Universe in the Park
Universe in the Park, established in 1996, is an extremely popular outreach program of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. UitP is predicated on a very simple idea, that the best environment in which to introduce the general public to astronomy is outside under dark skies.
For the past fifteen years we have taken UitP to state parks throughout Wisconsin during the summer camping season, giving talks and slide shows, answering questions, and letting the general public view astronomical objects through one of the UitP telescopes.
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 (if the sky is clear) we set up one of the two moderate aperture (8"-10") telescopes and provide park visitors the opportunity to view whatever astronomical objects are available. 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.
The Universe in the Park program is funded by the National Science Foundation.