Observatory still working on projects

[Editor’s Note: The following was written by the volunteer staff at the John J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford.]

We are hoping that someday soon we will be able to give you a date when we will reopen and be ready to serve you, albeit it may require social distancing, and who knows what else for precautions?

There are a lot of unknowns still hanging over us all, but we hope you are well, and managing to have a life while we all have such important limitations.

The JJMO team has been able to proceed well on two fascinating new science projects that are squarely within our mission first, detecting serious "fireballs" (extremely bright events) from the sky as we progress toward an ultimate goal of initiating a Southwest Connecticut fireball network, and second, developing a "mini-meadow" of true New England pollinator plants as a start to evolving the entire 4,000-square-foot existing garden to a true native plant environment that pollinators will thrive in.

Both are challenging, both are long-term endeavors. Both are exciting.

Both are using science knowledge that has largely been developed since we began in 2000.

How do those very different projects relate to the mission of an observatory?

The answer is simple: our mission from the beginning in 2000 has been to excite people, especially students, to the wonders of science.

Anything we can undertake to support that mission is of great value.

Getting the hardware and software to work properly for tracking meteors as they descend so quickly through our regional sky is quite an undertaking.

We have had many trial efforts, and for the most part, had to invent components and purchase a powerful computer to manage the whole process.

We are working on our third-generation detection camera and control system. It is progressing well.

We are at nearly 100 captured meteor trails in four months, and four of them are incredible "fireballs.” We'll keep you posted.

The pollinator garden is even more exciting. It involves literally starting from the ground up: to have the right soil, a water feature, and true New England pollinator-attracting plants in a habitat that really is a meadow rather than what we think of as a "garden,” as we have done on the south side of the grounds.

We have purchased 150 specimens of seven key New England native plants, and planting will be late June.

Seeds from these flowering plants will be harvested this fall and become available to those interested in joining into this pollinator realm.

We have become members of the Pollinator Pathways organization that is a leader in the region of this transformational approach to ecology.

We hope to see you in the months ahead. We don't know when we can post an official opening date.