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The Best Stargazing in New England?

A clear dark night at Frosty Drew. Photo by Scott MacNeill

A clear dark night at Frosty Drew. Photo by Scott MacNeill

New England spring has set in once again and with New England spring comes the dismal weather forecasts that we all to quickly forget while experiencing spring fever. These long spells of classic New England sky-induced depression are all too common this time of year which usually result in dramatic rants where we bang on the New England skies as if life on Venus couldn't be any worse. So lets re-tune our thinking to thoughts of awesomeness and focus on those staggering clear nights at Frosty Drew where the sky opens up like a lively painting of star light.

This past month Frosty Drew Observatory has been getting much positive mention in online and print media. The most notable mention was by Yankee magazine which named Frosty Drew Observatory as “Best Stargazing” in New England. We at the observatory were thrilled about this rating as we all love the skies over Frosty Drew. Though after the madness settled down I thought; Does Frosty Drew really have the best stargazing in New England? For me, to date, the answer is YES. I have spent much time in different parts of New England observing the sky and I have found some really fantastic spots. But no other spot, that I can recall, has left me mesmerized to the point of blatant ignorance to everything else around me as the skies over Frosty Drew have done numerous times. Additionally, on those super clear dark nights at Frosty Drew I repeatedly hear from avid stargazers that an object has never appeared so clear as they see it at Frosty Drew. Commonly, people dismiss the skies over Frosty Drew without having visited due to us residing in Rhode Island, which does not have the best track record regarding light pollution. I frequently hear about the beautiful skies in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Well I have seen those skies too and they are beautiful, but I don't see there what I see at Frosty Drew. May through July is our best viewing season at Frosty Drew as the summer milky way is quite visible over the observatory. If you have never visited our little spot of awesomeness, make it a priority this summer to stop in on a clear, dark night and be mesmerized by the skies that we love at Frosty Drew.

To further substantiate Frosty Drew's stargazing prowess, the Observatory appears to be establishing itself as a great place to view Saturn. We have had two of our photographs of Saturn published this month in two different publications. EarthSky, a well known online science periodical with a focus on astronomy, published our photograph of Saturn that was shot during our May 3rd public stargazing night. Space.com, a well known online astronomy periodical, published our photo of Saturn that we shot during last Friday's public stargazing session (second photo in the set). Now Frosty Drew obviously cannot claim fame on the awesomeness of Saturn but we can suggest a visit to the observatory for a fantastic view of the bright planet and its fabulous rings. Saturn will be visible at Frosty Drew until early August.

To effectively observe the fabulous skies over Frosty Drew timing is key. Over the years an interesting statistic I have noted at Frosty Drew is the significant increase in visitors to the observatory during the full Moon. This in itself is cool, but overall the full moon is the worst time to observe the sky (and the moon for that matter) aside from overcast nights. This is because the bright full phase of the moon will illuminate the atmosphere and landscape to the point where most other objects in the sky become overpowered by moonlight and wink out of view. When observing the moon at full phase we are viewing the moon from the same direction that sunlight is shining on the moon. This will effectively eliminate shadows on the lunar surface causing the moon to appear rather flat and featureless, which is totally the opposite from truth. If full moon phases are your thing then we gladly welcome you to join us on those nights as we blast away our night vision while looking into the flashlight... err eyepiece at the super bright, full phased lunar surface. Otherwise, the best time to visit is when there is no moon or a slim crescent moon that does not brighten up the sky and sets early. These are the nights where we see the spectacular milky way overhead and star hop with our telescopes to hundreds of dazzling star clusters, whimsical nebulae, and vast galaxies; the nights that, in my opinion (and Yankee magazine's), make Frosty Drew the best stargazing in New England.

-Scott MacNeill

Scott MacNeill
Author:
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
May 30, 2013
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Log
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