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
October 1 – Full Moon. 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 21:06 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. It has also been known as the Travel Moon, Blood Moon, and Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.
October 1 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 25.8 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.
October 7 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th. The second quarter moon will ensure dark skies in the early evening for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 13 – Mars at Opposition. The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet’s orange surface.
October 16 – 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 19:32 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.
October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of the 21st and the morning of of the 22nd. The waxing crescent moon will set before midnight leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 29, 30 – Southern Taurids Meteor Shower. The Southern Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. This shower is, however, famous for producing a higher than normal percentage of bright fireballs. The Southern Taurids is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 10 to November 20. It peaks this year on the the night of the 29th and morning of the 30th. The nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 31 – Full Moon, Blue Moon. 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 14:51 UTC. Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is sometimes referred to as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only occurs every few months, giving rise to the term “once in a blue moon”.
October 31 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
November 10 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 19.1 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.
November 11, 12 – Northern Taurids Meteor Shower. The Northern Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. This shower is, however, famous for producing a higher than normal percentage of bright fireballs. The Northern Taurids is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The shower runs annually from October 20 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of the 11th and morning of the 12th. The thin crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year leaving dark skies for what could be a really good show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
November 15 – 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 05:08 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.
November 16, 17 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 16th and morning of the 17th. The 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 Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
November 30 – Full Moon. 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 09:32 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Dark Moon.
November 30 – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra. During this type of eclipse the Moon will darken slightly but not completely. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, the Pacific Ocean, and northeastern Asia including Japan. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The morning of the 15th could also be nearly as active this year. The nearly new moon will ensure 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 Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
December 14 – 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 16:18 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.
December 21 – December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 10:02 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
December 21 – Rare Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will take place on December 21. This rare conjunction of these two planets is known as a great conjunction. The last great conjunction occurred in the year 2000. The two bright planets will appear only 7 arc minutes of each other in the night sky. They will be so close that they will appear to make a bright double planet. Look to the west just after sunset for this impressive and rare planetary pair.
December 21, 22 – Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd. The first quarter moon should set just after midnight leaving dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
December 30 – Full Moon. 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 03:30 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Long Nights Moon and the Moon Before Yule.
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. All Public Nights will be held on the first Saturday of each month (public nights are cancelled during Summer/Fall 2020), until otherwise noted, from March through November. Check the website about upcoming events. 5127 Possum Run Rd. Bellville, Ohio 44813
Central Ohio Planetariums
Planetariums are currently closed until further notice.
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
Closed until further notice
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.
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.
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