Just look up: Observatory events offer opportunity to learn from the night’s sky

UM-Dearborn Observatory

UM-Dearborn’s Observatory offers public viewing nights twice a month, spring-fall. Upcoming events include June 17, July 11 and July 22.

Carrie Swift shares a simple message with visitors to the University of Michigan-Dearborn Observatory: Just look up. The physics and astronomy lecturer believes there are real lessons to learn from the night’s sky, if people take the time to look.

“It’s really important that people have a perspective of the universe that’s broader than our daily lives,” she said. “We live in a world where human activities have a huge impact on our planet. Understanding that our planet is just this tiny little thing and we have to take care of it because it’s all we’ve got is an important lesson.”

Swift helps run the observatory’s outreach program, which includes two public viewing nights per month, spring through fall. She estimates 400-600 people come through the observatory each year during these events.

Looking through one of the five telescopes on the roof of the Science Learning Research Center, viewers are transported through space—double stars, nebulae, star clusters, galaxies. And they get immediate feedback from staff, Swift notes, a key educational component and one that often is missing from online viewing.

“Hubble pictures are great and really pretty, but they can be hard to understand,” she said. “But if I point a telescope at Saturn and you see its rings, you know what you’re looking at.”

The next public viewing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17, from 10-11:30 p.m. Additional summer viewings will take place Friday, July 11, and Tuesday, July 22. All events are subject to favorable sky conditions.

For more information, visit the University of Michigan-Dearborn observatory website or call 313-593-5277.

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