Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 1.48.30 PMFor 35 years now, Southold’s Custer Institute observatory has been welcoming amateur astronomers from all over the country for a jamboree weekend of stargazing, lectures with renowned astronomers, and astronomers’ drinking songs at the observatory on Main Bayview Road.

This year marks the second year Custer Institute has paired with Suffolk County Community College’s eastern campus to offer a day of lectures and planetarium shows in conjunction with the science department at the college.

The jamboree kicks off Friday night at the observatory, with a poetry reading, refreshments, and a chance to view the night sky through the observatory’s 25″ Obsession telescope, which, at 11 feet high, is the biggest telescope in a public observatory on Long Island.

On Saturday morning, the programming at the college will include a lecture by Susan Harder of the International Dark Skies Association, who has been working to ensure that outdoor lights on the East End don’t interfere with views of the night sky, and a planetarium show on the recently launched Interstellar Boundary Explorer.

The afternoon’s events include two presentations on near-earth explorations of the Opportunity Martian probe and the hidden ocean of Europa, along with two planetarium shows.

Saturday’s events conclude with a lecture at the college about comets, “Ghosts from Space,” by Joe Rao, an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 and a guest lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium, who writes about astronomy for The New York Times, followed by another evening of stargazing at the observatory in Southold.

Sunday’s events begin with the observatory’s annual sunrise trip to Orient Beach State Park to look for the “green flash” that can appear just before sunrise, which will be at 7:17 a.m.

“With some good fortune, we hope to observe this unique event,” say the Jamboree’s organizers. “In the past, The Green Flash has been seen on a clear eastern horizon preceding the rising sun.”

Sunday’s events will be held at the observatory, where the sun and the solar system will be the topic for many discussions.

Suffolk County Community College professor George Lomaga, who helped organize the jamboree, will open up the morning with a lecture on the solar eclipse expected on Aug. 21, 2017, followed by a lecture and book signing by Don Cerow, author of “When the Dragon Wore the Crown,” a book and planetarium show about the constellation Draco.

The afternoon will conclude with a discussion on sunspots with Dr. Frederick Walter of Stony Brook University, and solar observing through Custer Institute’s telescopes.

Registration prices for the festivities range from $10 to $30 for a full-price three day pass. More details and a full schedule of the events is available here.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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