Telescope Observing

Universe in the Park

Summer telescope observing program at local state parks

June – August 2019
View the full schedule of events below.

For more information, contact Chris Nolting at

UITP – What is it?

Universe in the Park is a summer outreach program hosted by the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics and area state and local parks. This annual program, modeled after a very successful project at the University of Wisconsin, is headed by faculty member Evan Skillman and graduate student Chris Nolting.

At our events, representatives of the Institute will present a short (20–30 min) public talk and slide show. Presentations cover a variety of astronomical topics such as: the history of matter, how astronomers "see," and a journey through our solar system.

Afterwards, if weather allows, attendees have the opportunity to view the sky through multiple 8-inch reflecting telescopes, operated by the staff and provided by the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics. Additionally, we provide free star maps (e.g. and are happy to show visitors how to use them. Throughout the evening, we encourage questions from the audience and enjoy discussing topics ranging from backyard astronomy to the latest scientific discoveries.

Through these events, we hope to convey the excitement of modern astronomical research while simultaneously providing an enjoyable introduction to amateur astronomy. Although a vehicle permit is usually required to enter the parks, the events are free to the public. Please join us!

What time?

Events are scheduled Fridays and Saturdays (rain or shine), usually beginning in June and ending mid-August. Presentations typically run from 8:30 to 10:00 or 11:00pm, including telescope observing.

How much does it cost?

The events are FREE, although usually a vehicle permit is required to enter the parks. So bring your family and friends!

What should I bring/wear?

You don't need to bring anything besides yourself, friends, and an interest in astronomy: we'll provide all the equipment. However, we do have some recommendations...

Wear long pants/sleeves
It may be summer, but the temperature can still dip down in the evenings, and you're also not moving around very much during observing.
Nothing makes observing (or any other activity) more annoying than having to swat off mosquitos constantly! PLEASE do NOT spray it near the telescopes. Apply it beforehand or briefly walk away from the telescopes to spray.

For more information, contact Chris Nolting at

About the Program

The Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics is dedicated to bringing the excitement of modern astrophysical research to the Minnesota public.

Throughout the year, we host numerous programs including our Universe in the Park series, Friday night observing sessions with our on-campus telescope, and school and group presentations.

MIfA hopes to share its passion of astronomy through our series of scheduled public viewings. Please join us in observing some of the same celestial objects that have inspired sky-gazers throughout history.

Schedule, Summer 2019

June 21, Fri Lake Maria State Park
June 22, Sat Lowry Nature Center
June 28, Fri Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
June 29, Sat Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
July 5, Fri Eastman Nature Center
July 6, Sat Wild River State Park
July 12, Fri Afton State Park
July 13, Sat Lake Maria State Park
July 19, Fri Father Hennepin State Park
July 20, Sat Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
July 26, Fri Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
July 27, Sat William O'Brien State Park
August 2, Fri Dodge Nature Center
August 3, Sat William O'Brien State Park
August 9, Fri Gooseberry Falls State Park
August 10, Sat Tettegouche State Park

Contact Information

MN Institute for Astrophysics

University of Minnesota
John T. Tate Hall, 116 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN, 55455

P: (612) 624-4811