Universe in the Park (UitP) is a popular outreach program of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in partnership with UW Space Place. UitP is predicated on a very simple idea: the best environment in which to introduce the general public to astronomy is outside under dark skies.
Since 1996, the UitP program has visited state parks throughout Wisconsin during the summer camping season, with experts giving talks and slide shows, answering questions, and letting the general public view astronomical objects through one of the UitP telescopes.
Badger Talks is honored to partner with Universe in the Park for program coordination, scheduling, and marketing.
UitP visits are scheduled based on requests and the availability of UitP volunteers to lead the sessions.
The statewide Universe in the Park program of the UW-Madison Astronomy Department is funded, in its entirety, by the generous support of Jere and Anne Fluno.
*When requesting a visit, please choose the “In-Person” request form and include “Universe in the Park” in the title.
A typical UitP session begins just after sunset with a 30-40 minute talk and slide show about astronomy. While particular topics are left up to the presenters, they usually give a broad overview of one or two astronomy topics. Recent astronomical news is frequently discussed, such as the discovery of new solar systems, the demotion of Pluto, and the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope. The talks are presented for audiences of all ages.
At the conclusion of the talk, weather permitting, we set up a moderate aperture (8″-10″) telescope and provide park visitors the opportunity to view available astronomical objects. UitP sessions run as long as there are people interested in looking through the telescope, and the parks typically close before the interest has been sated.
- UitP is suited for parks that normally host evening programs, but any state park can schedule a UitP visit.
- The best viewing is from an open area with clear views of the southern sky.
- The best venue for the presentation is a covered shelter with power and a screen for the projector, though the astronomers can be very flexible in their presentations.
- UitP sessions can be scheduled on any day of the week, though weekends are preferred for the more distant parks.
- Though the talk is recommended to start at sunset, it can be scheduled later if you wish. In early summer, this is often 9 pm. Although this may be inconvenient for younger campers, it is necessary because it takes at least half an hour after sunset for the sky to get dark enough to set up the telescope.
- The UitP season may extend into the fall when the skies get darker earlier (and the mosquito population is somewhat reduced!)
- Parks in the northern part of the state are encouraged to coordinate UitP visits with each other so that astronomers can visit two or more parks in one trip.