05/03/17 5:55am
05/03/2017 5:55 AM

Stargazers will be able to see celestial bodies more clearly now that a new state-of-the-art telescope has arrived at the Custer Institute & Observatory in Southold.

The Zerochromat telescope, along with its mount and adjustable height pier, was unveiled at Saturday’s annual Astronomy Day, held in the observatory’s main dome. During the event, visitors also enjoyed planetarium shows, astronomy games and rocket and drone demonstrations, as well as live musical performances and wildlife presentations, among other activities.

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06/21/15 2:00pm
06/21/2015 2:00 PM
Alarico "Rico" Verticchio's giant refracting telescope — a 'monster' pair of binoculars — has been donated to the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold (Credit: Paul Squire)

Alarico “Rico” Verticchio’s giant refracting telescope — a ‘monster’ pair of binoculars — has been donated to the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold (Credit: Paul Squire)

Since the 1940s, Alarico “Rico” Verticchio has been looking at the skies.

An amateur stargazer, he fell in love with the stars as a child. He would stop in at a local eyeglass store to buy lenses to build into his custom telescopes. He hosted “star parties” in the Bronx to show guests the moon and planets.

When he moved to the North Fork, meeting with the volunteers at the Custer Institute & Observatory in Southold was a natural fit. They were his people, the kind that listed the observatory’s latitude and longitude in directions.

But those days have since passed.

Mr. Verticchio, a mainstay of the North Fork stargazing scene, fell ill last fall and had to give up his frequent trips to Custer.

“I’m bedridden,” he told The Suffolk Times, his speech slowed by a stroke.

But while Mr. Verticchio can’t leave the house, he and his wife, Anna, found one way to help make sure others can still go stargazing: they donated his giant, twin-lensed telescope to the institute.

T“He’s left this for future people to use and see through and look at the planets,” said Custer president William Bogardus. “This will be an enduring testament to him.”

Mr. Verticchio’s telescope — basically a pair of huge spyglasses built in 1997 — uses two 10-inch-wide refracting lenses to focus on stellar objects. He built a mounting system to hold the two lenses together and focus their views into a set of eyepieces.

“It makes one monster pair of binoculars,” Mr. Bogardus said. “It’s an impressive pair of telescopes.”

The telescope is best used for looking at planets and the moon, he said. It’s an even more comfortable viewing experience to use this telescope compared to the others at Custer because stargazers can look through both eyes.

The telescope has already been in use at Custer for years, Mr. Bogardus said. A small metal sign on the side of the telescope explains in elegant lettering that the device is “on loan.”

That loan was made permanent this spring.

“This is something he’s passing on for future generations,” Mr. Bogardus said.


To look through Mr. Verticchio’s refracting telescope, visit the Custer Institute & Observatory on Saturday nights beginning at dusk for their weekly stargazing.


Before he got sick, Mr. Verticchio was a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors and had volunteered at Custer for nearly 30 years. He was a constant sight at the observatory, coming in most Saturdays to help visitors.

Ms. Verticchio also served as secretary to the institute.

“We were very happy to donate it to Custer,” she said. “Custer is such a wonderful organization.”

Despite being unable to leave home, Mr. Verticchio’s place on the board had remained; the nonprofit had decided not to replace him mid-year out of respect. 

His term officially ended Sunday. That same weekend, the board of directors installed a new plaque on his telescope, dedicating it to Mr. Verticchio.

The Verticchios said they’re just happy the telescope will still be used, even if Mr. Verticchio can’t be the one to use it.

“We want to share it,” Ms. Verticchio said. “At least it’s being used in a very productive way for people to enjoy the universe.”

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03/15/15 1:56pm
03/15/2015 1:56 PM
Pastor Jef Gamblee of First Universalist Church in Southold, with church member Peter Young of Southold, load the church sign into a pickup truck before driving it to a service at  Custer Institute. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Pastor Jef Gamblee of First Universalist Church of Southold, with church member Peter Young of Southold, load the church sign into a pickup truck before driving it to a service at Custer Institute. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Minutes into the First Universalist Church service in Southold Sunday morning, a speaker was briefly interrupted by a voice at the back of the room.

“Excuse us,” the gentleman said. “We have your bell. We thought you’d want it here.”

The voice was that of Southold fireman Brian Grattan, who had driven along with fellow firefighter Ed Boyd the 1.4 miles from the church to the Custer Institute, where members of the congregation gathered for a service.

The charred bell was located after the Main Road church was destroyed in a fire the night before and its relocation to Main Bayview Road was symbolic of how First Universalist’s members were rising from the ashes themselves.  (more…)

08/10/13 12:00pm
08/10/2013 12:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Custer Institute will host meteor shower viewing Saturday night.

Plan on staying up late or waking up early this weekend to get a front-row seat to the annual Perseid meteor shower. The next two nights are expected to be the best viewing times to see the sky light up.

Watching the meteor shower requires no special equipment. For optimal viewing, it’s best to find an area with a little artificial light surrounding as possible.

The Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold is hosting a viewing tonight from 9 p.m. to midnight that is open to the public. The weather is expected to cooperate with mostly clear skies tonight and Sunday night.

During the peak times, the rate of meteors can reach 60 or more per hour, according to the Custer Institute.

The Perseid meteor shower runs from July 17 to Aug. 24. To read more about Perseid’s, click here.

07/28/12 4:30pm
07/28/2012 4:30 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Custer Institute will hose a Delta Aquarid meteor shower party tonight.

Cloudy skies could disrupt the peak viewing hours for the Delta Aquarid meteor shower tonight. The annual meteor shower promises up to 15 to 20 meteors per hour in the southern sky, which are best viewed after midnight when the waxing gibbous moon sets.

Custer Institute in Southold is planning a meteor shower party tonight beginning at 8 p.m., featuring “Music For Meteors,” an outdoor presentation by Chris Peters from his music-equipped van.

There is a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $3 for children. Members are free. For more information, call 765-2626.

If you can’t make it to Custer Saturday night, the shower continues through early August. Best viewing hours tend to be between moonset and dawn.

On the weekend of Aug 11 and 12, the reliable Perseid meteor shower will once again return, promising as many as 50 meteors per hour at peak hours. The best viewing hours for the Perseids this year will also be after midnight. The small waning crescent moon that week, which rises around midnight, is not expected by astronomers to interfere with viewing the Perseids.

Custer Institute will hold its Perseid meteor shower party on Sat., Aug. 11.

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