Last night was a night clear enough to see the striations on Jupiter and four of its moons -- if you were looking through the right telescope -- and luckily, I was. After a Mexican dinner "in town" (aka Amherst), we headed off to the Amherst College Wilder Observatory, where there was reportedly an open house for the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association. Unfortunately, the open house had been changed after the event had already been announced to the papers and such, but there was a member of the club there to greet any visitors who might show up -- like us. Woody, our greeter, had his 'scope set up in line with Jupiter and let us take a look -- and what a view! Later, we went into the observatory and, with a small class of students, heard the stories about its construction. And then, the ceiling opened.
Not dressed for an extended stay in the coldness of last evening, we didn't have the chance to look through the large 'scope of the observatory (just as cold inside as out), but I'm definitely planning on making another visit -- it was fascinating!
You can listen to a history of the observatory and see photos by visiting this page or by making the trip to the observatory on a clear Saturday evening, when it is open to the public -- it's hidden away on Snell Street -- look for a white sign on the south side of the road that says "A.C. Observatory". (You might want to check the AmAstro website first, however, to make sure they'll be there.)
In short, if you're a sky watcher or a star gazer and hoping to find like-minded friends, give the AmAstro Association a try. Take your telescope, if you have one, but don't worry if you don't. They'll happily show constellations and planets and anything else in the night skies worth seeing. Just be sure to dress warmly enough!