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Department of Physics

Astronomical Viewing Sessions


Current Schedule
(Fall 2021)  

Viewing sessions are coordinated by Dr. Tom Foster, To confirm that a session will be held, call Dr. Foster's voice mail at 618-650-3049 after 5:00 p.m. on the day the session is scheduled.

September 15     8:30 pm
September 29 8:00 pm
October 13 7:30 pm
October 27 7:15 pm
November 3 7:15 pm
November 17 6 pm
December 1 6 pm

General Information

As a supplement to our course in Astronomy (Physics 118), and as a service to the community, the SIUE Physics Department conducts regular astronomical viewing sessions (or "star parties") which are open to the public.  The sessions are usually coordinated by a Physics faculty or staff member.  We will be spending some time getting oriented in the sky, learning some bright stars and constellations, using binoculars to find star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae, and using some of the Physics Department's telescopes to observes some planets and other objects.

  • Where:  The William C. Shaw Sky Lab — see Map and Directions below.
  • When:  See Current Schedule at the right.  Times may change during the term as days get longer or shorter.  Sessions usually last about an hour if there is sufficient attendance.  You do not have to come at the beginning or stay the whole time, but if nobody shows up during the first 20 minutes or so, the session may be terminated early.
  • What to Bring:
    • Warm clothes!  It usually seems much colder when observing than when just stepping outside or walking from your car.  In addition, long pants and sleeves can help to keep bugs from biting you.
    • Bug spray in buggy seasons.
    • A star map (such as the rotary "Star and Planet Locator"), if you have one.
    • A small flashlight covered with red cellophane is useful for looking at star charts.  Don't use a bright flashlight as that will interfere with your and everyone else's night vision!
    • Binoculars (if you have any) and/or a telescope if you would like to try it out.
    • Friends, family, roommates, and significant others.
    • Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.
    • Lawn chairs, or especially a chaise lounge, are convenient for gazing at the sky.
    • Your enthusiasm and patience.
    • NO alcoholic beverages or smoking — these are prohibited by University policy, as the Sky Lab is considered a classroom.
  • Groups:  If you would like to bring a school or scout group, that can usually be arranged.  Please contact the person session coordinator or the Physics Department.
  • Note:  The Shaw Sky Lab was designed as a site for on-campus astronomical viewing relatively free from interfering lights, but not as a place for storing telescopes or giving any other kinds of presentations.

Map and Directions

  • The William C. Shaw Sky Lab is near the north edge of the SIUE campus.  Turn off of North University Drive just south of the 4-way stop at New Poag Road.  There may be a small ground-level sign identifying this turnoff.
  • The access road heads west and then turns left (south); be careful as the road is in poor condition.  Go past the model airplane field and the wooden picnic shelter, and park near the south end as shown.
  • Please turn your headlights off as soon as you can safely do so, as they can penetrate the tree line and interfere with the observers' night vision.
  • Walk on the gravel path (shown by dotted line) west to the viewing site.  The path may be marked by posts with red lights.  Please don't point a bright flashlight toward the viewing site!

Campus Map showing Shaw Sky Lab

Revised 2018 Oct 31
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