(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.)

Jan. 2011

Dear friends of the McCarthy Observatory:

Happy New Year to all of you. We hope you had a wonderful holiday season with friends and family.

The observatory team had a wonderful holiday surprise when an antique telescope was donated to us by a local family. We took possession of a mid-1800s refracting telescope made by John Benjamin Dancer in Manchester, England.

It is a 4.25" achromatic refractor with an f/14.3 focal ratio, and has with it a fine oak tripod, an oak case and an exciting variety of eyepieces, adapters and solar filters.

It is now being professionally cleaned, inspected and tested, and we are eager to display it to visitors in the near future.

Meanwhile we are busy attempting to learn more about its history, date of manufacture and other things regarding Mr. Dancer, who was a very well known scientist, inventor, photographer, optician and manufacturer of optical instruments.

We are tremendously pleased and feel honored to be respected enough to have such a prized historic artifact be placed in our care.

This is not the first fine instrument donated to the observatory -- it is actually the sixth one we have received in 11 years.

All are available to our visitors and for student use for projects.

We never anticipated such generosity, and it has been one of the highlights of our involvement with the community.

We received a 10" Newtonian instrument from a volunteer who was relocating: it was built for his family's observation of Halley's Comet, and is in regular JJMO use by students at events.

We received a magnificent 7" Questar reflector, then a 3.5" Questar of the same design... the larger one from Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, and the smaller one from an employee at Goodrich.

Questar telescopes are the Rolls Royce of small telescopes -- they are magnificent to observe with.

Another of their employees donated a fine 8" reflector on a tracking mount.

All of the above are in regular use... come and try them out.

Last is a 24" specialized telescope from Goodrich that is a longer term restoration project. Time and funding for that instrument have not yet been available as we have focused on the scale solar system, the sunflower garden, and Galileo's garden.

And check out our new website -- it just went live and is a big step forward for us.

The volunteers

McCarthy Observatory

New Milford