‘Open Observatory’ event draws in community stargazers


Ivan Pomeroy

photo by Ivan Pomeroy / Staff Photographer

Katelyn Black, Lifestyle Editor

The Observatory Star Party and Open House this weekend brought students, staff and community members willing to brave the frigid temperatures in order to get up close and personal with the various planets, star clusters and nebulae that many rarely get to see.

The event, held on both Friday and Saturday night, was part of the larger 8th Annual Wisconsin Science Festival.

The festival, according to Jeanan Yaisir Moe, the director of Strategic Communications for one of the festival’s sponsors— the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation—involved everything from school field trips to a statewide visualization project.

As the festival grew, the event held at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater grew and transformed along with it.

The UW-Whitewater Observatory has participated in the event before with the ‘Open House’ aspect, but, according to Physics professor Dr. Juliana Constantinescu, the contribution to the 2018 event proved to be more in depth and elaborate than just an indoor demonstration.

“We used to have workshops and laboratory tours for visitors,”  Constantinescu said. “This was the first time we participated with the ‘Star Party’.”

Though  Constaninescu and her students were very excited about the new aspect of their annual event, whether or not the ‘Star Party’ would  happen was always dependent on the weather and how clear the sky was for viewing. In the end, however, Constantinescu was very pleased with the conditions for both nights.

“It is very much related to the weather,” she said. “If the sky had not cooperated, we would have only had indoor demonstrations again.”

The indoor demonstrations, which are usually the center of attention for the event, included a large array of light spectrum exhibits including four common lights producers most people see on a daily basis.

The weather cleared up both nights despite the cold, and the sky was clear for stargazing.

“Since the sky did end up clearing up, we were able to have our telescopes out on the observatory platform and share the beauty of the night sky with our visitors,” said Constantinescu.