Astronomy Learning this Leading Up to the Autumnal Equinox… and Beyond!

Astronomy Learning this Leading Up to the Autumnal Equinox… and Beyond!

An interest in studying astronomy can develop from an interest in mathematical calculation, or a simple appreciation for the beauty of the sky. Observing the stars can be an act of scientific or spiritual curiosity, or both. While some people lament the shorter days of fall and winter, longer nights provide more chances to learn about astronomy through observations of the night sky! 


To experience astronomical phenomena in real life, visit a local observatory or planetarium in Western MA!  The Milham Planetarium at Williams College in Berkshire County, the Seymour Planetarium at the Springfield Museums in Hampden County, and the Bassett Planetarium at Amherst College in Hampshire County all offer planetarium shows and other learning experiences to visitors. Here are a few upcoming events:

The night sky changes with the seasons, thus there is always something new to see and learn about. You are invited to explore stars, planets, and more at Notchview. On Saturday, August 27 and September 24 from 8-10pm, volunteers from Arunah Hill Natural Science Center will teach you what to look for. Rain or heavy cloud cover cancels. 83 Old Route 9. Windsor, MA. (Members FREE. Non members <$)

Also on Saturday, August 27 at 8pm, people of all ages are invited to meet at the summit of Mt. Greylock near the War Memorial Tower, for a “star party!” Members of the Amherst Astronomy Association will share their knowledge about the stars, planets, and constellations. Wear appropriate clothing for cool evenings, bring a flashlight. This program will be cancelled if it rains or if there is heavy cloud cover. Call 413-499-4262 for day-of questions about program status due to the weather. 30 Rockwell Road. Lanesborough, MA. (FREE)

In September, autumnal equinox, the first full day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, is a good time to learn about astronomical concepts such as the seasonal positions of the Earth, Sun and Moon. You are invited to view sunrise and sunset during the equinox, on Thursday, September 22, at 6:45 am and 6pm, from the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel. A UMass Amherst astronomer will be present discussing the significance of the solstices and equinoxes, phases of the moon, building of the Sunwheel, and other calendar sites such as the Karnak Temple in Egypt, Stonehenge in the U.K, Chichen Itza in Mexico, and Chankillo in Peru. The UMass Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road. Amherst, MA. (FREE)


The Old Hopkins Observatory and planetarium at Williams College are rich resources for learning about astronomy, as well as the history of the topic. The Hopkins Observatory, built in 1836-38 by the first professor of astronomy at Williams College, Albert Hopkins, is the oldest extant observatory in the United States. Check the Williams College website periodically for openings, which run seasonally. Call 413-597-2188. 829 Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

The Wilder Observatory at Amherst College, featuring the world-class refractor telescope, is open to all starting at 9 p.m. every clear Saturday through October. Amherst, MA.

The Seymour Planetarium at the Springfield Museums is the oldest operating planetarium in the United States! The museum hosts daily shows. Most shows are appropriate for ages eight and up, and the noon show is recommended for ages five and up. These shows are the perfect way to share astronomy with your children. 413-263-6800. 21 Edwards Street. Springfield, MA. ($. Ages 3-17 <$. Children under two FREE)

 For other events, resources, and community learning opportunities, the Five College Astronomy Program, Springfield Stars Club, Arunah Hill Natural Science Center in Cummington, and the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomer’s Association hold events, workshops, and other astronomy-related events for the community year-round.


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