The John Glenn Astronomy Park is dedicated to sparking an interest in science, learning, and exploration by sharing with visitors the wonders of the sky, both day and night.
Throughout most of history, humans have been inspired by the wondrous sight of a night sky filled with stars. Our stories and mythologies have been mapped upon the patterns of the stars. Our calendars, festivals, and agriculture have been linked to the movement of the heavens. In recent times, a view of the night sky has been the inspiration in many young people for lifelong passion for science in general.
Sadly, however, the lights of our modern world have, in recent decades, put our view of the heavens behind a veil of artificial light. Most of us live under a sky that gives only a pale, washed out hint of its former beauty.
An astronomy park in the Hocking Hills State park was inspired by our vanishing night sky. The Hocking Hills, in rural southeastern Ohio, is one of the few areas left in the state of Ohio where the night sky can be seen in its near pristine state. The observatory will provide a venue for visitors to the Hocking Hills State park to experience the night sky through a large telescope and with their eyes.
The observatory also draws on the countless generations of humans who marked the important changes of the seasons through the motion of the sun and who built great structures, like Stonehenge in England, the Chaco Canyon Kiva in New Mexico or many Hopewell and Fort Ancient Earthworks in Ohio, that commemorated these days. The plaza has been designed to allow the rays of the sun to fall upon a special central point on the first day of each of the four seasons.
01. What's up in the Sky Now
Rising in the northeast on October and November evenings, the Constellation Auriga is easy to discern even from a suburban locale. Just look for the bright, pale yellow, star Capella in the northeast on early evenings.
The form of this constellation is about as evocative in shape as a bean bag chair. So, what does the name "Auriga" refer to?
But, curious though this might be, the ancient Greeks and Mesopotamians did not stop there. To this chariot man, they added a goat.
The name "Capella" comes from the latin for "little goat".
If you look closely, there are three medium bright stars to Capella's left. These are called, appropriately enough, "the kids".
Auriga is a great constellation to explore with binoculars.
02. JGAP Under Construction
The John Glenn Astronomy Park is under construction.
The walls around the plaza have been poured, and measurements have been made to align he park with the heavens.
The sliding-roof observatory is also making progress.
We are seeking toys, games, and puzzles of an astronomical nature to populate our program space.
If you have an old Saturn V rocket model, a cool "space game", astronomy picture books or something else that might be appropriate, please contact us.
Watch this space for more updates.!
03. Total solar ecLipse,
Did you see the Great American Eclipse of 2017?
If not, you missed one of the most spectacular sights that nature affords.
Brad Hoehne has created a video of the moments surrounding totality, the short period when the sun is completely blocked by the moon.
Turn up the sound and listen to the excitement of the crowd!
04. THe loneliest planets
Imagine hovering in the clouds of frigid Neptune in a balloon. The sky, like ours would be blue, though the air, made up mostly of methane, would be unbreathable.
The sun would be a searing dot in the sky, but would be only 1/900th as bright as it appears on Earth. You would feel no warmth from it on your upturned face.
It would be astonishingly, profoundly, flower-freezingly, cold.
This month, Neptune, and its closer sister world, Uranus are visible in small telescopes and small binoculars.
A good finder chart will be needed to find them.
“The greatest thing we can do is inspire young minds...”
- John Glenn
About John Glenn
John Glen was a decorated Military Pilot, a US Senator, and, most famously, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.
John Glenn was born in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio and was raised in the small town of New Concord, home of Muskingum University where he attended college. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps soon after the US entered World War II. He was a highly decorated pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, as well, and few over 90 missions.
After the war, he became a test pilot and developed a reputation as an outstanding aviator. It was this experience that the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration cited when choosing him as one of the Mercury 7, the first American Astronauts.
On February 20, 1962, Glenn was launched into space atop an early Atlas rocket, a vehicle that had experienced several catastrophic failures prior to this mission, and orbited the earth three times during a mission that lasted 4 hours and 55 minutes. Towards the end of the flight, a failure in the automatic-control system of his Mercury Capsule, Friendship 7, required him to take the controls and fly manually. This was the first time this had been done. The landing was successful, and Glenn returned to a hero's welcome.
After retiring from NASA, Glenn entered and made three attempts to run for the US Senate- succeeding on his third try. During his senate career he was considered an expert in science and technology and on military matters. He was instrumental in the creation of programs that dealt with environmental and safety issues at nuclear facilities.
Glenn served in the Senate until his retirement in December 1998. That same year, it was announced that he would be returning to space on board the space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-95 crew. Serving as Payload Specialist, Glenn began his second flight on October 29, 1998, making him the oldest person to fly in space.
In 2015 John Glenn gave his permission to use his name on the Observatory Park project being planned by the Friends of the Hocking Hills.
Glenn died on December 8, 2016 at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. We hope to see his legacy of exploration and inspiration continue!