Contact(s): Paul Holtan, state parks public affairs manager, 608-267-7517 or Universe in the Park, Dept. of Astronomy, UW-Madison, 608-262-3071
MADISON - Visitors to Wisconsin State Park System properties will have more opportunities than ever to view and learn about the night sky by participating in the "Universe in the Park" outreach program conducted by students and staff of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This year students will be putting on 54 program at 25 different properties starting May 26 and running through Oct. 13
"Universe in the Park," (exit DNR) which began in 1996, is predicated on the idea that the best environment in which to enjoy astronomy is outside under dark skies, according to Prof. Eric M. Wilcots, who coordinates the program.
The programs also offer another incentive for people to bring their families out to visit park system properties to enjoy many of the other recreational opportunities. The state park system is encouraging people to stay active in parks through a new OutWiGo initiative to promote good health through the great outdoors
A typical session begins just after sunset, usually about 9 p.m., with a 20- to 30-minute talk and slide show about astronomy. Topics are left up to the speaker, and present a broad overview of astronomy and recent astronomical news such as the discovery of new solar systems and the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope. Afterwards, if nights are clear, participants can gather around telescopes to view astronomical objects with the guidance of UW-Madison astronomy students.
Most of the question-and-answer period takes place around the telescopes. During the height of the summer, the sessions can attract audiences of 70 to 80 people.
Visitors can show up for the slide show and question-and-answer period even if it is cloudy and the sky cannot be viewed through the telescope. If it is raining the sessions are held only if there is a shelter available.
Universe in the Park events are free, but visitors to most Wisconsin State Parks System properties must have a daily or annual vehicle admission sticker.
Anyone interested in attending a session should always contact the park to make sure the program is being held as scheduled, because the schedule occasionally changes. A "UitP Schedule" (exit DNR) is available on the Universe in the Park website and these and other astronomy events at Wisconsin state park properties can be found by searching the DNR website for "Get Outdoors" and selecting "astronomy" under the activity "type" button.
2018 Universe in the Park Schedule
June 9 Devil's Lake State Park
June 15 Willow River State Park
June 29 Flambeau River State Forest
July 12 Rock Island State Park
July 15 Potawatomi State Park
July 28 Lake Wissota State Park
Aug. 3 Pattison State Park
Aug. 12 Newport State Park
Aug. 13 Rock Island State Park
Aug. 17 Copper Falls State Park
Sept. 8 Devil's Lake State Park
Sept. 14 Newport State Park
Oct. 12 Newport State Park
Oct. 13 Peninsula State Park