There Is No Place Like Space At The Springfield Museums

There is No Place like Space at the Springfield Museums

The Springfield Museums present an exciting, interactive, refreshed and renewed Astronomy Day, May 11 from 10 am to 5 pm on the Quadrangle Green and in the Springfield Science Museum. The Museums also introduce our new Curator of Astronomy Michael Kerr.

Astronomy Day is a national event that was started in 1973 by Doug Berger, the president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California. His intent was to set up various telescopes in busy urban locations so that passersby could enjoy views of the heavens. Over the years, Astronomy Day has grown into an international event, with hundreds of museums, planetariums, and astronomy clubs participating. The Springfield Museums have been celebrating for many years, introducing thousands of people to the stars.

This year, not only will the Museums have telescopes ready to help people see far into the skies and out into the heavens, we will also host a wonderful array of activities for people of all ages thanks to our Family Engagement Coordinator Jenny Powers.

“I am especially excited about the new Space Project Kits we received from the National Informal STEM Education Network,” Powers said. “They have innovative hands-on activities in both English and Spanish and they include special activities for people with sight impairment.” This “edutainment” (education plus entertainment) will help all participants better understand astronomy, physics, and connecting ideas about science with hands-on fun!

Among the many opportunities for edutainment are lectures by Dr. James Lowenthal, Professor and Chair, Astronomy Department, Smith College, and Alan Rifkin of the Springfield STARS Club. Both lectures include time for questions and answers. The Springfield STARS Club, International Dark Sky Association, and Sky & Telescope Magazine will also present workshop opportunities. New England Air Museum is even joining in on the fun this year by helping visitors to conduct their own indoor “rocket” launches, inside Astronomy Hall.

Our new Curator of Astronomy Michael Kerr can’t wait to share his passion for all things star-related with visitors. “I’m thrilled with the program we have planned for this year’s Astronomy Day.  Jenny and her team have added new and creative games into the mix, and it’s going to be a blast!  We’re fortunate, too, that many individuals and organizations have volunteered to be on hand for demonstrations and displays, to answer questions, and to talk with kids and grownups about astronomy and other space-related things.”

For more information about Astronomy Day, call 413.263.6800 ext. 318.


10 am-5 pm: Girl Scouts USA Astronomy Badge
Earn your Astronomy Badge while having fun and learning loads of new things at the same time!

10:30-11:15 am and 12:30-1:15 pm
Starlab – Starlab?  What is Starlab?
  Take a peak in Tolman Auditorium and you’ll find out! Crawl in and relax as Planetarium Presenter Kevin Kopchynski entertains you with tales of the night sky that sparkles above you!

11-11:45 am, 2-2:45 pm: Solar System Trivia Game
How well do you know your neighborhood? Test your knowledge of the solar system with a fun and exciting trivia game in the Science Workshop on the second floor.  Rumor has it that Cat in the Hat will be there to help coach, confuse, and confound you!  If you ask nicely, you might even have your picture taken with him.

11 am-3 pm
Cat in the Hat visits the Science Workshop.

11 am-4 pm: Book Walk: There’s No Place Like Space!
Follow the path of least resistance and you’ll find yourself mingling with planets! Come to the Quadrangle Green for a close-up meander through the pages of author Tish Rabe’s popular book, There’s No Place Like Space!  Be sure to look in the Museum Store to purchase your very own copy!

11 am–3 pm: Telescopes and Stars Galore
Look out, overhead!  Come to Astronomy Hall on the second floor to learn about telescopes, stargazing, and so much more. Talk with members of the Springfield STARS Club. Hear all about cool (or is that hot?) rocks from space with meteorite expert Jack Megas. Consider all the benefits and wonders of dark skies at night with the International Dark Sky Association. Talk with the “stars” from Sky and Telescope magazine, who will share with you their vast knowledge of all things astronomical! Want to learn about stargazing and the cool things that astronomy has to offer? Then spend some time with these folks. They love to share their love of science.

11 am–3 pm: Sunspot Viewing (Weather Permitting).
Rise and Shine
– Don’t be shy, come gaze at the sky!  If the clouds do allow us, and the rain doesn’t foul us, then out on the green the sun will be seen.  Members of the Springfield STARS club will guide you to a safe view of our sun (weather permitting).

11 am–3 pm: Space Projects and Book Giveaways

  • Pocket Solar System – Make a scale model of objects in our solar system using stickers and machine tape.
  • Hide and Seek Moon – Binoculars, a hidden object Moon poster, and the Moon Rose storybook will let you discover how some tools can make distant objects appear closer and brighter.  Learn about how cultures around the world have viewed the moon.
  • Space Guess Quest – Plan a fun card game (similar to Guess Who) to sort and classify objects in our universe.
  • Temperature Mapping – Use an infrared thermometer to test out the temperature of different materials under a heat lamp to learn about how different types of land cover reflect or absorb energy.

11 am-2 pm
Face Painting and Roving Scientist. More Friendly Fun –
Let’s face it, no one knows how to have more fun than Professor Knows A. Lot!  If you think that having your face painted sounds like fun, that is.  We do!  So, if you want to look smart, then catch the professor in Mammal Hall sometime between 11:00 and 2:00.  Hmm.  Speaking of catching – it would be wise of you to catch a glimpse of our Roving Scientist during those same hours.  You won’t be disappointed!  Let us know what you learned.

11:30 am and 3 pm: Planetarium Shows
Join Jesse in a dreamtime adventure as you explore the concept of day and night, and discover that our sun is really a star, in The Magic Sky showing at 11:30 (Grades P-K); or be mesmerized by Mel McLaurin’s live and lively tour of the skies above during Wonders of the Night Sky at 3 pm (recommended for ages 8 and up).  You’ll be sure to “See More!” when you see more at the Seymour Planetarium. It’s on the second floor.

Noon-12:45 pm and 2-2:45 pm: Things Are Looking Up Observatory Tour
Get an inside look at our magnificent 20-inch telescope that points up from under the dome on the roof of the Museum.

1:30-2:30 pm and 2:15-3:15 pm
Astronomy Lectures: Stop, Look, and Listen (and learn cool things)! – You could use a refreshing pause from your busy day of exciting and fun activities.  How about a lecture from a real astronomer? Join Professor James Lowenthal, Chair of the Astronomy Department at Smith College, inside the Seymour Planetarium as he talks to us about planets around other star systems. He’ll be very glad to answer your questions when he’s done, so come prepared (I hope you did your homework). Too much pressure? No sweat! Let Mr. Alan Rifkin, president of the Springfield STARS club show you how to relax and have fun when you Tour the Universe with just a pair of binoculars (Tolman Auditorium, 2:15).


Michael Kerr, Curator of Astronomy at the Springfield Museums, has had a substantial career in applied physics research over a wide range of disciplines, from high-altitude atmospheric and near-earth space phenomenology to sensor systems and missile defense. Prior to joining the Springfield Museums, he was for many years a member of the technical staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He did his graduate studies in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Toledo, and earned his B.S. in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester.