Visiting Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center
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 open 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 may either host presentations in the Sky Theatre with astronomers on hand to answer questions and give tours of our observatory and astronomical equipment. We also frequently host live streamed events on the Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center YouTube. Below are some tips and information for planning your visit to Frosty Drew Observatory. We hope to see you soon under starry skies!
- General Hours of Operation
- Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center opens every Friday night and frequently for special events. Our operating hours depend on season and are generally as follows. For operating hours regarding a specific upcoming event, please visit our events calendar.
During the months closest to the winter solstice the Observatory and Science Center will open at 7:00 p.m. and remain open until the weather crashes our sky or visitors stop arriving. Usually around 10:00 p.m.
Spring and Autumn Hours:
March - May, September: The Observatory and Science Center will open within an hour after sunset, but no earlier than 7:30 pm, and stay open until the weather crashes our sky or visitors stop arriving. Usually around 10:30 p.m. On clear nights largely free of excessive moonlight, we may stay open later.
Memorial Day - Labor Day: The Observatory and Science Center will open at 6:30 p.m. with solar observation using our Ha or White Light solar telescopes. At sunset the observatory telescopes turn to the night sky for stargazing and stay open until 11:00 p.m. or until unfavorable weather moves in. On clear nights largely free of excessive moonlight, we may stay open into the morning hours.
Inclement Weather Hours:
On Friday nights with inclement weather, the Observatory and Science Center will be open from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. with astronomers giving presentations in the Sky Theatre, showing exhibits in the Science Center, and offering tours of the Observatory. Telescopes will not be operational on these nights. Additionally, we may attempt to host a live streamed event on our YouTube.
We periodically update our Twitter and Facebook from the Observatory with status messages pertaining to the night. Once we begin our shutdown operations we will post a "Closing Up" message. If you do not see that message than we are still open and observing.
For the most updated hours of operation, please visit our events calendar to confirm open and close times for the event you wish to attend.
- Finding the Observatory / Directions
- Frosty Drew Observatory is located inside Ninigret Park. Our address is 61-62 Park Lane, Charlestown, Rhode Island, 02813. Get Directions.
- Visiting on Closed Nights
- Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center hosts numerous public events throughout the year, which are listed on our events calendar. On other nights, Frosty Drew Astronomers are on site working. On these nights our facilities and campus are CLOSED. If choosing to visit on a closed night, access is granted at the discretion of the astronomers who are working, and will require strict adherence to the following expectations:
Daytime Driving Lights Only:
Once entering Ninigret Park, navigate with only daytime driving headlights or marker lights. Once parked, headlights must be disabled immediately. If you do no know how to do this, learn about your vehicle before departing home. This also applies to truck bed lights. If you can't figure it out, then do not bring that vehicle.
No White Casting Lights:
No lighting of any kind, aside from low output red lights, are permitted. This includes flash photography, phone backlights, and all flashlights or light casting devices. The only exception to this rule is camera screens, which should be set to the dimmest setting.
Adhere to Posted Signage:
Depending on the night, signage may be posted on site. All information on posted signage must be followed.
Do Not Interfere with Our Astronomers:
Do not interfere with the work of our astronomers, and follow their direction at all times.
Be Respectful and Responsible:
If you open a gate, close the gate. If you bring something with you, take it with you when you leave. Please don't leave your trash for somebody else to pick up. That's just not cool!
Don't Get Banned:
Any negative review or posting on a public forum related to a closed night visit will result in the writer being banned from the Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center campus for a period of one year, plus the time the posting is in the public space. Not properly preparing for your visit is not our fault!
- Minimum Age Requirement
- All Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center programs and events are designed for people of all ages. Though any person under the age of 18 years must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or as part of a group that is under the supervision of a responsible adult when visiting the Frosty Drew campus. The Frosty Drew campus is situated in a very dark, rural location surrounded by a large wide open park, and a National Wildlife Refuge. Our astronomers are not responsible for the safety of children in attendance. Additionally, we do not permit drop offs of minor aged children on the Frosty Drew campus. Parents, legal guardians, or adult group leaders must always be in the presence of minor aged individuals.
- Contacting the Observatory
Frosty Drew Observatory does not have a telephone. The telephone in the Science Center cannot be heard in the Observatory and will not be answered on evenings we are open. Any e-mail sent to us within an hour or two of opening may not see a reply until the following morning.
For updates on our weekly stargazing schedule, please visit our events page. For updates on Fridays about that night's public stargazing event, visit the Frosty Drew Home Page. Our weekly stargazing event listing, will be at the top of all our news listings on the days we are open, and will give you an idea of what to expect that night. We frequently post status messages to the Frosty Drew Observatory Facebook and Twitter from the Observatory with a final "Closing Up" post once our stargazing fun comes to an end.
For further contact information please visit Contacting Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center.
- Event Tickets
Some of our events require tickets for visitors to gain admission. Specifically, our special events will usually require visitors to purchase tickets either in advance or on site. At this time, regular Friday Stargazing Nights events may require visitors to acquire tickets.
How to tell if an event we are hosting requires visitors to purchase tickets:
- Find the event you are planning to attend on our events calendar.
- On the event page, the "Cost" field at the top of the event will list if the event has a suggested donation or if the event requires tickets. Suggested donation costs will be listed if the event does not require tickets.
- The event description on the event page will list if that specific event carries a ticketed admission requirement.
When Do Ticket Go On Sale:
Ticket sales will open on the day of or day before the event. We do this because favorable weather is required for our events to proceed. Inclement weather will cancel our events. To acquire the most reliable forecast data possible, we wait until the day before or day of the event to make a final decision to host or cancel the event. When ticket sales open, a link to purchase tickets will be added to the "Cost" field and description on the event page. Once event capacity is reached, these fields will be listed as "Sold Out", and we will be unable to allow entry to any more guests.
Emailing or calling Frosty Drew for tickets in advance will not enable early access to ticket availability. Neither will it get you tickets once the event has sold out. Additionally, we do not generally respond to emails or voicemails about how to acquire tickets. We understand that this could be frustrating and confusing, but all information needed will be listed on the event page for that night.
- Dome Access Passes
Memorial Day - New Year:
During the months of June - December, our Stargazing Nights event, and other special events, are enthusiastically attended. To avoid long lines forming at the Frosty Drew Observatory primary telescope, we have integrated a pass-based group access process that applies to only the large observatory telescope inside the dome.
How Passes Work:
From the time we open until 10:30 p.m., passes are available at the Greeter's Table, which is set up outside the observatory courtyard gate. Upon receiving a pass, a visitor will be assigned to the next available access group. Over the course of the night, 9 groups, each comprised of 20 visitors, will be admit into the Observatory. Access passes are free, though a $5 donation per visitor, per night, is requested. Each visitor will be given one pass at a time, though additional passes can be acquired by visiting the Greeter's Table after completing the pass holder's current group session. Note that if the Observatory stays open past the the event's regular close time, primary telescope access will be openly available at the discretion of the astronomers.
This process allows for visitors to maximize their visit to Frosty Drew Observatory. Instead of waiting in lines, visitors can observe through numerous telescopes set up in the Observatory Courtyard, attend speaking engagements in the Sky Theatre or Science Center, relax in the Lunar Lounge, attend showings of Frosty Drew Observatory features in the Sky Theatre or Science Center, take a sky tour with our Sky Evangelists, speak with our astronomers, and freely explore all of the amazing experiences at Frosty Drew Observatory.
- 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://informationaboutstars.com, you can print out information about a star or object you would like to view. This will make it easy for our astronomers to locate what you want to see.
Groups Consisting of Children:
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 child's safety. Children MUST be supervised at all times.
Private Event Reservations:
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.
- Frosty Drew Equipment Usage by Visitors - Terms of Service
When visiting Frosty Drew Observatory, visitors will be utilizing sensitive scientific equipment in a supervised fashion. All Frosty Drew equipment is managed by Frosty Drew astronomers and team members, who will clearly instruct all visitors on how to properly utilize our equipment. It is expected that all visitors understand that they are required to listen and adhere to equipment use instructions. This will reduce the potential for injuries among visitors as well as damage to our equipment.
Parents with younger aged children are expected to reinforce instructions with their child on how to properly utilize our equipment, as well as monitor / supervise their actions.
Not All Equipment is Publicly Accessible:
During open nights at the Observatory there will be telescopes and equipment setup that are not accompanied by an astronomer or operator. These devices are being utilized by Frosty Drew personnel to aid in presentations or may be performing data collection functions. Visiting members of the public are not permitted to grab or control Frosty Drew equipment at any time during the visit. Additionally, if any equipment is unattended by Frosty Drew personnel, than that device is CLOSED and unavailable for use until a Frosty Drew team member returns.
Examples of Inappropriate Equipment Use:
- Holding the telescope or eyepiece when viewing
- Attempting to redirect the telescope to another object
- Leaning on the telescope for support while observing
- Touching any control panels or computers that are controlling a telescope
- Attempting to focus a telescope without permission from the telescope's operator
Protecting Our Equipment:
Visitors who repeatedly grab or commandeer our equipment will be required to leave the Frosty Drew campus. Additionally, any visitor who attempts to utilize, or forcefully commandeers an unattended device will be required to leave the Frosty Drew campus.
When unsure about a device that you are being instructed to use, always ask a Frosty Drew astronomer and they will gladly help you in any way they can!
- Bringing your Own Equipment
Privately owned telescopes and binoculars are welcome at Frosty Drew Observatory. If you have a set of binoculars, bring them along by all means! Many of the most wonderful things are seen best in binoculars. For example, many telescopes can't compete with binoculars on wide field objects like comets, large star clusters, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way.
Where to Set Up:
We have special areas designated for personally owned equipment. Some have concrete pads for telescope set up, and some of the pads provide 120 volt power for clock drives, computers, and accessories. Better yet, we have the best dark sky in Rhode Island, with near 360° visibility of the night sky. On open nights, personally owned equipment must be set up in designated areas. Otherwise, the equipment will have to be moved.
You are Responsible for your Equipment:
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 telescope with good optics. Talk with other observers 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!
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 will know what you are buying.
- What NOT to Bring to Frosty Drew
Smoking / Vaping:
Cigarette smoking and tobacco use will kill you and those around you as well. Do not bring any tobacco products to the Frosty Drew campus. This includes all forms of e-cigarettes and "vaping" devices. Our campus and facilities are family friendly and utilize sensitive optic devices, which are both vulnerable to the nasty effects of smoke.
Guns or Weapons:
Guns or weapons of any kind are not permitted on the Frosty Drew campus by any person other than official on-duty law enforcement. If you have a permit to legally carry a weapon and are not an official on-duty law enforcement officer, then you can temporarily leave your weapon at the Charlestown Police Department which is just across the street from the entrance to Ninigret Park. Any person bringing weapons to Frosty Drew, will be required to leave the campus and Police will be notified of the incident.
White Casting Lights:
All white light use is not permitted on the Frosty Drew campus or in Ninigret Park from sunset to sunrise outside of emergency situations, or the use of low beam headlights while the vehicle is in motion. This includes flashlights, phone lights, digital display back-lights, or any other white casting light. Red lights are permitted and their use is encouraged during these times. Using white lighting under dark conditions will keep your eyes from becoming dark adapted (ability to see at night) and you will not be able to see the stars or landscape around you. Additionally the use of white lighting will inhibit the dark adaption of all others in attendance, blocking their view of the fabulous starscape over Frosty Drew. For a more in-depth explanation of the problem please read The Red Light District. If you are concerned about your inability to see in the dark upon arriving, wait in your car with all lights, including your headlights, off for about 15 minutes. This will allow for your vision to become adapted to the darkness, after which you will be surprised at how well you can see in the dark. The only exception to this requirement is under emergency circumstances or during private events. Note that dropping your lens cap, remote shutter control, tripod quick release, breaking down your gear, or being upset about not having tickets for event admission DO NOT qualify as emergency circumstances.
Unauthorized green laser pointers are not allowed on the Frosty Drew campus. Frosty Drew astronomers and staff occasionally use green lasers to assist in sky presentations and are trained in the proper use of lasers. Incorrect use of green laser pointers can result in permanent blindness, radiation exposure, and incarceration by law enforcement. All of which will ruin your stargazing experience.
Pets vs Service Animals:
Pets are not welcome on the Frosty Drew campus. We utilize sensitive optics and extensive equipment under dark conditions. These present a hazard to your pet and your pet presents hazards to our optics. Service Animals are welcome everywhere on the Frosty Drew campus but only if wearing proper service animal attire.
- Health and Wellness
Frosty Drew Observatory is situated in a remote, rural location. The observatory building does not have climate control and visitors will be completely exposed to the elements during their visit. These conditions can significantly exacerbate symptoms an already sick person will experience. The cold and/or the wind will not make you sick, but a stiff cold wind could agitate an existing cough, which increases the chances of transmission to another person.
Stay Home if Sick:
If you or your children are sick, or are experiencing symptoms of a contagion (cough, fever, etc), then a visit to Frosty Drew Observatory will not make you feel better. On the contrary, local conditions at Frosty Drew will likely agitate your symptoms. Additionally, you are sure to transmit your ailment to other visitors and our team members. Please stay home with a blanket, kitty, soup, and Netflix. Frosty Drew Observatory will be here when you get better and our team members will be happy to see you well.
In regards to COVID-19 virus in the New England area, Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center will continue to open on a modified Stargazing Nights event schedule, when necessary. We ask those who have the symptoms listed above to stay home and postpone your visit. As this is still an evolving situation, be sure to regularly check our SARS-COV-2 Public Statement, which will have the most up-to-date information, and supersedes everything on this page.
Getting Sick is Natural:
By visiting Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center you are accepting the risks associated with attending events where other people are present. Including the potential to contract illnesses from other visitors, Frosty Drew volunteers / staff, mosquitoes, and other possible sources of infection.
Regarding Masks / Face Coverings:
Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center is NOT requiring visitors to wear face coverings at this time. The Frosty Drew campus is a designated "Safe Space" that is free of discrimination of any kind. With that said, it is not our business why a person may or may not be wearing a mask when visiting our campus, and we will not ask why, demean, demand, or kick out a visitor on the sole basis of not wearing a mask. For the same reason that we do not ask why, demean, demand, or kick out a person who requires the use of assistive technology, or is accompanied by a service animal. That is between that person and their doctor. If this poses a concern for you, then please do not visit until you have completed a full vaccination regiment. Any person who engages in discriminitive behavior towards another person regarding a mask, will be required to leave the campus immediately.
- Mosquitoes and Insects
During the months of May - September 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 closed-toe shoes. Keep a spring jacket with you at all times to cover up with. Children with bare feet and bare legs are particularly at risk. Spray yourself liberally with an effective bug repellent designed for ticks and mosquitoes. Please do not spray bug repellent inside the observatory or around any telescopes. The primary ingredient (DEET) in most insect repellent is damaging to our telescope optics.
Spiders are Our Friends:
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. Don't fear nature!
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 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 immediately after visiting.
Other Biting Insects:
We have observed other biting insects, in smaller numbers, at Frosty Drew Observatory including green head flies, deer flies, black flies, gnats, and ants. Laying in the grass without a blanket and/or adequate clothing can increase your chances of contracting ant bites. Green head flies are not repelled by DEET, the primary active ingredient in insect repellents. Alternatively, use Avon Skin So Soft lotion as an effective repellent against these types of insects (including mosquitoes and all other insects listed above).
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 in Ninigret Park during the summer!
- Dressing for Winter Conditions
During the winter and early spring months Ninigret Park is COLD and the Observatory cannot be heated. We lack a heater because rising heat will escape through the open roof of the observatory dome, creating distortions that our telescope will magnify. This will result in blurred views when looking through the telescope. During public stargazing events the Sky Theatre will be open and available as a warm up hut. This does not justify wearing inadequate winter apparel. Frostbite happens quickly and can easily be avoided with proper winter attire.
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. The cold concrete of the observatory floor and walkways will drain heat rapidly. Within a very short time these inadequately dressed visitors are forced to leave.
Wear a Hat:
Hats are an absolute must-have! You radiate a great deal of heat from 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 wind breaker or parka. A knitted sweater in a stiff damp wind is only slightly better than a cotton shirt unless something breaks the wind.
How to Properly Dress:
Frosty Drew Observatory staff dress in layers during the winter and for a very good reason. You should consider doing the same. Please read Dressing for All-Night Winter Stargazing to familiarize yourself with adequate dressing measures.
- Accessibility for Visitors with Disabilities
Frosty Drew Campus Accessibility:
The Observatory building is not very handicap accessible, though it is accessible for most that are not restricted to a wheelchair. The entrance to the Observatory has three steps up to the observatory floor, and three steps down when exiting. There are an additional four steps onto the observers platform to gain access to the telescope. The telescope eyepiece is at standing height though the eyepiece position varies depending on the object we are looking at. To compensate for this variance, we have a small three-step ladder at the telescope eyepiece to allow for relevant access when observing objects low to the horizon, and have the capabilities to orientate the eyepiece within a 360° vertical rotation. Additionally, we have a 40" screen in the Observatory that can show live views from the telescope when fitted with a camera.
Science Center / Sky Theatre Accessibility:
The Science Center and Sky Theatre buildings share a handicap accessible ramp. We often showcase celestial objects we photograph at Frosty Drew Observatory on the screen in the Sky Theatre and occasionally we will show live views from a telescope.
Courtyard Telescope Accessibility:
We also have telescopes setup in the Observatory Courtyard, depending on environmental conditions. These telescopes will be accessible without stairs, but may be difficult to acquire a view from a sitting position, depending on the telescope and what is in view.
We Can All Work Together:
We make a best effort attempt for everybody to get a view in our telescopes and we occasionally have visitors that utilize assistive devices come out and make the climb with assistance from their family members and friends. Contacting an Astronomer at Frosty Drew Observatory, in advance, will better help us prepare for your visit. We have the ability to show live images from a telescope on several screens around the campus, and will gladly do so upon request.
- Photography Policy
You Will Likely Be Photographed When Visiting:
Upon entering the Frosty Drew campus, you grant to Frosty Drew Memorial Fund, Inc. and its employees, volunteers, agents and assigns the right to photograph you and your dependent(s) for use in Frosty Drew Memorial Fund, Inc. print, electronic, and digital media and publications. Visitors are welcome to take photographs of Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center for their own personal use and we encourage you to share your photos and tag us @FrostyDrewObservatory on Facebook!
Bringing Drones or Filming on Site:
Drone photography or filming is never permitted without the express written consent of Frosty Drew Memorial Fund, Inc.
Professional Photography Shoots:
Professional photography shoots (personal, engagement, wedding, etc) are not allowed at Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center without advanced permission. Commercial photographers should contact an Astronomer at Frosty Drew Observatory to request permission before visiting Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center.
General photography of the night sky is permitted on the Frosty Drew campus subject to on site behavior requirements, as listed on this page, as well as the direction of Frosty Drew astronomers, staff, and volunteers present. Flash photography will not be permitted by visitors on the Frosty Drew campus after sunset.
- Questions about Astronomy
If you have general questions about astronomy or Frosty Drew Observatory you can contact an Astronomer at Frosty Drew Observatory. You will be put in touch with one or more of our staff astronomers, who will do their 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 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, the Christmas Star, Nibiru, flat Earth, the Matrix, or similar topics.
- Mailing List
- Every week we send out our Stargazing Nights announcement that will describe our plans to open and include a note from our 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. 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.