Artist's depiction of an aurora as seen from far above Earth's surface.

Universe @ Home

Universe @ Home is a summer outreach program run by the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics. The program is intended to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in the study of space and astronomy, and all of its events are free and online. It is headed by faculty member Evan Skillman and graduate student Nico Adams.

A typical Universe @ Home event consists of three parts. To begin, a member of the Institute presents a short public talk (about 20 minutes long) on a topic in astronomy or space science. Some example talk titles include “All of Time in 20 minutes”, “Asteroid Adventures and Majestic Meteors”, and “The Extremes of Space”. After the presentation, we set aside time to answer audience questions of all kinds. Finally, we wrap up with an activity, which may be a virtual tour of a constellation, a camera feed from a real telescope, or a space-related craft that you can do at home. Our events stream on YouTube Live once per week throughout the summer. Audience members can leave us questions using YouTube’s live chat throughout each event, and we’ll answer as many as we can!

These events are intended to introduce the study of our universe in a fun and engaging way for audiences at all levels, while also providing a “peek behind the curtain” at modern research in astrophysics. To join, you may register at one of the links below, or simply check for the YouTube Live link posted to this site shortly before each event. You can also browse our past events by clicking the links below. We hope you’ll tune in!

Scroll down to see our schedule and register for events.

For questions or more information, contact Nico Adams at

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When are these events?
    They typically take place from 8:00–9:00 PM on Wednesday nights throughout the summer.

  • What does a typical event look like?
    Usually, two or three presenters will begin streaming on YouTube Live at 8:00 PM. There is a live chat on YouTube available for the audience to leave comments or questions, which we will answer live throughout the event. To see an example of a past event, you can view our trial event.

  • How do I join?
    The easiest way is to click the “register” link on an event you’re interested in. If you register, we will send you an email with the YouTube Live link the day of the event, as well as any other information that might go along with it. For example, we may send you a sky map to accompany our virtual sky tour, or instructions on how to prepare for a craft. If you just want to tune in, we will do our best to post the YouTube Live link on this site before each event.

  • I missed an event live! Can I still tune in?
    Yes! All past events are available on our Universe @ Home channel.


Wednesday, July 8, 8:00 PM

The Sun is a Star

Presented by Trevor Knuth, Hayley Williams, and Laura Salo

The Sun is a Star: a talk about the transition of the Sun from an object of worship and fascination to it being the gateway to the stars.

Activity: Examining major space weather events with Helioview and the Space Weather Prediction Center’s online models

Wednesday, July 15, 8:00 PM

All of Time in 20 Minutes

Presented by Alexander Criswell, Nico Adams, and Lauren Laufman

A history of the universe from beginning to end.

Activity: Clear plan: Telescope livestream - Saturn Cloudy plan: Virtual sky tour - Easy Backyard Observations

Wednesday, July 22, 8:00 PM

The Secret Lives of Galaxies

Presented by Jamie Cheshire and Laura Salo

In this talk, we'll go over how galaxies form, merge, and evolve, and how this history shapes the way that they look today.

Activity: Classifying galaxies with Galaxy Zoo

Wednesday, July 29, 8:00 PM

Cosmic Rays and the Aurora

Presented by Aaron West and Alexander Criswell

Cosmic rays and aurorae: Two types of precipitation the weather forecasters don't talk about.

Activity: We're astronomers, ask us anything: A panel of real life astronomers to answer your questions on what life as an astronomer is like - and how to become one!

Wednesday, August 5, 8:00 PM

The Extremes of Space

Presented by Trevor Knuth and Sean Bruton

The Extremes of Space: A walk through the extreme phenomenon of space. Black holes, supernovae, pulsars, and active galactic nuclei, this talk will focus on the objects that sit at the edge of our understanding.

Activity: Crafting the Scales of Space

Wednesday, August 12, 8:00 PM

Asteroid Adventures and Majestic Meteors

Presented by Lauren Laufman and Trevor Knuth

What are meteor showers? Have we ever visited an asteroid in space? Are we in danger from all those big rocks out there? Find out these answers and more in tonight's adventure.

Activity: We'll use Universe Sandbox to show the orbits of asteroids and comets, and how meteor showers work.

Wednesday, August 19, 8:00 PM

Wildcard: Current events in astronomy

Presented by Nico Adams and Aaron West

For this event, we'll talk about the biggest astronomy news stories that arise this summer. They could be new discoveries, odd observations, or other anything else that catches the public eye.

Activity: Depends on the topic!