By John QuinniesJean Creighton can recall the first time curiosity about the cosmos struck her.
“When I was five I was walking down the street with my mom. I looked up at her and said, ‘Mummy, how are stars born?’”
From that childhood question blossomed an academic career in learning and teaching others about how stars are born.
“For me what makes the cosmos wonderful is that people have the interest and the capacity to take a little bit of light that comes from a very distant star, squeeze it for all it’s worth, and understand how it works. I think that’s truly amazing,” said Jean.
After a long academic career spanning two continents, Jean is now in Milwaukee where she has directed the Manfred Olson Planetarium since 2007.
Nestled in a corner of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s campus, the Planetarium boasts a 30-foot domed ceiling and a star projector that looks like a spaceship from one of your favorite Sci-Fi movies.
Every Friday at the Planetarium, Jean takes on the role of celestial tour guide through a show to educate the public on topics ranging from “Indigenous Voices,” a showcase on Wisconsin’s rich and underrepresented native voices, to the current show “Moon to Mars” about human exploration of the red planet.
Each show is capped with a journey through the night when the star projector throws innumerable pinpricks of light onto the ceiling, easily sparking wonder in anyone’s eyes.
The philosophy behind each of these Friday night shows, as well as other events from the UWM Planetarium, is simple.
According to Jean, “The Planetarium has two major goals. One is to share the night sky with people, especially urban dwellers. They just don’t get to see the beautiful night sky, and if you don’t appreciate it then you don’t connect with it. The other is to share some of the ideas of how the universe works in terms that people understand. To try and strip away the jargon and give them some of the really beautiful ideas that we have to understand the universe.”
For those who have never had the opportunity to see the unadulterated night sky, or are simply looking for a quick fix of stars, the Manfred Olson Planetarium is a great resource in our community for all ages.
This weekend join Jean and the community at the Lunar Party in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the momentous first time humans stepped foot onto the moon. During this free celebration there will be music, space experts, a bounce house, lawn games and much more. This is a rain or shine event.
What: Manfred Olson Planetarium’s Lunar Party
When: Saturday July 20th from 12pm to 3pm
Where: 1900 East Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee WI
More Info: uwm.edu/planetarium