A dark night with clear sky conditions is the perfect setting for stargazing, according to UW-Stevens Point professor Randy Olson.
Olson is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He also organizes free programs for the public utilizing the university's observatory.
That's a room with a retractable ceiling providing a view of the stars and planets visible from Wisconsin.
"Going in to late fall and early winter, we'll have one of the brightest objects in the entire sky, and it's the planet Jupiter" Olson said.
Jesse Martin is a UW-Stevens Point student. He teaches visitors with the community program to scan the sky using the observatory's telescope.
"It's pretty exciting. It's always need to see a planet" Martin said.
The telescope on the campus in Portage County is 16 inches wide. But it's viewing capabilities extend for nearly 500 million miles. That allows it to bring into view distant planets like Jupiter and its moons. Those same space features were first observed by Galileo.
"It's still kind of mind-boggling when you're told a number that you can't really associate with at all because it's just too big to comprehend" Martin said.
The university offers free public programs throughout the year designed to allow people to look through the telescope on clear night to see space up close for themselves. Though the observatory is not open on cloudy nights, the university's planetarium provides a depiction of what the night sky looks like using a projector inside a large domed room.
"This program traces the field of high energy astronomy from the early days of satellites that were designed to detect nuclear tests on Earth, through the launch of the latest gamma ray burst detectors" -Source: UWSP Public Programs Guide 2012-2013
Program: "Winter Wonders"
Offered: December 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd (2012)
"This program looks at the time of the winter solstice, the point where the noontime sun is lowest in the sky. " -Source: UWSP Public Programs Guide 2012-2013
Program: "The Endless Horizon"
Offered: January 27th, February 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, March 3rd, 10th, 17th (2013)
"Explore the relationship between scientific discovery and the advances in science theory." -Source: UWSP Public Programs Guide 2012-2013
Program: "Cosmic Colors"
Offered: April 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, May 5th, 12th, 19th (2013)
"Cosmic colors will take you on a wondrous journey across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Discover the many reasons for color--like why the sky is blue and why Mars is red."