Summer Under the Stars continues Friday night with telescope viewing, images, assembly, tales

Families can beat the heat with a “cool night” in the cosmos contemplating the icy reaches of space at 7 p.m. Friday, July 22.

NIU’s STEM Outreach will present the second Summer Under the Stars event, Telescope Night, in LaTourette Hall Room 200. This event is free and open to the public.

Suzanne Willis from NIU’s Department of Physics will host a brief presentation on telescopes. She will discuss the history of telescopes and explain different types of telescopes, such as radio and X-ray, which display images without the use of visible light. Willis plans to wow families with information about “the kinds of things one can see with telescopes that you can’t see with the naked eye,” promising a highly visual presentation filled with pictures and videos.

Learn why it takes a telescope like Hubble to provide images like these from NASA; just don't expect to see this through a telescope Friday evening!
Learn why it takes a telescope like Hubble to provide images like these from NASA; just don't expect to see this through a telescope Friday evening!

After the presentation, participants are invited to assemble telescopes similar to those used by famed astronomer Galileo. This hands-on exercise helps participants learn about optics and better understand how telescopes work. “You will also gain an appreciation for how much you can see even with a simple telescope,” Willis says.

As darkness falls, the group will move to the Davis Hall patio where participants can set up their own telescope or use one from NIU.

The NIU Observatory also will be open until 11 p.m. Expect to see sights that put summer movies to shame. Depending on cloud cover, Willis says, participants should be able to see stars, planets and even nebulae. The moon will not rise until around midnight, so it shouldn’t interfere with viewing.

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

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

All proceeds benefit NIU STEM Outreach. Throughout the year, NIU STEM Outreach provides K-12 students with fun and interesting opportunities to become involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

If you enjoy spacing out, mark your calendar for the third and final Summer Under the Stars event, “The Geology of the Moon.”

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, in NIU’s Davis Hall Room 315, Paul Stoddard from NIU’s Department of Geology will discuss the geological make-up of the Moon. Afterward, “lunatics” are welcome to moon-watch at the Davis Hall patio or the NIU Observatory until 11 p.m.

For additional information on NIU’s Summer Under the Stars programs or other cool and geeky family fun such as STEMfest, visit NIU STEM Outreach or contact Patricia Sievert, STEM Outreach coordinator, at (815) 753-1201 or psievert@niu.edu.

by Gillian King-Cargile

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