Sometimes it’s nice to take your gaze from your glowing screen to the glowing night sky instead. Whether you’re serious about astronomy or just love gazing up at the stars and the moon, there’s no doubt that stargazing is relaxing and makes you feel part of something bigger than what’s going on in your life.
Unfortunately, unless you live far out in the country, light pollution for cities and towns greatly diminish the amount and quality of stars that you’ll see.
While the big and little dippers are usually easy enough to see, they are just a tiny fraction of the constellations out there. But even around the bright lights of the city, there are places you can go to study a deeper part of the universe.
Head to one of the Central Ohio Planetariums or Astronomy Parks listed below to learn more about the stars out there. Planetarium shows are perfect for any time of the year no matter the weather, and will give you a deeper understanding about the night sky and our universe through educational programs.
Astronomy Parks and Observatories may offer the option tours and guided observations, as well as the opportunity for stargazing on your own, often with equipment available for use.
Upcoming Celestial Events
February 1 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
February 16 – Full Moon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Hunger Moon, since the harsh weather made hunting difficult.
February 16 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 26.3 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.
March 2 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
March 18 – Full Moon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Crow Moon, the Crust Moon, the Sap Moon, and the Lenten Moon.
March 20 – March Equinox. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere.
April 1 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
April 16 – Full Moon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Growing Moon, and the Egg Moon. Many coastal tribes called it the Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.
April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
April 29 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 20.6 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
April 30 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
April 30 – Partial Solar Eclipse. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Sun, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection. This partial eclipse will be visible throughout most of the southeast Pacific Ocean and southern South America. It will be best seen from Argentina with 53% coverage. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
May 6, 7 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7. The waxing crescent moon will set early in the evening, leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
May 16 – Full Moon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
May 16 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout all of North America, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, and parts of western Europe and western Africa. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
May 30 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
NOTE: Some may be parks and planetariums are closed temporarily or have the telescopes disabled, so please check links and plan to bring your own equipment until gathering restrictions have been lifted.
Central Ohio Observatories and Astronomy Parks
Astronomy Parks are open air in nature, and observatories use telescopes to view the actual night sky. Observatories often have a dome ceiling that opens for a large telescope.
Perkins Observatory at Ohio Wesleyan University
Perkins Observatory is primarily an active research and educational facility for the OWU Astronomy Department. They also host public programs that are family friendly almost every Friday evening throughout the year. Public programs consist of an orientation and safety talk, astronomy lecture, and tours of the Observatory.
Programs may include observing sessions, weather permitting, with the large telescope in the dome, as well as smaller ones on the lawn. They offer solar telescopes for use during daytime programs.
Perkins Observatory has reopened to the public for special programming on select Friday evenings.
Events are still held on cloudy evenings, but may not include use of the telescopes. Rocket launches may be available during daytime programs. In addition to the guided activities, you can explore the exhibits and library, and use of the computers with astronomy software.
See details about the public programs. Advance tickets are typically required and can be purchased approximately a month in advance. Tickets are $10 in advance, and $12 if scheduled day-of, if available. See online schedule before you arrive to purchase tickets at the door, as space only permits 80 people. Tickets regularly sell out, so make sure to check the schedule for 2022!
July: CELEBRATION OF THE SUN! dates tba for 2022
Special series of programs called “Celebration of the Sun!” During early summer, when the sun sets too late to schedule evening programs, Perkins will host late afternoon activities to celebrate, talk about, and observe with special telescopes (weather permitting) our incredible “day star,” the sun.
John Glenn Astronomy Park
The John Glenn Astronomy Park opened in Hocking Hills in July of 2018. Hocking Hills boasts minimal light pollution, which makes this park and amazing place for stargazing. The park features red lighting to combat light pollution, an interactive sundial, and a 540 sq. foot observatory with retractable roof with powerful telescopes.
The JGAP park is open 24/7 to enjoy the night sky on your own, except during special events. Guests must sign in at a kiosk. Visit during the day to view the sun through special filtered solar telescopes, astronomical activities, and the solar system walk. Come during the evening for scheduled programs to take in views of the night sky through the 28-inch telescope in the roll-off roof observatory (programs currently suspended). Find more details on the website.
Currently suspended: Telescope programs are not available right now, but guided stargazing is available on clear nights on the weekend. Check Facebook to see how the skies look in the area. You will likely need parking passes on clear nights as limited spots are available and there is nowhere else safe to park.
Warren Rupp Observatory
The Warren Rupp Observatory has one of the world’s largest amateur operated telescopes. It’s located in Hidden Hollow Camp, near Mansfield, Ohio, with some of the darker skies in the state. The observatory is operated by the Richland Astronomical Society who’s members dedicate themselves to public awareness of astronomy. The observatory has a 36″ Newtonian Telescope “Big Blue” in the 2 story dome.
Public Nights are typically held on the first Saturday of each month from March through November. Check the website about upcoming events. 5127 Possum Run Rd. Bellville, Ohio 44813
Central Ohio Planetariums
A planetarium is a “sky theater” with projection of the sky and universe are shown on a dome ceiling. Planetarium shows are typically 30-60 minutes and don’t allow late admittance into the dark theatre. Be sure to arrive on time. Food and drink are not permitted.
Live shows are appropriate for ages 3-4, as long as they can sit in the dark for an hour. Our 4.5 year old did great and really enjoyed the show, but one of us took our 2.5 year old out partway through so she didn’t disturb others once she got restless.
The largest planetarium in the state, you’ll experience the latest digital technology under a 60-foot dome projecting shows ranging from tonight’s central Ohio sky to weather in the solar system. They offer a variety of shows every day that COSI is open, and offer general admission shows (recommended age 7+, and Jr. Shows geared towards age 3-10.
Planetarium tickets may be purchased separately or added to COSI’s general admission price. Tickets are $4-$8.
The Arne Slettebak Planetarium at The Ohio State University, Smith Laboratory
No public programs currently scheduled.
This 63-seat 30-foot dome theater features comfy chairs and amazing views of the night sky, as you go on a digital journey to the planets, stars, and galaxies. They offer free live shows, fulldome feature presentations, and special events presented by students and faculty in OSU Department of Astronomy.
Shows schedules are typically released a few weeks before the event; reservations can be made a week in advance. Click here to see if any shows are scheduled.
SciDome at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology
The Works and SciDome are OPEN! The Works hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 9 am to Noon and 1 pm to 4 pm. Advance reservations required! SciDome shows are held Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 10:30 am & 2:30 pm.
Visitors to The Works will enjoy the 30-ft, 4K projection SciDome free with their paid museum admission or membership. They offer 30 minute shows geared towards the general audience and for kids.
The schedule can be found online, and you can reserve your ticket at the front desk when you arrive. Saturdays are the busiest day, so arrive a little early and explore the museum while you wait. The 1st floor includes hands-on educational and experimental fun for kids of all ages. The 2nd floor features life-size displays of the history of the area, as well as some interactive exhibits.
Drive a little further for an amazing view of the stars
Other Ohio Planetariums
BGSU Planetarium in Bowling Green
Appold Planetarium in Sylvania at Lourdes College
Ritter Planetarium in Toledo at University of Toledo
Shafran Planetarium in Cleveland
Walter Schuele Planetarium in Bay Village
Hoover-Price Planetarium in Canton
Fred Silk Planetarium in Wilmot
Wilderness Center Planetarium in Wilmot
Kent State University Planetarium in Kent
Ward Beecher Planetarium in Youngstown at Youngstown State University
Caryl D. Philips Space Theater in Dayton at Boonshaft Museum of Discovery
Drake Planetarium in Norwood
Astro Theater in Wopakoneta at Neil Armstrong Museum
Other Observatories to explore
Observatory Park in Montville, Ohio (10610 Clay St, Montville, OH 44064). Observatory Park features the Nassau Astronomical Station with one of the largest public viewing telescopes in Ohio. The Park is one of only 39 “Dark Sky Parks” in the US. See schedule for public events and registration.
“This 1,100-acre park encourages visitors to explore Nature from the ground to the galaxies. Six trails total 3.97 miles. Numerous site features include a trail with interactive pods representing each trail proportionate to the sun, a trail with interactive stations representing ways to study weather, life-sized cornerstones of the Great Pyramid of Giza, earthern mounds, henge stones and, via a woodland trail, access to the Nassau Astronomical Station.”
Cherry Springs State Park (4639 Cherry Springs Rd, Coudersport, PA 16915) This 82-acre state park is approximately 6 hours from Columbus and offers cherry trees, clear skies for star-gazing & nearby Susquehanna Trail. The park is the darkest point east of the Mississippi. You can see about 10,000 stars with your naked eye. It’s one of only twelve International Dark Sky Parks in the world.
Upcoming star-gazing and planetarium events
Monday, January 24, 2022
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Friday, January 28, 2022
Saturday, January 29, 2022