Visiting Frosty Drew Observatory
Frosty Drew Observatory opens every Friday night year round and summertime Wednesday night 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 will have presentations in the Sky Theatre with astronomers on hand to answer questions and give tours of our observatory 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 and every summertime Wednesday night.
During the months closest to the winter solstice Frosty Drew Observatory will open at 7:00 p.m. and remain open until the weather crashes our sky or visitors stop arriving. Usually around 11:00 p.m. but sometimes much later.
March - May, September - November: Frosty Drew Observatory will open a half hour after dusk and stay open until 11:00 p.m. or until unfavorable weather attacks. On clear nights largely free of excessive moonlight, we may stay open until 2:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning with the occasional all-nighter.
Memorial Day - Labor Day: Frosty Drew Observatory will open at 6:00 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 11:30 p.m. or until unfavorable weather moves in. On clear nights largely free of excessive moonlight, we may stay open until 2:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning with the occasional all-nighter.
Additionally, Frosty Drew Observatory opens every Wednesday night with acceptable weather during June - August. On Wednesdays the observatory will open about 30 minutes after sunset and stay open until 11:30 pm.
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.
On Friday nights with inclement weather, the Frosty Drew Observatory & Sky Theatre will be open from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. with astronomers giving presentations in the Sky Theatre and offering tours of the Observatory. Telescopes will not be operational on these nights.
- 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 group leaders must always be in the presence of minor aged individuals.
- 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.
- Contacting the Observatory
Frosty Drew Observatory has no telephone. The telephone in the Frosty Drew 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, which contains our weekly newsletter, 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.
- Dome Access Passes
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.
From the time we open until 10:30 pm, 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, 12 groups, each comprised of 30 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 regular 11:30 pm close time, primary telescope access will be openly available.
This process allows for visitors to maximize their visit to Frosty Drew Observatory. Instead of waiting in lines, visitors can observe through numerous secondary telescopes, 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.
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.
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 set of binoculars, bring them along by all means! Many of the most wonderful things are seen best in binoculars. For example, telescopes can't compete with binoculars on wide field objects like comets, large star clusters, the Andromeda Galaxy, 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 the best dark skies in Rhode Island, with near 360° 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 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!
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 will know what you are buying.
- What NOT to Bring to Frosty Drew
Cigarette smoking and tobacco use will kill you and those around you as well. Do not bring any tobacco products to Frosty Drew. 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 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.
All white light use is not permitted on the Frosty Drew campus from sunset to sunrise outside of emergency situations. 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 sky 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 sky 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, or breaking down your gear 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 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.
- 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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, 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.