PISCATAWAY, NJ–The Robert A. Schommer Astronomical Observatory invites the public to enjoy a free night of viewing the night sky through a 20-inch optical telescope three times each month.

Visitors are able to enter the dome located at the top of the Robert A. Schommer Astronomical Observatory and view the stars and planets using the featured telescope.

According to Carlton Pryor, Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, “observing sessions for students and, occasionally, the public were held using portable 8-inch telescopes, starting in the 1980’s.”

This free event is a great opportunity for community members to get a hands-on experience using an optical telescope.

Pryor said that “people enjoy being able to see astronomical objects with their own eyes and having what they see described by knowledgable persons.”

Students at the program described the continuous success of the public event, explaining how the optical telescope allows guests to view small stars and specific planets.

These public observing nights are held on the second, third, and fourth Thursdays of the month, weather-permitting.

The next “Open Night” will take place on June 9 at 9:30pm, and lasts for two hours.  The observatory is located at 126 Frelinghuysen Road on Busch Campus in Piscataway.

Residents of all ages are encouraged to attend, free of charge.  The second hour of the even is usually less crowded than the first.

The complete schedule of open nights, and a list of the celestial bodies that will be visible, are available at http://observatory.rutgers.edu.