[The following is an open letter to greater New Milford residents from the volunteers at the McCarthy Observatory on the campus of New Milford High School.]

Dear friends of the McCarthy Observatory:

Welcome to the beginning of the fall celestial observing season. The most experienced of our volunteer astronomers rate the next two months as the best time of year for observing the sky, with less moisture in the air and often very stable skies.

We have already seen evidence of superb "seeing conditions" on a couple of recent nights.

So reserve the observatory and see for yourself, or come to "Second Saturday Stars" for a fun evening. The next one will be Oct. 11.

We invite all of you who live in the area to see a superb display of deep-space images taken through the Harcourt Telescope array at your observatory -- appearing until Friday, Sept. 19 at New Milford Public Library.

Eleven images of such things as giant spiral galaxies, vast star nurseries and planetary nebulae, done by volunteer Marc Polansky, are on display, along with wonderful stone sculptures done by local artist Ray Crawford of three of the objects Marc has imaged.

It is very impressive to see this merger of art and science, all done right in New Milford. A briefing note is attached, giving a little information about each of the objects.

There are exciting things afoot in the solar system. Seems like there is never a dull moment:

The New Horizons vehicle heading for Pluto and beyond passed Neptune's orbit recently, now only about 10 months from its fly-by of the Pluto system. It is imaging Pluto already, and you can follow it on the New Horizons site.

This is truly a great mission and has gone superbly so far. In the "true-scale" solar system that spans New Milford, New Horizons has passed Neptune at the town library, a long way from the sun at the observatory.

The Rosetta mission is near culmination, as it is now orbiting the amazing comet it will soon be landing on. Seeing this battle-scarred comet up close is breathtaking.

Its more than 4 billion years as a denizen of the solar system tells us much about how rough it is out there. Your volunteer team is more excited about this adventure than anything in recent years.

The science potential of landing and gathering information from this ancient object is thrilling to all.

The Opportunity rover on Mars, which has been exploring the Martian surface for more than 10.5 years, more than 42 times its design life, has set a new record for distance traveled on a celestial object.

It has traveled more than 25 miles on Mars so far, the same as the distance from the observatory to Torrington. Its course has been over challenging terrain. This is maybe the ultimate "off-road" vehicle.

Opportunity has an technical issue at the moment, and work is underway to reformat its flash drive to solve a problem with frequent computer resets.

Let's hope it succeeds and continues on its journey. It is in good hands.

Enjoy the fall and come see us when you can. Galileo's Garden is looking fabulous and all systems are working great.

The volunteers

McCarthy Observatory

New Milford