New telescope, Zerochromat, arrives at Custer Institute & Observatory

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.

Custer music director Anne Spooner said the new telescope has a 10-inch apochromatic refractor and is the “largest one of its kind in the United States,” adding that it provides sharp, high-contrast views of planets, star clusters and other night sky objects.

Ms. Spooner said the first images she saw with the new telescope were the moon and Jupiter.

“The picture is amazing and the details of the images are very clear,” she said. “I enjoy looking at galaxies the most.”

Telescope designer Peter Wise, who created the Zerochromat model, also traveled from England to attend Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ms. Spooner said.

The telescope, mount and pier cost about $20,000, she said, adding that Mr. Wise was generous enough to give the observatory a significant discount. The telescope carries a $50,000 retail price tag, she said.

The Zerochromat was delivered a couple of months ago and replaces the 25-foot telescope “Obsession,” which had been on loan from Suffolk County Community College since 2008.

“Visitors will appreciate the more convenient eyepiece height and reduced ladder climbing compared to our prior telescope,” Ms. Spooner said. “This is our new, featured telescope. We’re excited to share this and hope people come down to experience it.”

According to its website, Custer Institute & Observatory was established in 1927 and is the oldest public observatory on Long Island. Every Saturday evening from dusk until midnight, the observatory’s staff of volunteers gives tours of the facilities and visitors can view the night sky through the institute’s telescopes. In 2008, the institute also created The Music Project, which presents musical performances at the observatory. The next concert, “Thought Experiments Under the Stars,” will take place Saturday, June 3, at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the Rites of Spring Music Festival.

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Courtesy photo: From left, Custer Institute & Observatory president Charles Cardona III, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, telescope designer Peter Wise and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Credit: Annette DeGiovine-Oliveira)