Here’s a program that’s out of this world. For a specially themed Astronomy Night on July 13, Ravinia has programmed an evening of space-related works, all performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru. Short Ride in a Fast Machine, John Adams’ ode to perpetual motion, opens the program, followed by Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, best known as the theme of Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gustav Holst’s The Planets, an orchestral suite with each movement named after a celestial body and a corresponding astrological sign.

While the CSO and Chorus perform Holst’s work, Ravinia will screen the film The Planets: An HD Odyssey (2010), featuring NASA-produced footage of the solar system. If concertgoers would prefer to watch the skies themselves, there will be telescopes positioned throughout Ravinia’s lawn (weather permitting). Before, during and after the concert, patrons may look through the instruments to gaze at the moon, stars and other heavenly wonders.

“Gazing at the rings of Saturn or the Moon’s craters captures the imagination, no matter how old you are,” said Dr. Donald Lubowich, coordinator of astronomy outreach at New York’s Hofstra University and organizer of Ravinia’s Astronomy Night. “Scope viewing will be combined with kid-friendly, hands-on activities, aimed to help everyone learn more about space, the solar system and the planets.”

Representatives from the following groups will be on site with telescopes: Chicago Astronomical Society, Naperville Astronomical Association, Northwest Suburban Astronomers, Skokie Valley Astronomers and the SouthWest Astronomy Observers Group. Other groups providing assistance for the program are Astronomy Magazine, the Boeing Co., Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, and Hofstra University.

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