Zahra Forootaninia gives a presentation at Universe in the Park

Universe in the Park


Logo for Universe in the Park

Universe in the Park is a summer outreach program hosted by the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics and area state and local parks. This annual program is headed by faculty member Evan Skillman and graduate student Nico Adams.

At our events, representatives of the Institute will present a short (~20 min) outdoor 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. For our 2021 season, we will be giving these talks outdoors to ensure they are as safe as possible.

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

Through these events, we hope to convey the excitement of modern astronomical research while simultaneously providing an enjoyable introduction to amateur astronomy. Although a vehicle permit is usually required to enter the parks, the events are free to the public. Please join us!

2021 Schedule  

Date Day Venue
July 9 Friday Dodge Nature Center
July 10 Saturday William O'Brien State Park
July 17 Saturday Eastman Nature Center
July 24 Saturday Lowry Nature Center
July 31 Saturday William O'Brien State Park
August 7 Saturday Afton State Park
August 13 Friday Lake Maria State Park
August 14 Saturday William O'Brien State Park
August 21 Saturday Lowry Nature Center
August 27 Friday Afton State Park


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What time?
    Events are scheduled Fridays and Saturdays (rain or shine), usually beginning in June and ending mid-August. Presentations typically run from 8:45 to 10:00 or 11:00 PM, including telescope observing.

  • How much does it cost?
    The events are free, although usually a vehicle permit is required to enter the parks. So bring your family and friends!

  • What should I bring/wear?
    You don’t need to bring anything besides yourself, friends, and an interest in astronomy: we’ll provide all the equipment. However, we do have some recommendations:

    • Wear long pants/sleeves. 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.
    • Bugspray. Nothing makes observing (or any other activity) more annoying than having to swat off mosquitos constantly! Please do not spray it near the telescopes. Apply it beforehand or briefly walk away from the telescopes to spray.

For more information, contact Nico Adams at