Experiment of The Month

John J. McCarthy Observatory


The John J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford, Connecticut was featured in the First Annual Citizen Scientist Conference, June 28-30, 2002, in Philadelphia. The McCarthy Observatory is a world-class astronomical observatory (International Astronomical Union code 932) located on the campus of the New Milford High School, on Route 7 in New Milford Connecticut.

The Observatory was funded by an impressive array of donors, and was shepherded into existence by Monty Robson of the Western Connecticut Chapter of the Society for Amateur Scientists (WCCSAS). It is open to all students and interested amateurs. At the conference, the McCarthy booth was two doors away from the Millersville Foucault Pendulum booth, and we were invited to visit.


We showed up in New Milford, on a Saturday morning in July, and found Monty already there. He led our ten year old fellow traveller through the control room, the small machine shop, and finally into the dome. There he instructed her (photo at right) so that she could open the viewing aperture from the computer console.

With the dome open, the main telescope is shown below. It is a Meade Instruments LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope with an aperture of 0.41 meters (16 inches). Also below is our student, viewing the sun through the dedicated solar telescope (Helios I by Coronado Instruments) mounted under the LX200. We saw sunspots and a very impressive prominence through the hydrogen alpha line filter.

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It is hoped that these electrons will someday report on a Millersville physics education major who volunteers at the McCarthy Observatory and uses the observing time to track an interesting near-earth object, following WCCSAS member [Jeff] Miskie who submitted precise positions of the Earth-approaching asteroid 1620 Geographos to the IAU's Minor Planet Center in February, 2001.

Foucault pendulum at Clearview High School

The Foucault pendulum at Clearview High School was set up there by Millersville graduate Mike Wichart, who is now Mr. Wichart, physics teacher, at Clearview.

We caught up with him as he was setting up his first classroom, in order to snap a picture of (we believe) the first Foucault pendulum in a New Jersey high school.

Mike Wichart and Steve McKinley were the first in a new program within the MU physics department: Each student who receives teaching certification for secondary school physics at MU is given a working Foucault pendulum as an "academic dowry." The intent is to have our graduates carry the evidence of the earth's rotation with them as they begin their teaching careers.

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With Dr. Turchi With the Foucault pendulum and Dr. Dooley

The two pendulums awarded in May, 2002, were funded by a gift from Dr. Roger Alig.