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Northeast Iowa Wintertime Stargazing Opportunities
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Northeast Iowa Wintertime Stargazing Opportunities

MARQUETTE-- This is Katrina Moyna with the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre bringing you your weekly nature programming! I’m here to tell you about another fun outdoor winter activity that most people probably don’t’ think of. STARGAZING.

On the next clear night, leave the burdens of the day behind, dress warmly, and wander outside. Find a place with a clear view of most of the sky and, (if possible) get away from direct light. Look up. You will notice the sky takes on the appearance of a vast hemispherical dome with stars fixed to its inner surface. Astronomers call this the celestial sphere. Let your mind wander as you forget your cares, and bring your kids, spouse, and friends to marvel at the celestial heavens. Think of all those who came before us and depended on the stars to navigate. Ancient mariners, explorers, and slaves all reached their destinations using the stars as their guide.

Orion is one of the most well-known constellations, visible in the southern sky during northern hemisphere winters. He is generally shown as a hunter attacking a bull with an upraised club, and is easily recognizable by his bright belt of three stars. There are two different versions of the Orion myth. Orion inherited his mother’s talent, the great huntress Queen Euryale of the Amazons, and became the greatest hunter in the world. Unfortunately for him, with his immense strength came an immense ego, and he boasted that he could best any animal on earth. In response to his vanity, a single small scorpion stung him and killed him. According to this version of the myth, Scorpius and Orion were placed on the opposite sides of the sky from each other so that they are never visible at the same time.

For the tech-savvy that would like to learn more about the night sky, there are a variety of free astronomy apps for smartphones, including keeping up to date with NASA’s missions and suggestions of great stargazing locations across the world. Via these apps, you can also find out about upcoming weather conditions for stargazing. The Starsplitters of Wyalusing State Park also offer free public astronomy programs in the summer months (located 20 minutes south of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin), and the Palisades-Dows Observatory outside Cedar Rapids is an excellent place to learn more about astronomy, as well as the 9 astronomy clubs found throughout the state of Iowa.

The Driftless Area Wetlands Centre will be hosting An Astronomy Night on Friday, February 27th from 6:00pm – 9:00pm.

We will have the newest and most up-to-date, indoor digital planetarium of its kind (courtesy of Keystone AEA), and MFL MarMac teachers will host the event. Other possible activities include:

  • a costume contest
  • coloring
  • cookies
  • outside telescopes
  • guest speakers at multiple interpretive stations

This Saturday, January 24, we will be showing the popular kids movie, “The Lorax,” based on Dr. Seuss’ book from 6:00 – 7:30 pm.

Next Wednesday, on January 28 from 6:00 – 8:00pm, we will host Kids on Canvas, a guided acrylic painting events with the Guttenberg Creativity Center. Please RSVP in advance for this event.

We are open from 11:00 – 4:00, Tuesdays – Saturdays. We always have lots going on, so check us out on our Facebook page, our website, or call us at (563) 873-3537.

Enjoy the Outdoors! It’s always free!


Photo: A crowd waits for the next constellation presentation inside the indoor digital planetarium at Astronomy Night 2014 at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre.

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