Zahra Forootaninia gives a presentation at Universe in the Park

Universe in the Park

Please note: Due to the University's temporary closure, Universe in the Park has been suspended until further notice.

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, modeled after a very successful project at the University of Wisconsin, is headed by faculty member Evan Skillman and graduate student Nico Adams.

At our events, representatives of the Institute will present a short (20–30 min) 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.

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!

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 8:30 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

Schedule, Summer 2020

Please note: Due to the University's temporary closure, Universe in the Park has been suspended until further notice. This schedule is not in force and is only for reference.

June 5, Fri Afton State Park
June 6, Sat Wild River State Park
June 12, Fri Elliot Recreation Center
June 13, Sat Lake Maria State Park
June 20, Sat Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
June 27, Sat William O'Brien State Park
July 3, Fri Eastman Nature Center
July 10, Fri Gooseberry State Park
July 11, Sat Tetegouche State Park
July 17, Fri Afton State Park
July 18, Sat Nerstrand State Park
July 24, Fri Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
July 25, Sat Lowry Nature Center
July 31, Fri Father Hennepin State Park
August 1, Sat Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
August 7, Fri William O'Brien State Park
August 8, Sat Lake Maria State Park
August 14, Fri Dodge Nature Center