[The following is an open note to Greater New Milford -area residents from the volunteer staff of the McCarthy Observatory, located on the campus of New Milford High School along Route 7 South.]

As we said in the November newsletter, Dec. 11 is the big event of 2010.

It will be the 10th anniversary celebration of your observatory's operations. We are all most pleased to have had a chance to serve the community for an exciting decade.

We have grown in many ways in that period: in volunteer staff, in teaching offerings, in facilities and technology, in science skills, and in partnership with families and educators in the region.

We have also been witness to a spectacular growth in knowledge of the universe we all call home. We could never have imagined the amazing breadth of new discoveries in astronomy since we began operating.

It is a continual, but exciting, challenge to keep up with the flow of knowledge.

This celebration we have planned is a "Second Saturday Stars" super-sized, SSSSS. Starting time will be 7 p.m. in the New Milford High School theater.

Our guest speaker is none other than Dr. Heidi Hammel, a renowned planetary scientist and close friend of the McCarthy Observatory, presenting a very intriguing talk: "Cosmic Collisions."

You will also see and hear a little about highlights of our first 10 years, and a few thoughts about the next 10 years.

At 8 p.m., refreshments will be served and visitors can adjourn to the observatory for viewing the great fall sky (Jupiter, Andromeda and other special objects are visible now).

This will be a special evening for all.

In closing, we are all deeply saddened by the loss in November of our dear friend, Kathy Fischer.

As an outstanding and innovative science teacher, she was the inspiration behind the whole idea of partnering with educators and building an observatory and planetarium.

None of what we have done would have happened without her unwavering support and encouragement. We will persevere to live up to her very high standards in the years to come.

All-volunteer staff

McCarthy Obervatory

New Milford