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 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.
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 for safety and to not disturb the program, so 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
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 throughout the academic year, and are presented by students and faculty in OSU Department of Astronomy.
Shows schedules are typically released a few weeks before the event, but reservations can only 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 SciDome is a 30-ft, 4K projection planetarium launched by The Works and The Ohio State University. Visitors to The Works will enjoy the SciDome free with their paid museum admission or membership. They offer 30 minute shows geared towards the general audience and for kids.
Shows are held most days that the museum is open. 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.
Central Ohio Observatories and Astronomy Parks
Astronomy Parks are open air in nature, and observatories use telescopes to view the actual night sky. They 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.
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
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. Find more details on the website.
From March 1 though November 9, 2019, they host programs on clear Friday and Saturday nights. The programs are free, but parking is limited and must be reserved to guarantee admission. 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.
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 Mountville, 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.
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 considered 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.