NEW MILFORD — Monty Robson peered at a computer screen at the John J. McCarthy Observatory, examining a streak at the bottom of the image of a recent night sky.

“That’s the moon and that might be something,” Robson, the observatory’s director, said as he clicked to play the video of the night event. “Yeah, that’s a meteor.”

Observing meteors is one of three areas of focus at the observatory and the topic of this Saturday’s program, which lasts from 7 to 9 p.m. It specializes in asteroid confirmation and meteorite studies.

The facility, which is funded only by donations and grants, began observing meteors with the Leonid Meteor Storm of November 2001, drawing a crowd of about 1,000 people just less than a year after opening.

In 2013 the observatory installed its first all-sky camera. “What we found with the camera is there’s a heck of a lot more meteor activity than we thought,” Robson said.

About two meteors are observed each clear night and sometimes the camera will register four. Each one is broken out into a picture, video, spreadsheet and text file with time stamps.

By using photos taken of the same portion of sky at the correct time, then factoring in the distance between the observatories, astronomers are able to determine the trajectory, orbit and rate of meteors and confirm asteroids through various networks. This can determine where the meteorite hits so pieces can be recovered. The McCarthy Observatory is known for being accurate in determining the sky positions.

The observatory can capture 600 kilometers of night sky, covering most of New England, a portion of Canada, west to the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and south to Virginia. Robson said the Czechs have the best meteor and asteroid programs, determining accuracy within meters.

“I know we don’t have the resources to be as good as the Czechs but we want to be as close as we can,” Robson said. “We’re a near-sea level, amateur observatory that’s open to the public and tops in the world in nearly everything we do.”

The McCarthy Observatory is only one of three locations in the northeast in the Sky Sentinel Meteor Network, which it joined this spring. The other two are in Pennsylvania, leaving a large area uncovered.

Robson hopes to change that. A high-resolution digital camera and video camera are expected to be operational this year to improve the accuracy and quality of the observation programs. Once they get out the bugs, he hopes to encourage other observatories in the area to join a new network so that they could monitor this part of the country, which both the Sky Sentinel and NASA acknowledge are under covered.

New Milford has a history with fireballs.

A meteor was seen coming down from Albany, N.Y., in December 1807, exploding right over New Milford. Pieces fell and landed in Weston, dubbing it the Weston meteorite. This was North America’s first recorded fall, which means it was seen in the sky and then the meteorite was recovered on the ground.

“It shook the houses for 50 miles, especially to the north,” Robson said. “If there was a seismograph, it would have registered.”

A piece of that meteorite is at the observatory, just one of a robust collection that includes samples from 230 different locations.

It’s important to learn about the meteors, asteroids and meteorites because it’s inevitable something large will hit the Earth, Robson said. These are always monitored and NASA tracts them out in 100 year increments to determine the possibility and danger of something hitting the Earth.

“The more we know about it, the better prepared we’ll be and the more we can predict,” he said.

Robson views the observatory as an important tool to get students interested in science. The facility is located at the high school and volunteers hold programs at the schools. Area schools and scouting troops also come to the site on field trips and students will team up with the observatory to do projects.

“Underlying all of that, our main goal is to excite students to the value of learning and to promote science literacy — that’s our mission,” Robson said.; 203-731-3345