A visit to Space Place

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Space Place's Jim Lattis as he showed us around the facility.  David J. Eicher
Tucked away in a strip mall in Madison, Wisconsin, lies one of the nicest astronomy education and outreach facilities that I’ve ever seen. The Space Place, located at 2300 South Park Street in Wisconsin’s capital, is a cavernous wonderland that entertains students with the wonders of the heavens. Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich and I were treated to a private tour of the facility by its director, Dr. Jim Lattis. 
 
The Space Place is the public outreach arm of the University of Wisconsin, whose Madison campus hosts a stellar lineup of faculty and one of the best astronomy departments in the nation. In 1990, the UW Astronomy Department decided to invest in a public outreach program and turned a vacated Ponderosa Steakhouse into an astronomy education center. In 2005 the Space Place moved into its current facility, and now, Lattis and his coworkers entertain more than 10,000 visitors each year.

This Stebbins Photometer was used in the 1920s and 1930s to measure an object's brightness.  David J. Eicher
A visit to the Space Place can be several things. First and foremost, the facility is a museum. Kids can wonder over the historical displays showing antique astronomical instruments and see live spacecraft such as the Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photo-Polarimeter (WUPPE) and Diffuse X-Ray Spectrometer (DXS), both veterans of space shuttle flights. Space Place also offers education in the form of talks, workshops, and activity sessions for kids, which make science come alive. The facility also offers observing right on the rooftop, as well as at darker sky sites. Space Place hosts more than 100 public events each year, making it a powerhouse of science outreach in the Midwest.

For anyone who may be in the Madison area, I encourage you to visit the Space Place. You will enjoy yourself immensely and come away with a revitalized energy for spreading the fun of astronomy.

If you have been there, let us know what you think of the Space Place by posting below.

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