Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (April 22, 2022) – “Oh, WOW!” It is almost an involuntary response when folks experience a show in the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society’s Planetarium. We also hear the “Oh, wow!” the first time people see the rings of Saturn through a telescope. Or a comet. Or the colorful image of a distant galaxy on the flat screen. That is why Crossroads is collaborating with the DPAS in a year-long effort called “Bringing Back the ‘Oh, Wows’!” which will be funded, in part, by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium.
A viewing night and Planetarium grand re-opening is scheduled for Saturday, April 30 at 8:00 PM at the Astronomy Campus, 2200 Utah Street in Sturgeon Bay. In addition to planetarium shows, weather permitting, members of the DPAS will be giving telescope and green laser tours of the night sky in the StarGarden. These will be free and open to the public.
Since the Stonecipher Astronomy Center was built, DPAS has had a planetarium. The first was rather primitive—an inflatable dome and inside, a globe (with a small lamp inside) which had holes arranged like constellations to shine “stars” onto the ceiling. The second planetarium had computer-generated images and was state of the art for a while, but technology has come a long way since that dome was purchased, second hand, and it was showing wear.
Back in 2019, on a bitter cold winter night, the DPAS Board voted to purchase a new digital planetarium. They were able to afford the astronomical cost of this amazing dome and projector thanks to a generous bequest from the late Dr. Ray Stonecipher.
On Earth Day of that year, the email blast to DPAS members announced: “THE PLANETARIUM HAS LANDED,” so Crossroads and DPAS went into Astronomy Outreach Overdrive, going “on the road.” Schools, STEM Days, Bible Schools, and every branch of the Door County Library System hosted a visit from the inflatable planetarium, eliciting “oh, wows!” from well over a thousand enthralled learners of all ages.
But it was exhausting, and all of the packing and unpacking was hard on the fabric of the inflatable dome, so the decision was made to focus on offering presentations exclusively at the Astronomy Campus. If (or in most cases, when) clouds rolled in during a scheduled Viewing Night, a planetarium show could be a great substitute. We invited science teachers to a show and they were all eager to bring their classes.
By 2020, The Door Peninsula Astronomical Society, a group dedicated to promoting the science and public education of the astronomy and providing outreach, was poised to meet its mission and then some.
Then COVID hit. The dome and projector sat in their travel cases. To the credit of the society, on-line outreach continued throughout the pandemic, but while images on a screen can be fascinating, we all missed the “oh, wows”.
Saturday, April 30, at 2:00, Saturday Science, our weekly family program, will focus on Astronomy, using videos and demonstrations, school aged students and their families will learn a bit about the night sky.
That evening is the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society’s Grand-Reopening of the Planetarium and Viewing Night Starting at 8:00 PM.
Meanwhile, land restoration efforts continue at Crossroads. This week, as a part of the BIG PLANT initiative, students from Sturgeon Bay High School, TJ Walker Middle School and Sunrise fourth grade will be planting hundreds of native trees at Crossroads.For folks who want make their own properties environmentally friendly, the Door County Master Gardeners, in collaboration with Wild Ones of the Door Peninsula and Crossroads, will offer the timely in-person Zoom lecture “ Best Native Plants for Small Gardens.” Many Wisconsin native prairie flowers and grasses make excellent garden plants and provide opportunities for low maintenance, ecologically sound landscapes that require little or no fertilizers, pesticides and watering.
Speaker Neil Diboll, internationally known expert in native plant ecology, will highlight the showiest and best-behaved prairie plants that can be showcased alone or mixed with other perennials to create a wide variety of gardens in small areas. Those who prefer to watch the program at home can request a Zoom link from firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put the word prairie in the subject line. A handout will be available in advance listing all the plants covered in the presentation.
And to learn more about land restoration, Crossroads will offer a free public talk called “Where Restoration Begins” featuring Dr. Chris Young on Wednesday, May 4 at 6:30. Using the history of ecology as a starting point, this talk explores ongoing efforts to restore land where there has been intensive human use — agricultural and urban. This wide topic is shaped by a narrative reflecting on life experiences that, in truth, have led Dr. Young to Crossroads.
Dr. Young is the Project Manager of the Urban Ecology Center Institute and a Professor of Biology at Alverno College, and Affiliated Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Ph.D., History of Science and Technology) Throughout his teaching career in higher education, he has taught courses that focus on evolution, climate change, environmental history.