(The following is an open letter to Greater New Milford-area residents from the volunteers at the McCarthy Observatory on the campus of New Milford High School.)

Dear friends of the McCarthy Observatory:

We have just finished an amazing and very rewarding week of hosting young visitors. We call it our "Best Week Ever!"

We started by hosting two groups of 55 first- graders for three-hour, daytime visits, with nine volunteers running five exciting activities using the observatory, Galileo's Garden, the SkyDeck, the sunflower garden and the inner planets of the true-scale solar system.

We then hosted a group of Cub Scouts, who were able to see Jupiter, Mars, a first-quarter moon and Saturn on a great observing night.

We also hosted two exceptional high school girls, who are working on imaging deep-space objects and planning other adventures in space science.

Also, the garden and SkyDeck hosted a number of high school classes who used this restful place as an outdoor classroom.

We love that. Your observatory has now become a science center, with much to offer, and the garden, now overseen by a number of master gardeners, has become a destination and teaching garden.

We are very pleased with our progress, and hope you have opportunities to visit.

While we were hosting visitors, Marc Polansky, our wizard at deep-space imaging, was exhibiting, by invitation, a breathtaking collage of observatory space images at the spring meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston, and networking with other amateurs and professionals engaged in this kind of challenge.

Truly a great week.

This month, the observatory has had two special events planned -- both are described in more detail in the Galactic Observer:

Carly KleinStern, just finishing her junior year at New Milford High School, was to present the observatory's Second Saturday Stars program June 14.

Her presentation was to include her 18-month work studying and observing long-period comets and how the information we collect on these 4.5 billion-year-old denizens of the "Oort Cloud" have increased our understanding of the makeup and formation of the early solar system.

This Saturday, June 21, the observatory will celebrate the summer solstice in a family-oriented event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., weather permitting.

"Sun day" activities and topics will include tours of the inner (scale model) solar system, safe solar observing, sunspot observation, telling time with the Fischer sundial, an introduction to the analemma, listening to the Sun via a radio telescope, learning about autoheliotropism (sun-following plants), solar energy demonstrations, the relationship of plants with the sun, and space weather.

Classroom presentations will cover a range of topics about our nearest star, including its life-giving energy, as well as its destructive power.

And it will also be sunflower planting day for all the second-graders in town who have planted sunflower seeds in class in the past two weeks.

Please come for our special events, and have a great summer.

Volunteers

McCarthy Observatory

New Milford