Art and science and an outdoors frontier on the rise make for a heady mix this week at the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota.

The Bell is hosting a week of virtual events – the Statewide Star Party 2020 – beginning Monday focused on a trending topic in Minnesota’s natural world: its night skies. (In fact, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was designated a dark sky sanctuary in September by the International Dark-Sky Association for its standout starry nights and the region’s myriad value as a federally protected wilderness.)

We are really excited about what’s happening this week,” said Sarah Komperud, planetarium programs coordinator. “It’s another great example of the Bell Museum’s ability to connect statewide. Being part of the university, we are not just about local connections. We are also trying to be Minnesota’s astronomy classroom.”

One among the visual jewels of the week’s events (details here) is a show in the museum’s planetarium, “Nightscapes: Thousand Star Views from Across Minnesota.” It's the work of the museum's resident artist, Mike Shaw.

Shaw, a local photographer and author, will host live shows Thursday through Sunday, featuring his night sky images and time-lapse videos across Minnesota and including captures of the comet NEOWISE passing above wetlands near the Twin Cities. Shaw also will deliver a virtual keynote Wednesday on his project and the relevance of dark sky preservation. It's believed more than 80% of the world's population lives under light-polluted skies.

“In many ways Minnesota is a night skies paradise,” said Shaw, who has worked on the project since 2019 and did the bulk of the photography this year.

See more related coverage Friday in the Star Tribune.

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