Dear friends of the McCarthy Observatory:

March 14, 2014

There is exciting news for the observatory and its patrons.

Most of us volunteers who are serious fans of astronomy were influenced strongly by Carl Sagan and his stunningly made "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" series on television.

It awakened a national appreciation of what our universe is about when it aired in 1980.

The first piece of great news is the National Geographic Channel is airing the entire Sagan 13 session series this weekend, starting at noon on Saturday.

A Tivo weekend for all of you, eclipsing the fascination with Downton Abbey, perhaps?

To see Dr. Sagan weave this tail is a life experience. If you don't get NatGeo, have a friend capture it, or subscribe for a month if you can. It is that good.

Since so much of what we now know about the cosmos has been learned since the Sagan series aired, a whole new series is coming, also this weekend, hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a charismatic spokesperson for astronomy with the same "Sagan-esque" passion for explaining it all to us in ways we can understand.

This series is titled "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey." The premier was March 9. We expect billions and billions of you to have watched it, to borrow Sagan's signature phrase.

Parents reading this -- this will be a real gift to your children to have their eyes opened to the universe they live in. We hope you all will see these epic series.

Next, you all know how passionate we are about the discovery of planets around other stars -- recently NASA announced confirmation of an additional 715 of these "exoplanets," taking the confirmed total from about 1,000 to more than 1,700.

These were suspected planets from the Kepler mission, studied more deeply by NASA scientists after the Kepler vehicle developed mechanical problems.

So the "planets, planets everywhere" prophesies are looking more accurate every day. Dr. Sagan would be most pleased with this stunning progress.

Best of all, a New Milford High School girl has completed an independent study involving "Long Period Comets" emanating from the gigantic Oort Cloud of comets that surrounds the solar system.

She frequented the observatory for the past year, imaging the ill-fated Comet ISON, and has done calculations of its orbital path from her observations almost identical to those calculated by the Minor Planet Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Her project won the New Milford High Science Fair, and she is currently readying her display for the Connecticut State Science Fair.

Those of us who have had the privilege of providing her encouragement and mentoring have been most proud to be a small part of this challenging project.

We will reveal more about her project in next month's Galactic Observer.

Lastly, the Vernal Equinox actually occurs on March 20 at 12:57 EDT.

Not even another Polar Vortex could interfere with this inexorable progression in the Earth's journey around the sun.

We like that -- we could use a little warming. But it also means shorter nights for us astronomers. Such is life.

The volunteers

McCarthy Observatory

New Milford