Galaxy slime quest

Community enjoys Statewide Astronomy Night

Marquette Astronomical Society member Craig Linde helps Lilly Kruhlik, 12, safely look at sunspots on Friday at Statewide Astronomy Night at Marquette Senior High School. Other planned activities include shows at the Shiras Planetarium as well as arts and crafts. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — With Shiras Planetarium on the premises — and very cooperative weather with clear skies — Marquette Senior High School was a great place to hold Statewide Astronomy Night activities on a local level.

Throughout Michigan, many events were planned with an astronomy theme, such as making solar system necklaces at Longway Planetarium in Flint, nighttime sky gazing at Bay City State Park and viewing the crescent moon through the 10-inch apochromatic refractor telescope under the dome of the Sherzer Observatory at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

Becky Simmons, science teacher at MSHS who also is director of Shiras Planetarium, said Statewide Astronomy Night, or SWAN, happens every year at this time.

“It’s something that we’ve done for quite a few years now,” Simmons said.

She believes it’s important for people to learn about this branch of science.

“It’s a fun opportunity for people to come in for free and kind of spend a little bit of a longer time here. Usually they just come in for shows, and so it gives them a chance to interact and do some kids’ activities and kind of get them excited about astronomy,” Simmons said.

One of the activities available to youngsters was making “galaxy slime,” a concoction made from glue, water, liquid starch, sparkles and paint, with some experimentation in order to get the desired consistency.

Aerith Hofer, 11, of Negaunee, spent part of her evening making galaxy slime, although it wasn’t the first attempt at making such a gooey substance in her lifetime.

“I tried to make a pudding slime and it didn’t turn out,” Aerith said.

Other arts and crafts activities involved making constellation cards and coloring on special pages made by the school’s art students.

Of course, star shows were scheduled for Shiras Planetarium for that evening.

Fortunately, there was clear weather on Friday with a crescent moon already visible in the early evening, plus the sun was still out.

So, the Marquette Astronomical Society had a telescope set up to allow visitors to look at the sun safely.

Craig Linde, a member of the Marquette Astronomical Society, pointed out several visible sunspots to people who peered through the telescope.

“I have a special filter. It rejects 99.9 percent of the sunlight and just lets a little bit through so you can see it safely,” Linde said.

The telescope also came equipped with different powers.

According to, magnification power measures how much larger an object appears after magnification. It’s calculated by dividing the focal length of the scanning object — the lens — by the focal length of the eyepiece.

“This one is a little bit wider but the sunspots — the image — is a little sharper because there’s not so much power,” said Linde, who planned to stay on site until darkness fell when the moon could be seen more easily.

Lilly Kruhlik, 12, of Gwinn, was one of the visitors who got a look at the sunspots through the telescope.

Her reaction?

“Different,” she said.

For more information on Shiras Planetarium, call 906-458-0032 or visit, which has monthly calendars on shows at the facility.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is