The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA), Nantucket’s Science Center, has announced Open Nights at the Loines Observatory for the upcoming fall season. There will be two open nights each month starting Monday, September 25 and Tuesday, September 26 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm. Open Nights in October will be Monday, October 23 and Tuesday, October 24 from 7 to 8 pm. Finally, Open Nights in November will be Monday, November 27 and Tuesday, November 28 from 7 to 8 pm.
During each Open Night, the public is invited to look through the refurbished historic 8-inch Clark telescope, as well as a state-of-the-art, 24-inch research telescope. Professional astronomers are on staff to point out interesting objects in the night sky and to conduct a constellation tour. Admission fee is $10; MMA members are admitted free of charge.
“Nighttime fall skies over Nantucket bring all sorts of new wonders, like the Andromeda Galaxy and eventually, the familiar Pleiades Star Cluster. Earlier sunsets mean night time observing can begin earlier, making it a perfect time for Nantucket families to plan a visit to the Observatory,” says Dr. Regina Jorgenson, Director of Astronomy.
When not open to the public, these telescopes are used to conduct astronomical research that is performed by the MMA’s astronomy staff, visiting astronomers, and summer college astronomy interns who take part in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) funded program. Each year, six students are chosen for the NSFREU program from among hundreds of applicants. Each student is required to conduct astronomy research and then present, and in some cases, publish their findings. The Maria Mitchell Association has hosted astronomy interns each year since 1914.
The Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is named for America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell, known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847. She went on to become the first woman professor of astronomy in the US when she was hired by Vassar College in 1865. The MMA was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the MMA operates two observatories, the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell.