Friday, September 25, 2020

Observing the Moon in Binoculars


Title Image: Observing the Moon in Binoculars
The Moon, our closest celestial neighbor, is a beautiful sight in the night sky. Many people have binoculars, and the Moon is a great binocular target. I've created a video in honor of International Observe the Moon Night, Saturday, September 26, 2020. I love the thought of people around the world, united by gazing up at the same Moon. 

This video, Observing the Moon in Binoculars, provides tips for now to observe the Moon in binoculars. It provides tips for how to see more detail, and what types of features you can hope to see. Features include maria, highlands, craters, and a way to imagine Jack and Jill on the Moon.

If you didn't catch the Moon on this night, don't worry. Sites like allow you to enter your location, and they tell you when the Moon rises and sets so that you can look for it. 

The video may also be helpful for students who are learning about the Moon, phases of the Moon, and patterns of Earth and sky. Good luck! Enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Explore the Moon

Credit: John Rummel
The live virtual planetarium event on Friday night, May 29th was fun, and it was great to see so many people join us. Special thanks to my co-hosts John Rummel, Bob Hamers, and Ben Senson. And thank you, Ben and Bob, for the live views of the Moon through your telescopes!
There are so many amazing online resources to help you explore the Moon that I wanted to share some of my favorites so that you can continue to investigate our celestial neighbor.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Supermassive Black Hole in M87

Supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy M87.
Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration
In the April 2019 public planetarium shows, we featured the fulldome film From Earth to the Universe. We also talked about the exciting announcement from the previous week — the first image of a black hole. Black holes are hard to wrap your brain around. Below you will find links to help you understand what you are seeing in the image.

  • Article on the Event Horizon Telescope website explaining the image.
  • Zoom in video from viewing the entire galaxy down to the center of the galaxy where the black hole is found.
  • Excellent video from Veritasium explaining what we are seeing in the image. This is from before the announcement was made, and isn't referring directly to M87, but still very helpful. He has also produced an update video after the announcement.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Exploring Mars

Curiosity Selfie (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
In our March public planetarium shows we're Exploring Mars. There are so many incredible resources out there, we hope you will continue to explore Mars on your own after the program! Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Google Mars: Google Earth for Mars.
  • NASA Mars Videos: A host of Mars videos to learn more.
  • NASA Eyes: Explore a model of InSight and more!
  • Mars Trek: This interactive map can take you to landing sites, the path taken by Mark Watney in The Martian movie, and more! 
  • Wednesday, November 14, 2018

    International Space Station Tours

    November's public shows were focussed on human spaceflight. But an hour just isn't long enough to include everything we'd like to share. Below are a couple of my favorite tours of the International Space Station (ISS). Enjoy!

    • ISS Guided Tour:  (30 minutes; YouTube) Commander Sunita Williams takes us on a tour of the space station before she heads home to Earth. 
    • Google Maps "street view" tour of ISS:  Explore the inside of of the space station using the Google Maps Street View interface.
    STS-132, May 2010; Credit NASA

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Total Solar Eclipse 2017

    Below you will find links to resources related to this month's public planetarium programs about the total solar eclipse, which will be visible along a 70-mile wide stripe across the United States on August 21, 2017.
    Total Solar Eclipse: [Credit - NSO/AURA/NSF]

    •  This incredible site is one of my favorites, with maps, diagrams, descriptions, animations, how to observe the eclipse, and more. If you only use one of these resources, start here.
    • NASA's Eclipse Site:  Another great collection of resources. One section that NASA offers that others don't is the collection of activities related to eclipses. 
    • NASA's Google Maps overlay:  zoom in and pan to explore locations along the path of totality. Great tool for choosing your observing site and planning your trip.
    •  This site hosts an incredible collection of beautiful, detailed maps. Click on Gallery at the top, and look for the August 21st 2017 collection. In that gallery, you may need to download the image in order to see the full resolution image. 
    • Another great source of information about the eclipse. This site includes a great table of cities along the path of totality. 
    • Milwaukee Public Museum Bus Trip:  Join us for this 5-day trip to see the eclipse, and some museums, science centers, and historic sites along the way.
    • Rainbow Symphony Store:  This is where we purchase our eclipse shades. Note that we were able to purchase them in bulk so that we could get our price down for the ones we're selling here at the planetarium. A minimum order of 10 online costs $1.95 each, but you can get the cool designs commemorating this 2017 eclipse.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2016

    Summer Stargazing 2016

    Since I can't find a good summary of astronomy events for the summer of 2016, I decided to create a quick listing here. These are events that you don't need a telescope to enjoy.
    Summer Milky Way: John Rummel
    • ALL SUMMER: Planets! Throughout the summer, you'll have planets to enjoy. Watch their positions change relative to each other, relative to the sun, and relative to the stars. At the beginning of the summer, you'll have Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. But by the end of the summer Venus and Mercury will join them so that we'll have all five naked-eye planets in the sky at the same time! Viewing tips and graphics can be found on the and sites.
    • ALL SUMMER: Stars and Constellations; Use the free star charts from to learn how to find some fun star patterns.
    • June 20: Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere); This is the day that the sun rises and sets farthest north, the sun is at its highest mid-day altitude for the year, and we experience the most daylight. Coincidently, this will also be a Full Moon. 
    • July 4: Juno Arrives at Jupiter; The Juno spacecraft, which launched in 2011, will arrive at Jupiter and enter orbit around Jupiter. On this date, it will also become the fastest man-made object in history! 
    • August 11-12: Perseid Meteor Shower; This is one of the favorite meteor showers of the year, probably because of the nice weather. Unfortunately, the moon will mask all but the brightest meteors for a few hours after sunset, but meteor showers are always best after midnight anyway.
    • August 16 (Mid-August): Five Planets; August 16th, Mercury will be farthest from the sun in the sky, making it easier to spot. Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter will be hiding in the sunset, and Mars and Saturn will be in the southern sky. See the and observing pages for graphics and details.
    • August 27: Venus and Jupiter Conjunction; A conjunction is when multiple celestial objects appear near each other in the sky. Even though they will be low in the sunset, this will be an event you'll want to catch! These two bright planets will appear so close to each other that they will almost appear to touch!