In 1949 a group of astronomy enthusiast gathered to discuss their ideas and interests. Soon regular observing nights and meetings followed. After incorporating as Amateur Astronomers, Inc. they began meeting at various places throughout Union County. In the mid 1960’s they began meeting at Union Junior College (now Union County College). Due to a large donation from the Beinecke family in Cranford, the club in conjunction with the college agreed to build a world class Observatory on the Cranford Campus. On May 21, 1967 the William Miller Sperry Observatory was formally dedicated. The observatory was named for Mrs. Beinecke’s grandfather, of Sperry and Hutchinson (green stamps) fame.
Now the Sperry Observatory is one of the finest amateur astronomical facilities in the world. It houses 2 permanently mounted telescopes, a 10″ refractor made by club members and a 24″ reflector (the 3rd largest telescope in NJ). Besides the telescopes the facility houses an optical/machine shop, computer facilities, library, merchandising area, multimedia facility and a classroom.
Currently the club consists of nearly 300 members. They open the observatory to the public every Friday evening. If the skies are clear the telescopes are opened for observing showing off the moon, planets and the stars. Clear or cloudy each Friday night features a lecture (beginner level) on space or astronomy topic. The 3rd Friday (September to May) meetings are held in the Roy Smith Auditorium where a speakers are brought in to speak on various astronomical topics. Additional classes are available to members of club to learn how to operate the large telescopes, as well as other subjects.
The club runs their public nights as a service to the community and all activities are free of charge. Anyone can come out take advantage of everything that this great hidden gem has to offer.
The Observatory is located near the rear of the campus, at 1033 Springfield Avenue, Cranford. For further information you can visit AAI’s website by clicking here.