NIU presents free ‘Summer Under the Stars’ events for space cadets, moon gazers of all ages

NASA image of the Space Shuttle Atlantis
NASA image of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

This summer, NIU’s STEM Outreach is hosting a series of free family events that celebrate all things space. 

Amateur star gazers and constellation connoisseurs alike will appreciate talks led by NIU experts on everything from the geology of the moon to the history of the space shuttle.

The series blasts off at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, with “Bon Voyage to the Space Shuttle.”

Matthew Wiesner, NIU’s observatory manager, will lead visitors to NIU’s LaTourette Hall Room 200 in celebrating the history and the legacy of the U.S. space shuttle program on the eve of the last shuttle flight. He will discuss the design of the space shuttle, the many firsts accomplished by the U.S. space program and the program’s history of tragedy and triumph.

Audience members will be asked to share their favorite memories of the space shuttle and discuss the past and future of America’s space program. Then, from 8:30 until 11 p.m., participants are welcome to visit the NIU Observatory in neighboring Davis Hall to view Saturn, the summer triangle and many other celestial objects until 11 p.m.

Participants can assemble telescopes like those used by Galileo.
Participants can assemble telescopes like those used by Galileo.

Friday, July 22, is Telescope Night at NIU. 

At 7 p.m. in Room 200 of LaTourette Hall, Suzanne Willis from NIU’s Physics Department will host a brief presentation on telescopes and then invite participants to assemble telescopes similar to those used by Galileo. 

As darkness falls, the group will move to the Davis Hall patio where participants can set up their own telescope or use one of ours. The NIU Observatory will also be open until 11 p.m.

This event is free. If, however, you’ve become attached to gazing with your Galileo-like gear, you can keep the telescope you assembled for a donation of $60.

What more can we give you?  How about Earth’s cosmic kid brother, the moon? 

NASA image of craters on the moon.
NASA image of craters on the moon.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, Paul Stoddard from NIU’s Geology Department will discuss the geological make-up of the moon and tell us once and for all if it is really made of cheese. 

After Stoddard’s presentation, participants are welcome to moon-watch at the Davis Hall patio or the NIU Observatory until 11 p.m.

The Summer Under the Stars program is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s year-round efforts to provide K-12 students with opportunities to become involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

For more cool and geeky family fun, make early plans for Saturday, Oct. 22, for STEMfest, NIU’s free yearly event that packs the Convocation Center with exhibits, hands-on activities and competitions that help local and regional K-12 students and their families explore and appreciate STEM.

For additional information on NIU’s Summer Under the Stars programs, visit NIU STEM Outreach or contact Patricia Sievert, STEM Outreach coordinator, at (815) 753-1201 or psievert@niu.edu.

For regular updates on upcoming programs and all things STEM, like NIU STEM Outreach on Facebook.

by Gillian King-Cargile

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