Travel beyond Earth and explore the cosmos.
Space: the final frontier. It’s a place that’s infinitely as large as it is wondrous. From astrophysicists to people outstretched on a blanket in their backyard, its twinkling stars, celestial bodies and raining meteor showers have puzzled and astounded many from the first time we gazed our eyes upon the sky. Thanks to advancements in technology, we’re now able to peer farther into its dark recesses than we ever thought possible and marvel at Mother Nature’s greatest light show. If you’re looking for a firsthand experience but don’t have any equipment of your own, fear not, these cosmic hotspots are here to sate your imagination.
Telescopes For Use
The Tate Laboratory of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Minnesota has long been a venue for star parties, but while it receives a much-needed facelift, stargazers can still get their celestial fix every first and third Friday of the month during the fall and spring semesters at the Bell Museum of Natural History. Included each night is a short, 20-minute presentation followed by outdoor observing (weather permitting) in the courtyard outside the museum.
Each year from April through November, the Minnesota Astronomical Society hosts stargazing parties come clouds or high water inside Baylor Regional Park on the shores of Eagle Lake. Spread across two observatories (Onan Observatory and Sylvia A. Casby Observatory), space connoisseurs have access to more than a dozen state-of-the-art telescopes and the Hotspot Classroom, a room dedicated to conducting presentations, live telescope feeds, and warming cold bodies on crisp nights.
Image by Karen Blumberg/flickr
For those looking for a patch of green to set-up shop away from the city lights, Metcalf Observing Field 14 miles east of downtown St. Paul is the perfect solution. While it doesn’t have any public telescopes available for use, it does feature three telescope pads equipped with electricity and a light pollution-free shroud of darkness.
Break free of the city limits during the summer months for Universe in the Park. Every summer from June to August, the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics puts on a show at various state parks throughout the state. Each show includes a short presentation (20-30 minutes), and covers topics including the history of matter, how astronomers “see,” and a journey through our solar system. After the show, attendees are invited to peep at the stars through 8-inch reflecting telescopes.
If Mother Nature isn’t cooperating with you, a cloud and cold-free cosmic light show can always be found at the ExploraDome at the Bell Museum of Natural History. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday stargazers can get an astronaut’s-eye-view of Earth, or marvel at the deepest, galaxy-filled edges of the observable universe in any of three shows.