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Free Summer Star Parties – Family Fun for Night Owls in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Star Party Family Fun at the Grand Canyon Have fun sharing the north woods by day and the universe by night. The annual summer program dubbed Universe in the Parks makes it easy to participate in a free star party in Minnesota.
As I have mentioned more than once in recent months, I love star parities. Most of our family’s star party experiences have been in Arizona, California and Texas but the idea is the same - to have fun sharing the wonder of the universe with your kids and to have the added advantage of scientists to answer their (or your) questions. I find it is actually a chance for parents to look smart by association. So, I am happy to pass along the news about the great opportunities in Minnesota.

Here is the scoop. Each year during the summer months the University of Minnesota's Institute for Astrophysics hosts weekend gatherings which encourage families to learn more about the summer skies. To partake in the unique star party programs all it takes is cosmic curiosity. At each park location telescopes will be available and even if it is cloudy, an indoor presentation will still occur.

At the 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.Moon Boy star party Fun Photo by Stan Prelwitz

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, they provide free star maps (e.g. and are happy to show visitors how to use them. Throughout the evening, they encourage questions from the audience and enjoy discussing topics ranging from backyard astronomy to the latest scientific discoveries.

Science is fun. A star party is a terrific way to actively engage your kids in learning while having fun together. I have shared dozens of stargazing experiences with my children and each time I think I learn more than they do. The atmosphere is truly magical and the astronomers who manage the telescopes and explain the night skies always make learning easy. No question is too stupid to ask. Star parties nurture excitement about modern astronomical research while simultaneously providing an enjoyable introduction to amateur astronomy. Here’s the deal! Although a vehicle permit is usually required to enter the parks, the events are free to the public.
Where are these events? Each year is different so it is best to view the website for dates and times. 

Star party advice. Wear long pants and long sleeves because although 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. Use bugs pray before arrival – mosquitos love star parties. 

Pack several red-glow flashlights.  As most 10-year-olds will explain, red flashlights are best since the use of white lights is improper at a star party when near the telescopes. Star party tip: A red flashlight may be created by covering any flashlight with red cellophane or painting the lens with red nail polish or even a red magic marker.University of Minnesota's Institute for Astrophysics

Make it happen. Minnesota Universe in the Parks Wait for it! If summer doesn’t do it for your family, 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, and a chance to observe following the presentation if the weather is acceptable meaning clear with wind chill above -15° F. Details at Minnesota Public Stargazing

Watch the Perseid meteor shower. The very best night for viewing the Perseid meteor showers in August. The very best way to share the view of the shower is to find a comfortable space to lay on the ground with your kids, look up at the night sky and wait. Binoculars may be helpful but certainly not needed because if the night is clear it will be alive with action.
View night skies in Wisconsin. Want to get together at a dark-sky location with dozens or even hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts and their telescopes? Then you're looking for a star party! While astronomy clubs often have their own small star parties at their nearby observing locations, larger star parties are held at more remote sites with darker skies and better viewing conditions. Details about star parties in Wisconsin.
Contents provided by University of Minnesota's Institute for Astrophysics. Comments by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images courtesy Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association telescope viewing and moon child by Stan Prelwitz. Copyright updated 2017.  

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