Whether you’re looking to use a telescope for the first time or you’ve been to hundreds of star parties, looking through the lens can be an exciting experience. The Twin Cities may be full of artificial lights, but travel just a short distance away and you’ll find fantastic stargazing opportunities. Beginning and experienced astronomers alike can enjoy stargazing parties at the following locations.

Tate Laboratory of Physics – University of Minnesota
116 Church St. S.E.
Minneaoplis, MN 55455

The Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics hosts a weekly stargazing party on the roof of the Tate Laboratory of Physics on Friday nights during the fall and spring semesters. Each party begins at 8 p.m., with a short 20-minute presentation. After the presentation, viewers are encouraged to use the telescope to observe stars and planets in the night sky. All viewing parties are dependent on cooperative weather conditions. For information about when weather affects the viewing parties, please visit the FAQ section on the Friday Night Public Viewing webpage.

Eagle Lake Observatory – Minnesota Astronomical Society
10775 County Road 33
Norwood/Young America, MN 55397
(952) 448-6082

Each year, the Minnesota Astronomical Society hosts stargazing parties beginning in April and running through November. The events are held in any weather conditions, and if stargazing is not possible, slideshow presentations will be conducted instead, according to the organization’s website. The observatory has more than 12 telescopes with the ability to show what the scope is seeing on projectors. For a complete list of events, visit the events schedule page.

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Universe in the Park – University of Minnesota
Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Universe in the Park is a touring presentation given by members of the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics. During summer months, the presentation visits state parks around Minnesota and provides visitors with a half-hour talk and slideshow. After the slideshow, staff members help audience members view the sky through eight-inch telescopes. As is the case with many stargazing opportunities, the quality of the viewing can be affected by weather conditions. Admission to the event is free, though park fees are sometimes assessed. For a list of events in August, visit the schedule webpage.

Cherry Grove Observatory – Minnesota Astronomical Society
8485 520th St.
Kenyon, MN 55946
(952) 467-2426

Located in Goodhue County, the Cherry Grove Observatory is perfect for beginning astronomers. The observatory is located about 70 miles from the Twin Cities, and the dark skies are ideal for unobstructed views in the east, south and west directions, according to the observatory’s website. The observatory features a structure with a roll-off roof and two concrete pads. A warming house, outhouse and electricity are available for use.

Metcalf Observing Field – Minnesota Astronomical Society
(952) 467-2426

There is not an observatory structure at the observing field. Instead, there are several concrete and metal stations available for use. Metcalf Observing Field is located six miles north of Afton State Park and 15 miles east of St. Paul, according to the Minnesota Astronomical Society’s website. For directions to the field, visit the organization’s directions page. There is an outhouse and a warming shed on the property.

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Kristyn Gansen is a freelance writer covering all things Minneapolis. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.