Spend An Evening Under The Stars At The Ohio State Planetarium

Inside this brick-and-concrete building at 242 West 18th Avenue on The Ohio State University’s campus, I spent two years learning about reporting, interviewing, news and feature writing, editing and public relations. When I graduaJournalism Building, Ohio State Universityted, I took more than a master’s degree in journalism with me. I had dozens of clips from stories I’d written for the student newspaper, The Lantern; a thesis on the image of women in the posters of World War I, and an enthusiastic appreciation for journalism history and literary journalism that continues to this day.

When I walked down West 18th Avenue last week for the first time in 22 years, I stopped at the Journalism Building to look around, thought about some things that have changed, and left feeling a little sad. The School of Journalism is now part of the School of Communications. The Journalism Library is now the Arts & Sciences Business Services Center. And my thesis advisers and favorite professors, Joseph McKerns and David Richter, are no longer there.

Happily, some other things have stayed the same. The building still houses a branch of the U.S. Postal Service.  And, most pertinent to this blog post, it is still next door to a fascinating feature of campus that I never knew existed until recently: the OSU Planetarium, on the fifth floor of Smith Laboratory.Smith Laboratory, Ohio State University

Since 1967, the OSU Planetarium has been offering educational programs on the night sky to students and the central Ohio community. Once, it used a Spitz A3P opto-mechanical star ball to display up to 1,500 stars, the solar system in the past and future, and the full range of solar and lunar motions on a dome. Now, it relies on a state-of-the-art system that gives participants a fascinating digital view of the planets, stars, and galaxies in the night sky.

In 2012, the planetarium was redesigned and refitted with a 30-foot SciDome digital dome theater with high-definition digital surround-sound projection. The NanoSeam projection dome consists of a hemispherical aluminum support framework to which about 80 curved screen panels are mounted without overlapping, creating a seamless appearance of a virtual night sky.

Sixty-threOSU Planetariume new custom seats were installed underneath the dome. Upholstered in scarlet with gray headrests, the padded reclining seats are arranged as front-facing semi-circles. Angled seat backs have been providing comfortable views of scenes projected on the dome since the planetarium reopened to the public in October 2013.

Last week, I visited the planetarium for the first time when the Ohio State University Alumni Association hosted “Alumni Night Under the Stars” there. Wayne Schlingman, the planetarium’s director, treated us to a free, hour-long program called “The Sky Tonight.” We learned about basic astronomy, the annual motions of the planets and the sun, the daily motion of the sun and stars, the orientation of the sky, locations of well-known constellations and stars, and light pollution in urban areas.

The planetarium offers several different free programs to the public with an advance reservation on Friday evenings during the academic year. On Saturday afternoonsOSU Planetarium, versions of the hour-long presentations are offered for elementary school-aged children. Students and faculty in Ohio State’s Department of Astronomy take participants on a voyage through the solar system, present the history of telescopes and how they work, provide an overview of the first era of space exploration in the late 1960s and early 1970s, share and what is being designed to create new opportunities to launch and land a spacecraft on the moon, and describe how scientists are using tiny particles called neutrinos to explore exploding stars, black holes and other features of the universe. Special programs are being planned for National Astronomy Day on April 25. For more information, visit https://planetarium.osu.edu/.

If, like me, you learned the basics of astronomy in a high school Planetary Science class and you’re curious to discover more about the night sky, you might also be interested in visiting Perkins Observatory in Delaware for a unique lecture series on the first Thursday evening of the month.  The series explores the relationship between astronomy and other academic disciplines like literature, technology and journalism. April’s program featured a group of Ohio Wesleyan University professors reading some of their favorite passages from works like Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown; Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven, by Mark Twain; and Walt Whitman’s When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

New Vistas in Astronomy” is another once-monthly Thursday evening lecture series at Perkins Observatory in which professors from Ohio State and Ohio Wesleyan discuss their current research and new findings in their area of expertise. All of Perkins’ lectures in these series are open to the public for an $8 per-program fee.

If you’re an Ohio State graduate living in central Ohio, consider attending other upcoming OSU Alumni Association events, such as “Derby Mixology” and Ohio State Day at Cedar Point. For more information, visit http://www.osu.edu/alumni/activities-and-events/events/

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