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
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. The nearly full moon will be a problem this year. Its glare will block out all but the brightest meteors. But if you are patient you may still be able to catch a few good ones. 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 27 – Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 03:33 UTC. 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. This is also the first of three supermoons for 2021. The Moon will be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
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 second quarter moon will block out some of the faintest meteors this year. But if you are patient, you should still should be able to catch quite a few good ones. 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 11 – 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 phase occurs at 19:01 UTC. 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.
May 17 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 22 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.
May 26 – Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 11:14 UTC. 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. This is also the second of three supermoons for 2021. The Moon will be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
May 26 – 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 the Pacific Ocean and parts of eastern Asia, Japan, Australia, and western North America.
June 10 – 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 phase occurs at 10:54 UTC. 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.
June 10 – Annular Solar Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. The path of this eclipse will be confined to extreme eastern Russia, the Arctic Ocean, western Greenland, and Canada. A partial eclipse will be visible in the northeastern United States, Europe, and most of Russia.
June 21 – June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 03:21 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
June 24 – Full Moon, Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 18:40 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Rose Moon and the Honey Moon. This is also the last of three supermoons for 2021. The Moon will be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.
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
NOTE: Perkins Observatory is closed until further notice, but they are holding virtual programs – see below.
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 when they are open. 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.
Virtual Programs at Perkins Observatory
For the time being, Perkins is holding virtual events via Zoom on select Friday evenings.
In person programming will likely resume after the University reopens to public
Once they reopen, events are still held on cloudy evenings, and 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.
Perkins Observatory also offers and adult lecture series, New Vistas in Astronomy. This lecture series meets on one Thursday night each month, and is geared toward a more adult audience. OSU and OWU professors discuss their current research and new findings during these mini-courses in astronomy. Tickets are $10 for each lecture.
John Glenn Astronomy Park
JGAP Programs Currently Suspended; JGAP grounds open for independent viewing.
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.
Free parking passes are now required for all nights at JGAP during peak hours from 8 pm until midnight). Get yours at http://registration.jgap.org/. You cannot park elsewhere and walk to the park, as there is no safe path or trail. Masks are required on any paved or brick areas.
Currently suspended: From March 1 though early November, they host programs on clear Friday and Saturday nights (NOT being held Summer of 2020). The programs are free, but parking is limited and must be reserved to guarantee admission for public programs. Programs begin on the half hour nearest sunset (except daytime programs) and are scheduled approximately two month in advance. They are weather dependent and cancellations will be e-mailed by noon on the day that a program is cancelled.
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.
Currently cancelled: All Public Nights will be held on the first Saturday of each month (public nights are cancelled through Spring 2021; possible longer), until otherwise noted, 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.
COSI is currently closed.
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
Ohio State University is currently closed.
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