From Earth to the universe to Capitol Square

June 24, 2009

by Jill Sakai

On Saturday, June 27, wonders from the far reaches of the universe will be brought down to Earth on the Capitol Square.

A collection of 40 striking images of galaxies, planets and more otherworldly sights will be on public display at the corner of State and Mifflin streets during the Dane County Farmers Market from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., bringing the wonders of the universe home.

In the event of rain on June 27, the images will be displayed on Saturday, July 4.

The colorful exhibit, "From Earth to the Universe," is part of a worldwide celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since Galileo first used his telescope to peer beyond the Earth.

Photo of two girls on a scavenger hunt, standing in front of astronomy-related images.

Two girls explore a scavenger hunt through an exhibit of colorful images of faraway galaxies, planets, and more at UW-Madison Science Expeditions on April 4, 2009. Photo: Laura Trouille

"A number of different groups have come together to promote the International Year of Astronomy, using astronomy as a catalyst to get kids especially interested in astronomy, interested in science, interested in school, interested in learning," says local exhibit organizer Laura Trouille.

Trouille, a University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomy graduate student, was awarded a NASA International Year of Astronomy Ambassador grant to develop an exhibit for Wisconsin audiences. Her display features several images related to UW-Madison research as well as others showcasing the stunning sights of the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes and other observatories from around the world.

Each image has a descriptive caption in English, Spanish and Hmong. Kids can try a scavenger hunt-style game that will lead them through the images to discover a secret message.

Trouille debuted the collection of 3-by-4-foot images at Science Expeditions on the UW-Madison campus in April and will take it on the road after its visit to the Square.

She also created a Web site, especially geared toward kids, with links to online games, trivia, tutorials and a calendar of other astronomy-related events happening in and around Madison during the summer, including the popular Universe in the Park nights in Wisconsin state parks.

"Hearing people's questions and seeing their curiosity piqued very much helps remind me of the big picture of why I love astronomy," Trouille says. "It helps keep me excited about my own work."

The exhibit will be on display at the Milwaukee Planetarium July 8-31; the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis., Sept. 1-Oct. 15; UW-Whitewater Oct. 15-Nov. 15; and the UW Space Place Science Museum in Madison Nov. 15-Dec. 15.

For more information, check out additional IYA events being held at UW Space Place and around Madison throughout the year.