Universe in the Park

An Outreach Program of the Department of Astronomy University of Wisconsin-Madison

Program Director: Prof. Eric M. Wilcots


We are now entering the sixth year of "Universe in the Park", the 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 five 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 20-30 minute talk and slide show about astronomy.  While the particular topic is left up to the speaker, we usually present a broad overview of astronomy or recent astronomical news such as the discovery of new solar systems and the latest results from the Hubble Space Telescope.  At the conclusion of the talk when the sky is dark we set up one of the two moderate aperture (8"-10") telescopes and provide the park visitors the opportunity to view whatever astronomical objects are available.  Most of the question and answer period takes place around the telescope.  "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.


How Can I Schedule a UitP Session?


UitP is naturally suited for those parks that normally host evening programs, but any state park can schedule a UitP visit.  Bear in mind that the best viewing is from an open area with clear views of the southern sky.  We schedule UitP visits based on requests and the availability of UitP volunteers to lead the sessions.  To schedule a UitP visit, please contact either Prof. Eric Wilcots at 608-262-2364 (ewilcots@rainier.astro.wisc.edu).  The UitP 2001 schedule will be posted on the World Wide Web once it is complete (http://www.astro.wisc.edu/outreach). 


We do ask that parks in the northern part of the state try to coordinate UitP visits with each other so that we can visit two or more parks in one trip.  We are open to scheduling UitP sessions on any day of the week, though we prefer weekends for visiting the more distant parks. As always, we will schedule as many UitP sessions as possible.  We are also interested in extending the UitP season into the fall when the skies get darker earlier (and the mosquito population is somewhat reduced!).


Please contact Prof. Wilcots if you have questions or wish to schedule a Universe in the Park visit.  We look forward to hearing from you!









"Universe in the Park" is supported by the National Science Foundation through grant #AST-9875008.