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How the Universe Was Discovered in the Constellations of Fall

December 8, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EST

Image of Andromeda Galaxy (with h-alpha).

Did you know that in just a few weeks, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together in the sky than at any time since the year 1623? Have you noticed that there are star clusters and even some galaxies in the sky right now that you can see with your unaided eye? Have you heard that the best meteor shower of the year is coming up this month? And what exactly is this “solstice” that happens on December 21? Most importantly, are you aware that many of the greatest discoveries in the history of astronomy—from the oldest-known variable star to the existence of galaxies beyond our own—were made in the constellations of fall? There is so much happening in the December sky; join us by Zoom to learn more!

Families with school-age and older children (and adults!) are invited to join us virtually for a presentation focused on the constellations of fall. Specifically, we will focus on several very old constellations. (Yes, some constellations are older than others!) Our selected constellations are not only close together in the sky, making them easier to find, but are connected to one another by an interesting set of mythological stories. And best of all, each of them has something special to offer: favorite double stars, Nobel-prize-winning discoveries, well-known star clusters, famous variable stars, and even a galaxy visible to the unaided eye. Just as important, we will also describe how astronomers have discovered some of these things, and how these fall objects changed our understanding of our universe forever.

As always, we will show you how to find the planets and other cool things that are currently in the sky this month. Certainly, we will show you where to find the fall constellations and their special features. But also—have you been watching Jupiter and Saturn closing in on one another all year, and how that has sped up during fall? Have you noticed that Mars just passed its closest approach to Earth for the next 15 years—and that it has already decreased noticeably in brightness since then? Have you seen brilliant Venus lighting up the morning sky? We will help you see all of these things (and December’s meteor shower) for yourself.

Finally, we will spend a few moments on the largest and perhaps the most famous radio telescopes in the world, and why it may be shut down forever.

Attention students: MSU St. Andrews participates in the Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Passport program. Attend a virtual Family Astronomy Night and log it as a STEM experience on your passport!

Photo credit: Andromeda Galaxy (with h-alpha): https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andromeda_Galaxy_(with_h-alpha).jpg

Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services, and activities. Accommodation for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting (517) 432-4499 by Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible.


MSU St. Andrews
(989) 374-9900


Online via Zoom