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 Ann M Isaacs.

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 2024 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. 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!

2024 Schedule  

July 6Saturday Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
July 12FridayFather Hennepin
July 13SaturdayMille Lacs Kathio State Park
July 19FridayLake Maria State Park
July 20SaturdayNerstrand Big Woods State Park
July 26FridayDodge Nature Center, West St. Paul site
July 27SaturdayAfton State Park
August 2FridayGooseberry Falls State Park
August 3SaturdayTettegouche State Park
August 9FridayLake Louise State Park
August 10SaturdayForestville/Mystery Cave
August 16FridayDodge Nature Center, Cottage Grove site
August 17SaturdayEastman Nature Center
August 23FridayAfton State Park
August 24Saturday Wild River State Park
August 30FridayWild River 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 Ann M Isaacs at