The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Astronomy-Physics John Martin. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 12, 2021.
Everyone living in central Illinois is familiar with the beauty of a star-filled night sky split in half by the Milky Way. Even those of us living in towns and cities full of lights have just a short distance to travel to take in awe-inspiring views.
Our dark night skies attract visitors to camp and rent event spaces in our communities. A sky preserved like the one Lincoln himself experienced in 19th century America enhances the experience of the Lincoln historical sites, Lincoln Memorial Garden, Clayville Historical Site and New Salem State Historic Site. Every year in October, the Sangamon Astronomical Society draws enthusiasts from across the country to the Illinois Dark Sky Star Party at the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Astronomy outreach to stoke interest and awareness of the night sky is an integral part of the public affairs mission at the University of Illinois Springfield. Every fall for the last 44 years we have invited the public to share our passion for the night sky at UIS Friday Night Star Parties. This fall, Star Parties are virtual and take place from 8 to 9 p.m. Friday between Sept. 10 and Oct. 29. In addition to Star Parties, we accept invitations to visit and share with classrooms and community groups.