John Glenn Astronomy Park Opens for the Summer Solstice
Tonight, at the end of the longest day of the year, a new public space to watch the heavens will open in Hocking Hills. The grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting for the John Glenn Astronomy Park will start at 6:30 p.m. this evening with music, a skydiver and, of course, telescopes pointed up at the moon and the planet Jupiter.
Local and state luminaries including Julianne Burroughs, board president for Friends of Hocking Hills State Park, Dr. Janet Kavandi, former astronaut and current director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Brad Hoehne, director of the John Glenn Astronomy Park, will be present to celebrate the Summer Solstice at the new observatory that’s been more than a decade in the making.
Only in the last few years has the idea for an astronomy park far from the polluting lights of the city evolved from a dream to a reality. Fundraising for the project began in earnest about two years ago, with Friends of Hocking Hills State Park hoping to raise $1.6 million to lease and construct the site.
“John Glenn…about a year before his death had given us naming rights to the astronomy park which was great because it’s always nice to have a famous name behind a project,” said Burroughs in November.
The park sits on land leased from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, atop one of the highest peaks in Hocking County, about 40 miles from Columbus. Along with an indoor observatory housing a 28-inch telescope, the park’s largest feature is an 80-foot solar plaza, encircled by six brick structures, each slotted diagonally through the center. Sunlight passing through these slots will help observers track the sun and mark the annual equinoxes and solstices – including today’s Summer Solstice.
Now that it’s officially open, the park will be completely free to the public.
“It’s about education, that’s why we’re here, because there’s this whole other world that we – well, I personally don’t know much about,” said Burroughs in November. “It’ll be a wonderful addition to the Hocking Hills area…we get international tourists and it’s an international destination that people come to all the time because it’s a beautiful area.”
The opening ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. at John Glenn Astronomy Park, 20298 State Route 664, Logan.
For more information, visit https://jgap.info/.