John Glenn Astronomy Park in Hocking Hills
"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 for many young people for a 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 a 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.
Q. WHEN WILL YOU BE DOING PROGRAMS FOR THE PUBLIC?
A. Beginning on June 23, we will be doing weekly programs for members of the public. Starting sometime in late August or Early September, we anticipate doing two weekly programs. During the month of July, we will be doing daytime programs on Saturday. Once the date of our Grand Opening comes near, we will be informing people of the specific times and dates of our programs.
Q. WHAT IF THE WEATHER IS BAD?
A. Astronomy is, alas, at the mercy of the weather- and Ohio's weather is notoriously fickle. All programs are weather contingent. If it is raining or extremely cloudy, the public program will be canceled that night (or that day in the case of daytime programs). Once the date of our Grand Opening comes near, we will be informing people of the specific times and dates of our programs and providing up-to-date information on weather conditions on this website and those of the Hocking Hills State Park.
Q. CAN I BRING MY OWN TELESCOPE TO OBSERVE WITH?
A. Of course! The JGAP was originally conceived as a place where members of the public who are interested in stargazing can enjoy the night sky at a location that is free of light pollution. At our entrance gate, there will be a kiosk that will feature a computer where visitors will sign in. This will inform the Hocking Hills park officers of your presence. No one will be permitted use the site without signing in at the kiosk first.
Q. DO I HAVE TO HAVE A TELESCOPE TO USE JGAP?
A. For some, the best stargazing is done with the binoculars we were born with- our eyes! So, all are welcome, telescope or not!
Q. CAN I CAMP AT THE JOHN GLENN ASTRONOMY PARK?
A. Camping will not be permitted on the site. However, the site will be open to the public 24 hours a day and 7 days a week (except for special events), and, if you've got the stamina to stay up all night, there's nothing to keep you from enjoying the sky all night long.
The Hocking Hills State Park has several nearby camping areas and many cabins for rental. The broader Hocking Hills region is home to many bed-and-breakfasts, cabins, and small resorts. Information about the Hocking Hills State Park campsite and cabin rentals can be found here. Information about private accommodations can be found here.
Q. CAN I BAR-B-QUE, GRILL, OR BRING A PICNIC OR LAWN CHAIR?
A. The light from campfires and grills disturbs those who attempt to use the site and produces ashes that will soil telescope optics, so any form of open flame will not be permitted on the site. However, if you'd like to lay down a blanket or set up a lawn chair, please feel free! (Blankets are especially appropriate for nights in which meteor showers predicted).
Q. I'D LIKE TO HELP, WHO DO I GET IN TOUCH WITH?