University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Friday Night Public Viewing

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Want to become an astronomer?

The Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics is pleased to give you the opportunity through our series of scheduled public viewings. From the rooftop of the Tate Laboratory of Physics & Astronomy, you will have the chance to observe some of the same celestial objects that have inspired sky-gazers throughout history.


The Institute schedules public viewing every Friday evening during the University's Fall and Spring semesters. There are also short presentations each week regardless of the weather, so we'll always have something for you. Observing will follow the presentation if the weather is acceptable (clear with wind chill above -15° F, see the FAQ below for additional details).

NOTE: Enter the Tate Laboratory of Physics & Astronomy on the NORTH side of the building (along Church St, near Morrill Hall). All other entrances will be locked after hours.

January 30 – May 1, 2015 8:00 PM – ~9:30 PM**
**Observing may end early in the event of low attendance or unfavorable sky conditions

Each week begins with a short (~20 min.) presentation with time for questions. If the skies are clear, then telescope observing will follow in the dome and possibly also outside on the roof in case of high attendance. Each week has a different topic, so please feel free to visit us several times! If the skies are not clear, the presenters can take any additional questions either about the weekly topic or astronomy in general.

NOTE: The presentation will be held in room 131 at 8pm before the observing session on the roof.

A list of the topics for each week can be found below.

Date Topic Presenters
30-Jan Asteroids ,
6-Feb Dark Matter ,
13-Feb Lives of Stars ,
20-Feb Neutron Stars and White Dwarfs ,
27-Feb Aurorae ,
6-Mar Telescopes ,
13-Mar Exoplanets ,
3-Apr Eclipses ,
10-Apr Expansion of the Universe ,
17-Apr Astroparticle Physics ,
24-Apr Space Exploration ,
1-May Distance Ladder ,


Public viewing is held on the roof of the Tate Laboratory of Physics & Astronomy. Enter on the north side of the building (along Church St, near Morrill Hall). Once in the building, proceed to room 131. The presentations will occur in room 131 before we move into the dome and onto the roof. For the observing session, take the south elevator to floor 4S. Go down the hallway to room 450 to access the roof and dome. If you need help locating our building or finding a good parking spot, try consulting our page on finding the Institute. Most nearby parking around campus is paid (garages, ramps, and meters).


Often, girl scout troops and various other groups enjoy attending our public viewing nights. If you would like to bring a large group (more than 15) to public viewing or if you wish to request a separate presentation for your group, contact our Public Outreach Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the desired observing session.


The Tate Laboratory of Physics & Astronomy is one of the oldest buildings on campus, and results in a mixed level of wheelchair accessibility for our events. A ramp to enter the building is located on the south side of the building, and the south elevator to floor 4S provides access to the presentation room: attending the talk portion of the event should provide few problems.

Unfortunately, access to the telescopes themselves—whether in the dome or on the roof—requires taking small sets of stairs to reach them. There are roughly 10 steps to enter the telescope dome and 5 to go outside on the roof. In addition, the roof surface is a rough gravel until you reach the wooden observing deckwhich has a narrow ramp with hand rails. In the dome, a rolling ladder is often necessary to reach the eyepiece for viewing.