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"Universe in the Park" returns for its 22nd season to Wisconsin State Park System properties

Published by Central Office May 15, 2018

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

First sessions May 26 at Blue Mound and Kohler-Andrae state parks

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.

It's not unusual to see groups of up to 100 campers and park visitors gathered around a telescope gazing at the night sky at Wisconsin state parks on late spring, summer and early fall evenings. - Photo credit: University of Wisconsin Department of Astronomy
It's not unusual to see groups of up to 100 campers and park visitors gathered around a telescope gazing at the night sky at Wisconsin state parks on late spring, summer and early fall evenings.Photo credit: University of Wisconsin Department of Astronomy

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

May 26 Blue Mound State Park, Kohler-Andrae State Park

June 9 Devil's Lake State Park

June 15 Willow River State Park

June 16 Governor Thompson State Park, Interstate State Park

June 23 Governor Dodge State Park, Mirror Lake State Park

June 29 Flambeau River State Forest

June 30 Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest, Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit, Wildcat Mountain State Park

July 7 Mirror Lake State Park, Yellowstone Lake State Park

July 12 Rock Island State Park

July 13 Devil's Lake State Park, Newport State Park

July 14 Buckhorn State Park, Peninsula State Park

July 15 Potawatomi State Park

July 21 Governor Dodge State Park, Kohler-Andrae State Park

July 27 Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit

July 28 Lake Wissota State Park

Aug. 3 Pattison State Park

Aug. 4 Amnicon Falls State Park, Blue Mound State Park

Aug. 10 Potawatomi State Park, Willow River State Park

Aug. 11 Governor Dodge State Park, Interstate State Park, Peninsula State Park

Aug. 12 Newport State Park

Aug. 13 Rock Island State Park

Aug. 17 Flambeau River State Forest, Buckhorn State Park

Aug. 17 Copper Falls State Park

Aug. 18 Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest, Big Bay State Park, Devil's Lake State Park

Aug. 25 Kettle Moraine State Forest--Southern Unit, Mirror Lake State Park

Sept. 1 Lake Wissota State Park, Yellowstone Lake State Park

Sept. 8 Devil's Lake State Park

Sept. 14 Newport State Park

Sept. 15 Governor Dodge State Park, Peninsula State Park

Sept. 22 Kohler-Andrae State Park, Mirror Lake State Park

Sept. 29 Copper Falls State Park, Wildcat Mountain State Park

Oct. 12 Newport State Park

Oct. 13 Peninsula State Park

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773