The next big astronomy convention is in Wisconsin

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Friday, March 14, 2014

courtesy Northern Cross Science Foundation
Visitors to this website are always looking for the next sky happening, media event, or get-together. Regarding that last point, there’s an upcoming meeting you might want to attend.

The 2014 North-Central Region of the Astronomical League (NCRAL) convention will take place April 4 and 5 at the Lakeview Conference Center in Port Washington, Wisconsin. The host organization is the Northern Cross Science Foundation, an astronomy club located in Mequon, Wisconsin.

Dean Regas, one of the speakers at NCRAL 2014, is the Outreach Astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory and host of the PBS show Star Gazers. // photo courtesy Dean Regas
The speaker lineup is top-notch. Here are a few examples:

Dean Regas is a contributor to Astronomy and, in 2008, he and the Cincinnati Observatory Center won the Astronomy magazine Out-of-this-world Award for astronomy outreach. For two years, Dean has been the co-host of Star Gazers, which airs on more than 100 PBS stations around the world. He has been the Outreach Astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory since 2000.

Barbara J. Becker received her Ph.D. in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. Since 1989, she has focused her attention on 19th-century English amateur astronomer, William Huggins. She is the author of Huggins’s first scholarly biography, Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy, which was published last year by Cambridge University Press. She is currently at work annotating her transcriptions of Huggins’s unpublished correspondence.

The Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory, located in Harrington Beach State Park, Wisconsin, features a 20-inch multi-foci telescope along with several smaller ones. // photo courtesy Northern Cross Science Foundation
Paul Kinzer is a 1984 graduate of the University of Minnesota at Morris and has more than 25 years of experience working with children of all ages. He’s been an avid amateur astronomer for nearly 20 years and currently owns about a dozen telescopes, several of which he built himself. Paul is the author of Stargazing Basics: Getting Started in Recreational Astronomy (Cambridge University Press, 2008). He owns a small business called Seeing Stars Portable Planetarium and Star Parties, for which he travels to schools, libraries, and other venues with his Starlab portable planetarium and telescopes to share the night sky during the day.

Dawn Erb is a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She obtained a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and held postdoctoral fellowships at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of California, Santa Barbara, before coming to UWM in 2010. She uses the world’s largest telescopes to study distant galaxies in the early universe, focusing on how galaxies evolve and interact with surrounding gas. She also enjoys sharing astronomy with students and the public.

As you can see, it’s a pretty powerful lineup. And in addition to the above (and more) speakers, you can enjoy a tour of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, a visit to the Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory, an astrophoto contest, and even an astro-trivia contest. On that last point, don’t worry: I’m not able to attend!

But best of all, you’ll enjoy the companionship of other like-minded individuals in a relaxed atmosphere. Pretty cool.

For more information and to register for the convention, visit

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