The warm nights ahead are a great time to explore our dark skies. The giant planets will be spectacular this summer. Earth is closest to Jupiter on June 10 and to Saturn on July 9. That means they are especially bright and visible for much of the night. There are plenty of opportunities this summer in our area and beyond to have a look through a telescope at the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn.
Iowa County Astronomers have monthly meetings on May 10, June 14, July 20, Aug. 30, Sept. 27 and Oct. 25 in Dodgeville. There’s usually an indoor presentation at QLF Agronomy Research Center starting at 7:30 p.m. (May-August) and 7 p.m. (September-November), and then we head over to Bethel Horizons to view the skies with a wonderful 17-inch Dobsonian telescope donated by Mike Wolkomir. Everyone is always welcome. See icastro.org for monthly updates.
Universe in the Park will be at Governor Dodge (June 22, July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 24), Wildcat Mountain (June 29, Aug. 10, Sept. 7 and Oct. 19), and Yellowstone Lake (May 26, July 14 and Sept. 1). UW-Madison astronomy students visit state parks to give talks, answer questions and share telescope viewing. Programs begin around sunset. See www.astro.wisc.edu/the-public/universe-in-the-park/ for other parks and complete schedule.
Northwest Suburban Astronomers will be at Wildcat Mountain sharing a talk and stargazing on July 27 (8-11 p.m.) and safe solar viewing July 28 (1-3 p.m.).
Kickapoo Valley Reserve will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 7 (8-10 p.m.). There will be an indoor talk, “Giant Steps,” before we head outside for moongazing. The waxing crescent moon that night will be the same phase as when the Eagle landed on the Sea of Tranquility. See kvr.state.wi.us/.
Starsplitters of Wyalusing has public programs (8:30 p.m.) at Wyalusing State Park on May 25, June 8, July 20, Aug. 24, Sept. 21 and Oct. 19. The evening begins with an indoor presentation in the Huser Astronomy Center and then continues outdoors to explore the sky. They also offer “star parties” on June 29, July 27, Aug. 31, Sept. 28 and Oct. 26 when you can join them for observing. See starsplitters.org for more details.
Don’t miss the lunar highlights of May. The moon is near Venus before sunrise on May 2, near Mars the evening of May 7, full all night on May 18, near Jupiter all night on May 19 and 20, and near Saturn after midnight on May 21 and 22. If you have been meaning to explore our starry skies, this is your summer.
John Heasley is an astronomy educator and stargazer who enjoys connecting people with the cosmos. For more information about stargazing in southwestern Wisconsin, like Driftless Stargazing LLC on Facebook and find out whenever there’s something awesome happening in the skies above.