Minnesota Night Sky Viewing: Twin Cities Observatories, Planetariums and Other Heavenly Opportunities

Minnesota Night Sky Viewing: Twin Cities Observatories, Planetariums and Other Heavenly Opportunities

In Minnesota, night sky viewing can be a fun family activity that can engage everyone from toddlers to adults – even the tough teen/tween crowd may find a trip to an observatory fun. When kids are younger, a family can just go out in their yard or a nearby park and look up. Unfortunately, the closer you live to the metro center, the less you can see through the light pollution of the cities.  If you want to see more, we have several observatories and two planetariums in the Twin Cities. State and regional parks outside the cities will also offer viewing opportunities.

Note: Many of these venues are closed or have suspended public events during the pandemic of 2020/21, but we hope to see a loosening of restrictions in the coming months. In the meantime:

  • The Bell Museum has been hosting monthly virtual star parties that you can find and register for on their Eventbrite page.
  • Many regional and state parks are offering Skywatch events and other astronomy programs. We list these on our calendar when we see them.

Twin Cities Observatories for Minnesota Night Sky Viewing

An observatory is simply an structure that houses a telescope. Telescope events at these locations will be dependent on weather and are held in the evenings when the sky is visible. We have several in the Twin Cities, including:

Staring Lake Observatory offers Minnesota Night Sky Viewing

Eagle Lake Observatory

This viewing building is located in Baylor Regional Park in Norwood Young America and is run by the Minnesota Astronomical Society (“MAS”). Family-friendly events include Astronomy Days and an annual camping event. MAS has begun scheduling events with reservations and restrictions. Find details for safety restrictions here.

Eisenhower Observatory

The observatory in Hopkin’s Eisenhower Observatory normally hosts viewing nights during the school year (September through May). Events are currently on hold. I would not expect to see events until fall of 2021.

Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

The University of Minnesota’s Astrophysics department traditionally offers Public Observing Nights on Fridays during the school year.  Because the campus is closed for the 2020/2021 school year, observation nights are also on hold.  Watch for these in the fall of 2021.

Staring Lake Observatory

Eden Prairie’s observatory holds the largest telescope in the state.  Eden Prairie hosts events most weekends throughout the year, including Star Watch Astronomy.  Find and register for Star Watch Astronomy events here.

Twin Cities Planetariums For Day Viewing

Unlike an observatory, where you can view the night sky through telescopies, a planetarium uses special projectors and a dome ceiling to simulate the sky on a dome. The plus of a planetarium is that you can visit anytime, night or day, and you are not dependent on weather to view the sky.

Bell Planetarium

Visits to the Bell Museum of Natural History can include a Planetarium show for a small fee. Normally, the museum runs several showtimes per day. During 2020/2021 closings, the Bell is still offering programming, but virtually.  Find and sign up for astronomy events through 2their Eventbrite page.

Girl viewing planetarium at Bell Museum of Natural History - Minnesota Night Sky Viewing
Bell Planetarium

Como Planetarium

Como Planetarium serves the St. Paul School District but also offers public viewing times and events.  These events are on hold during Covid and the physical building is closed, but, if you have children in the St. Paul School District, they may have an opportunity to participate remotely through their schools. The general public may be able to participate in classes through St. Paul Community Education.  Search Keyword Planetarium for offerings.

Two children visiting the Como Planetarium in St. Paul Minnesota for Minnesota Night Sky Viewing
Como Planetarium

Other Ways to View the Heavens

Universe in the Park

This FREE annual program by the University of Minnesota rotates through Minnesota parks during the summer months.  Most of these parks are at least an hour outside the Twin Cities, but a few of the events are held at close by State ParksLearn more about Universe in the Park here.

Astrological events to view with the naked eye.

In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Friday, August 12, 2016 in Spruce Knob, West Virginia
Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Published: August 12, 2016
In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower Friday, August 12, 2016 in Spruce Knob, West Virginia.

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