An Illuminating Night With the Northern Lights

(Credit: Tom Eklund)

As Wisconsin gets colder and colder, we need more colors and beauty. So what better way to see beautiful colors then to look at the northern lights? And that’s exactly what UWM Planetarium Director Jean Creighton showed us for our last Friday show of the year, simply titled Northern Lights.

Aurora seen in South Dakota on June 23, 2015

(Credit: Christian Begeman)

Everything from how the northern lights form, how their colors form and where to find them was explored. And it was all accompanied by gorgeous shots of the aurora including ones from the International Space Station.

Creighton has first-hand experience of seeing the auroras. She saw them from the ground when she visited her in-laws in Alberta, Canada and again when she and her family were strolling down Lake Park at Midnight. But she also got the extraordinary chance to see them from the stratosphere as one of the 24 people chosen to fly on SOFIA, NASA’s airborne observatory. Creighton even showed us her photo from the trip.

Rhetoric and Composition doctoral student Danielle DeVasto joined us in the planetarium to conduct a study exploring how scientists communicate to the public. After the show, DeVasto passed around surveys to audiences evaluating how well they learned about northern lights through our show. We tried two different approaches to see what audiences would better respond to. We’re hoping to publish the results after we’ve analyzed it.


(Credit: Sebastian Saarloos)

After the show, Creighton treated us to an indoor stargazing show with fan-favorite constellations of the winter. Draco, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Taurus and many more were on full display.

We’re grateful to everyone for joining us for our last show of our 50th Anniversary. We hope you were illuminated by the sights of the northern lights.

Keep an eye out for our first Friday show of next year, Life of a Star, from Jan. 13 to Feb. 24.