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Madison Metropolitan School District

Madison Skies Blog

Madison Sky at Dusk

This blog contains notes and brief articles about astronomy from the Madison Metropolitan School District Planetarium, Madison, WI, USA.

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Note: Most of our shorter updates go to Facebook and Twitter and short articles are posted on this blog.  We also have an Email List if you are interested in receiving updates via email.

Landing on Mars

Our Landing on Mars public virtual event explores missions arriving at Mars from three different countries. The following links are referenced in the program and are listed here for you to explore after the program:

Observing the Moon in Binoculars

The Moon, our closest celestial neighbor, is a beautiful sight in the night sky. Many people have binoculars, and the Moon is a great binocular target. I've created a video in honor of International Observe the Moon Night, Saturday, September 26, 2020. I love the thought of people around the world, united by gazing up at the same Moon. 

This video, Observing the Moon in Binoculars, provides tips for now to observe the Moon in binoculars. It provides tips for how to see more detail, and what types of features you can hope to see. Features include maria, highlands, craters, and a way to imagine Jack and Jill on the Moon.

If you didn't catch the Moon on this night, don't worry. Sites like allow you to enter your location, and they tell you when the Moon rises and sets so that you can look for it. 

The video may also be helpful for students who are learning about the Moon, phases of the Moon, and patterns of Earth and sky. Good luck! Enjoy!

Moon over Madison

Credit: John Rummel

The live virtual planetarium event on Friday night, May 29th was fun, and it was great to see so many people join us. You can view the recording of this event here. Special thanks to my co-hosts John Rummel, Bob Hamers, and Ben Senson. And thank you, Ben and Bob, for the live views of the Moon through your telescopes!

There are so many amazing online resources to help you explore the Moon that I wanted to share some of my favorites so that you can continue to investigate our celestial neighbor.

Supermassive Black Hole

Supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy M87.

Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

In the April 2019 public planetarium shows, we featured the fulldome film From Earth to the Universe. We also talked about the exciting announcement from the previous week — the first image of a black hole. Black holes are hard to wrap your brain around. Below you will find links to help you understand what you are seeing in the image.

  • Article on the Event Horizon Telescope website explaining the image.
  • Zoom in video from viewing the entire galaxy down to the center of the galaxy where the black hole is found.
  • Excellent video from Veritasium explaining what we are seeing in the image. This is from before the announcement was made, and isn't referring directly to M87, but still very helpful. He has also produced an update video after the announcement.
Mars Curiosity Rover

Curiosity Selfie (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

In our March public planetarium shows we're Exploring Mars. There are so many incredible resources out there, we hope you will continue to explore Mars on your own after the program! Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Google Mars: Google Earth for Mars.
  • NASA Mars Videos: A host of Mars videos to learn more.
  • NASA Eyes: Explore a model of InSight and more!
  • Mars Trek: This interactive map can take you to landing sites, the path taken by Mark Watney in The Martian movie, and more!

November's public shows were focussed on human spaceflight. But an hour just isn't long enough to include everything we'd like to share. Below are a couple of my favorite tours of the International Space Station (ISS). Enjoy!

  • ISS Guided Tour:  (30 minutes; YouTube) Commander Sunita Williams takes us on a tour of the space station before she heads home to Earth. 
  • Google Maps "street view" tour of ISS:  Explore the inside of of the space station using the Google Maps Street View interface.
International Space Station

STS-132, May 2010; Credit NASA