By Micaela Myers
When Samuel Singer moved to Jackson, Wyo., in 2005, he noticed a valuable and largely untapped Wyoming resource: the night sky.
“I realized that this town really needed a public observatory and planetarium,” he says. “There was a lot of interest in astronomy here along with the incredible resource of the dark night skies. There wasn’t a great way to share that with the public or the millions of visitors we get every year.”
After earning his master’s degree from UW and the Teton Science Schools, and his doctorate in science education from UW in May 2013, Singer began to turn his idea into reality by starting a nonprofit called Wyoming Stargazing.
“We’re just beginning to offer free public stargazing events for locals and visitors,” Singer says. “We’re also going to begin giving private stargazing events at some of the resorts in town, and we have plans to do some telescope-building workshops as a course through the community college.
“The ultimate goal is to build a public observatory and planetarium in the valley.”
Singer believes his time at UW helped prepare him to lead the charge. “Throughout my master’s degree and my Ph.D., I was involved with more than just my academics,” he says. “During my master’s degree I got really involved in the sustainability movement at UW. I was the president of the student group and also the graduate student representative of the sustainability committee. I developed a lot of good collaboration skills and leadership skills while I was doing that. I networked with a lot of different people in different departments and was able to really move things along in terms of sustainability at UW.”
Currently, Singer is concentrating on getting the word out about Wyoming Stargazing. “Then the two things that remain are a lot of fundraising and finding the appropriate spot for the observatory and planetarium,” he says.
Singer believes astronomy is a great way to get children and adults excited about science. “Astronomy has this incredible ‘wow’ factor to it,” he says. “I see astronomy as kind of a conduit to get people excited about science and to help them become more scientifically literate. One of the missions of Wyoming Stargazing is to promote scientific literacy.”
But there’s more to it than science, Singer says. “I think that we have lost our connection with the night sky in most places in the country because we can’t see the stars anymore. In Jackson you can. You can see the Milky Way almost every night of the year when it’s clear. It’s just phenomenal. I really want to reconnect people with the rest of the universe that we’re a part of.”
One of the 10 Cowboy Ethics adopted by UW is “Always finish what you start.” Alumnus Samuel Singer hopes to put this principle into action by seeing his dream of an observatory come to life in Jackson, Wyo.