The warm nights ahead are a great time to explore our dark skies. Planets will be spectacular this summer. Venus is brilliant and beautiful on the western sky after sunset, Jupiter is closest to Earth on May 9, Saturn on June 27, and Mars on July 31. There are plenty of opportunities this summer in the Lower Wisconsin Valley and beyond to have a look through a telescope.
Iowa County Astronomers have monthly meetings on May 11, June 8, July 6, August 10, September 7, and October 5 in Dodgeville. There’s usually an indoor presentation at QLF Agronomy Research starting at 7:30pm (May-Aug) and 7pm (Sept.-Nov.), and then we head over to Bethel Horizons to view the skies with a wonderful 17-inch Dobsonian telescope donated by Mike Wolkomir. Everyone is always welcome. See icastro.org for monthly updates. ICA also shares public programs at Governor Dodge State Park.
Universe in the Park will be at Governor Dodge (June 23, July 21, August 11, and September 15), Blue Mounds (May 26 and August 4), Wildcat Mountain (June 30 and September 29), and Yellowstone Lake (July 7 and September 1). UW-Madison astronomy students visit state parks to give talks, answer questions, and share telescope viewing. Programs begin around sunset. See www.astro.wisc.edu/the-public/universe-in-the-park/ for other parks and complete schedule.
Northwest Suburban Astronomers will be at Wildcat Mountain sharing a talk and stargazing on August 11 (8-11pm) and safe solar viewing August 12 (1-3pm). This friendly group escapes the light pollution of their homes outside Chicago to enjoy the dark skies of our Driftless Area. For over a week, they create an astronomy village in the group campground where they welcome the public for a night of memorable stargazing through their amazing telescopes.
Kickapoo Valley Reserve offers dark skies and three astronomy programs this summer (8-10pm). There is Solstice Stargazing on June 16, Planetary Stargazing on July 28, and a Perseids Party on August 12. See kvr.state.wi.us/.
Starsplitters of Wyalusing has public programs (8:30pm) at Wyalusing State Park on May 26, June 2, July 7, August 18, September 1, and October 13. The evening begins with an indoor presentation in the Huser Astronomy Center and then continues outdoors to explore the sky with their fine collection of telescopes. They also offer “star parties” on June 9, July 14, August 11, September 8, and October 6 when you can join them for observing and to learn more about telescopes. See starsplitters.org for more details.
Don’t miss the astronomy highlights of May. The Moon is near Saturn on May 4 and 31 (late night), near Mars on May 6 (before sunrise), near Venus on May 17 (after sunset), and near Jupiter on May 27 (all night). If you have been meaning to explore our starry skies, this is your summer.
John Heasley is an astronomy educator and stargazer who enjoys connecting people with the cosmos. He volunteers with NASA/JPL as a Solar System Ambassador. For more information about stargazing in southwest WI, like Driftless Stargazing LLC on Facebook and find out whenever there’s something awesome happening in the skies. Driftless Dark Skies appears monthly in the Voice of the River Valley.
Photo by Pat Ladwig.