We cannot write excessively long or involved answers via e-mail. Some apparently simple questions have very complex answers. For example "Why is the night sky dark?" This question, called Olber's Paradox, took centuries to be answered correctly! If you have a complex question or would like to just chat with one of our astronomers, come down to the Observatory on the next clear Friday night, we will do our best to answer your long or involved questions and would be happy to chat with you about astronomy and the night sky.
We will not respond to questions about astrology, horoscopes, palmistry or similar topics.
- Large Groups
If you are inquiring about a visit with a large group (a class trip or a scout group for example), please contact an Astronomer at Frosty Drew Observatory several weeks before the proposed date. You can always come down in any case, but it helps us if we know that an unusually large number of people will arrive. If your group wants to see something specific, please tell us about it in advance. Using a site like http://starinfo.co, you can print out information about the star or object you want to see. This will make it easy for our astronomers to locate what you want to see.
We have a policy for groups consisting of children that requires one RESPONSIBLE adult per 8 children. We prefer more adults per child ratios particularly for younger children. This is for the children's safety. Children MUST be supervised at all times.
Frosty Drew Observatory will open on non-public nights for groups consisting of ten or more individuals with a per student / person cost. If you are interested in this option please contact an Astronomer at Frosty Drew Observatory to further discuss the options we have available.
- Bringing your Equipment
Privately owned telescopes and binoculars are welcome at Frosty Drew Observatory. If you have a pair of binoculars of any kind bring them along by all means! Many of the most wonderful things are seen best in binoculars. For example, telescopes can't hope to compete with binoculars on wide field objects like comets and the Milky Way.
We have concrete pads with mounting piers for telescopes. Some of the pads provide 120 volt power for clock drives, computers, and accessories. Better yet, we have some of the best dark skies in Rhode Island, with near 360 degree visibility of the night sky.
If you bring your telescope, other visitors may ask if they can look through it. You may allow others to view through your telescope at your own discretion. Frosty Drew is not responsible for missing or damaged equipment. Always stay close to your telescope and workstation and be mindful of who is operating your equipment!
If you are in the market for a telescope, trying out a variety of telescopes can be a real benefit. The glossy department store wonder with shiny knobs and adjustments may suddenly seem less desirable when it is compared to a simple sturdy scope with good optics. Talk with other amateurs to see what they think is important in a telescope. You may be surprised to find out that the very feature you thought you wanted (say highest magnification) is actually a drawback!
Again, if you have binoculars, by all means bring them. Time and time again we are asked what telescope a new enthusiast should buy. Our answer is always the same. Use a pair of binoculars until you are familiar with the sky. Time enough then to buy the telescope of your dreams. At least you'll know what you are buying.
- Mosquitoes and Insects
During the months of May - August the Frosty Drew Observatory becomes the Friday night feeding ground for the fleets of mosquitoes that live in Ninigret Park. Regardless of temperature, wear long pants in the evening, with socks and shoes. Keep a spring jacket with you at all times to cover up with. Kids with bare feet and bare legs are particularly at risk. Spray yourself liberally with an effective bug repellant designed for ticks and mosquitoes. Please do not spray bug repellant inside the observatory or around any telescopes. The primary ingredient (DEET) in most repellants is damaging to our telescope optics.
Inside the observatory we tend to keep all our spiders alive and active. This reduces the number of mosquitoes that get inside the observatory dome. Many of these spiders congregate on the entrance steps and will greet you with a painful (non-lethal) bite. Wearing sandals and other summer shoes that expose your feet will increase your risk of receiving one of these bites.
Laying on the grass will greatly increase your chances of leaving Frosty Drew Observatory with a tick. Wearing long pants, socks, and shoes that do not expose your feet will greatly reduce your the risk of contracting a tick. Upon arriving home, examine yourself and your children for a bug that looks like a little black seed with eight legs. Deer ticks are known carriers of Lyme's Disease. To become infected with Lyme's Disease the tick must stay attached for a 48 hour period. So remember to examine yourself and your children that night.
The thought of wearing long pants, socks, shoes, and spring jacket during the summer is dreadful for some. You will be glad you did after you catch a site of the mosquitoes at Frosty Drew during the summer!
- Dressing for Winter Conditions
During the winter months Ninigret Park is COLD! The Observatory cannot be heated. We lack a heater because rising heat causes distortions which ruin telescopic viewing. While we often open the Nature Center as a warm up hut, we only can allow visitors in there when a staffer is available. You may arrive on a night when we have no one who can take you over to get warm.
People frequently arrive at the Observatory wearing a light jacket and fabric covered shoes. We are so used to the idea that buildings are warm that we forget that being exposed to the cold of a winter's night can be very uncomfortable. Winter nights are much colder than most people expect. Most people do not realize that on a clear winter's night they actually radiate directly into space. Cold concrete drains heat rapidly. Within a very short time these inadequately dressed visitors are forced to leave.
Hats are an absolute must-have! You radiate a great deal of heat through your head and you will be cold immediately without a good hat. Wear thick soled shoes. Canvas shoes simply are useless for keeping your feet warm. Sweaters are great but only if you have a windbreaker or parka. A knitted sweater in a stiff moist wind is only slightly better than a cotton shirt unless something breaks the wind.
Frosty Drew Observatory staff dress in layers during the winter and for a very good reason. You should consider doing the same. Please read Properly dressing in layers for Winter cold to familiarize yourself with adequate dressing processes.
- Mailing List
- Every week we send out our Public Night announcement that will note our plans to open and include a note from the Observatory Director, Francine Jackson and other staff astronomers. We also send out event notifications and alerts for many celestial events that sporadically happen or Frosty Drew events that are taking place. We are also starting a monthly newsletter that our mailing list will receive. Please subscribe to the Frosty Drew Observatory mailing list to stay current on what is going on at Frosty Drew and our little corner of the galaxy.