Welcome to the UWM Planetarium Press Room!
Find descriptions and photos of some of our recent events here.
Bizarre Black Holes
Black hole expert and senior member of the LIGO scientific collaboration, Dr. Jolien Creighton, dissected major discoveries from the last 5 years related to black holes, gravitational waves, and neutron stars. This virtual webinar was cosponsored by the Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics. Watch the recording here.
We celebrated spring with celestial celebrations across Asia, from the Chinese New Year to the Japanese Spring Blossom festival. Four UWM speakers guided us through China, Iran, India, and Japan. In conversation with Planetarium Director Jean Creighton, they shared everything from food, music, and art to personal heroes, social leaders, and connections to the night sky. On February 10, Hao Wu helped us ring in the Chinese New Year, followed by a celebration of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, with Dr. Ahmad Hosseinizadeh on March 19. Vinaya Valsan guided us through her home state of Kerala, India on April 9. Finally, Dr. Aragorn Quinn gave viewers an overview of the Japanese Spring Festival on April 14 just in time for the Spring Cherry Blossom festival.
We closed out the year with an unexpected surprise! Over 1,500 people tuned in to our Northern Lights program streaming live on YouTube. We were a bit overwhelmed but happy to be able to reach so many people including those from as far as Australia, England, Mexico, and almost all of the U.S. states and Canadian provinces!
Under African Skies
Five UWM speakers guided us through their home countries of Uganda, Malawi, Algeria, Egypt, and Kenya. In conversation with Planetarium Director Jean Creighton, they shared everything from food, music, and art to personal heroes, social leaders, and connections to the night sky.
The night sky was a connecting thread under which people meet for food, music, leisure, work, agriculture, and more. Jackline Kirungi shared her nostalgia for the rural life of Uganda, where people socialize at night sharing stories and food under the stars. Dr. Wilkistar Otieno of Kenya relayed how traditional people were deeply in tune with stars to guide them in seasonal and agricultural cycles. Major social events such as weddings occurred during full Moons for the light, which makes a significant difference in places with few other sources of light.
Community was also apparent throughout the series. Both Mohamed Maache, of Algeria, and Dr. Tarek Elgammal, of Egypt, shared nostalgia for the festivities associated with Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, which begins and ends with a crescent Moon each year. “Think of it as Thanksgiving stretching for 30 days,” said Tarek, with a “carnival of food” eaten with family, friends, and even strangers passing by who become your new friends. According to Mohamed, “only love is exchanged” between people during this month, with the atmosphere full of fireworks, street activities, and celebrations.
Speakers shared personal connections to the stars in touching ways. Dr. Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu sang a song that children in Malawi sing as they anticipate the appearance of the Moon so they can play outside in its light. Tarek also shared a kids’ song for when a tooth falls out in which they ask the Sun to give them a bright new one.
In fact, Tarek’s very name has astronomical connotations: it means “the roving star that pierces the space fabric”; he has, since birth, felt deeply connected to stars.
Throughout this series we saw the expansiveness of the African continent and the diversity of its countries and peoples, and we were treated to speakers’ personal and cultural connections to the night sky. An overarching theme was community and neighborliness across a continent that contains people more diverse than the rest of world combined. Rich cultures, heartwarming stories, all under a beautiful night sky–what a way to end 2020. If you missed it, you can watch the whole series on our YouTube channel.
Full Moon Walk
Students began a school year like no other. To celebrate Fall Welcome, the Planetarium hosted guided full Moon walks along the Milwaukee lakefront on September 2 and 3 as part of Fall Welcome Week activities. Groups of 10-15 masked, socially distanced UWM students walked from the Lubar Welcome Center to the Milwaukee Lakefront with Planetarium Director Jean Creighton as their guide. Students chattered and kindled friendships as they witnessed the Moon rising over Lake Michigan, with the guide pointing out other night time objects like the Summer Triangle and the planet Jupiter.
Shooting Stars & Meteor Showers
The appearance of the spectacular comet NEOWISE in July and the Perseid meteor shower in August made this summer an exciting one for space enthusiasts. In preparation for the Perseid meteor shower, the UWM Planetarium hosted “Shooting Stars and Meteor Showers” for viewers to learn what these trails of light really are: debris from comets or the collisions of asteroids. These rocky meteorites are older than the Earth and help us understand the origins of life on Earth and the possibility of life elsewhere in space. Viewers also got tips about how best to look for shooting stars themselves. The show is available on demand at https://youtu.be/5uJuT3HqwCo.
Stars, Stories, & Rhythms of Africa
Over 140 visitors joined us in a celebration of African culture, with storytelling from Venice Williams and live music and dance from Panadanza Dance Company. Jean Creighton showed audiences the night sky as seen from different parts of Africa. The event was sponsored by Sociocultural Programming, the Planetarium Club and African and African Diaspora Studies.
Our Open House event welcomed an audience of almost 300 people of all ages. Everyone was curious about what’s in the night sky. As the lights turned down, the audience was taken on a sky tour with Director Jean Creighton as their guide. Jean pointed out the brightest star, Sirius in Orion, and the farthest thing in space you could see without a telescope, the Andromeda galaxy. It was like looking up in the night sky in your very own backyard without the clutter of trees or city lights. What made this experience truly wonderful was knowing that everyone was looking at the same sky. As part of the event, our visitors could enjoy free cake and there were tables for kids to color pictures of space.
Science met the arts as the UWM Collegium Musicum, directed by Tim Sterner Miller, performed seasonal music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance on period instruments. Meanwhile, Astronomer Jean Creighton gave a guided tour of stars and constellations in the winter sky.
Under the Mesoamerican Sky
At Under the Mesoamerican Sky, cosponsored by UWM’s Sociocultural Programming, more than 130 people experienced Mesoamerica’s cultural connection with the sky with a fun activity to find their mesoamerican zodiac sign. Browns Crew performed live music while visitors enjoyed food. Jean Creighton showed audiences the night sky from different mesoamerican latitudes.
2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission that first landed humans on the Moon. To celebrate, we hosted events all year long. More than 500 space enthusiasts celebrated with us at our Lunar Party on July 20, 2019. People braved the summer heat and thunderstorms to enjoy ice cream, have their faces painted, take selfies with a replica astronaut, and attend mini stargazing shows and guest lectures.
Stars ‘n S’mores
At this popular annual favorite Welcome Week event, over 600 people enjoyed delicious s’mores while gazing at summer constellations both in the Planetarium and through our telescopes on the Physics building’s rooftop Skydeck.
Visitors came to Arabian Nights to learn about all aspects of Arab culture, from food to architecture, as well as its many contributions to astronomy. Guest speakers Lina Badwan and Mohamed Maache gave personal accounts of their homelands, Palestine and Algeria. Visitors gazed at the starry night sky as astronomer Jean Creighton shared her favorite story from “One Thousand and One Nights.” “What I like the most about presenting at the Planetarium is educating people about my culture, and I love how interested the audience is about other cultures,” said Lina.
Stars, Stories & Rhythms of Africa
During the presentation, storyteller Kavon Cortez-Jones talked about the Big Bang that created the universe and the earth, as well as how people poured out of Africa and spread across the whole planet. In between the two planetarium shows, Africa Alive Drum and Dance performed dances from Senegal and Guinea. The event was sponsored by Sociocultural Programming, the Planetarium Club and African and African Diaspora Studies.
Over 100 people braved single-digit temperatures to witness a total lunar eclipse late into the night of Sunday, January 20, 2019. Visitors peered through telescopes and binoculars outside and warmed up with hot chocolate and indoor stargazing shows inside the Planetarium.