See the Galaxy at John Glenn Astronomy Park

John Glenn Astronomy Park in Hocking Hills is the sight to see for star gazers. Bright lights and constellations paint the black sky above. The Astronomy Park allows visitors to see the Andromeda Galaxy, which is over 2.5 million lightyears away.  

The park’s director, Brad Hoehne, brought the park’s vision to life because of his experience in volunteering at an observatory working public program.  

“I frequently got questions from people asking me, ‘Where can I go to see the night sky?’” Hoehne says.  

Hoehne’s mind started spinning, and then the creation of his 3D model became a reality. The 3D model was the birth of what is now John Glenn Astronomy Park. The model was shown to the Friends of Hocking Hills Society and thus, the park construction began.  

Hoehne’s dream came true on the 2018 summer solstice. The park became open to the public and has stayed a popular spot for the locals of the Hocking Hills area.  

The area remains well-lit for visitors, though there is one issue that is harmful to the park’s wonderful sights: light pollution. Light pollution is the brightening of the night sky caused by streetlights and other manufactured sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planets.  

For guests looking for the perfect night to see the stars, Hoehne believes late August has the best night skies. Any night without a moon will also bring out the beauty of the galaxy for visitors to see. Guides also give tours on Fridays and Saturdays and bring telescopes for guests to see the stars in greater detail.  

Photo by George Shillcock

For Hoehne’s park, the light pollution is caused by billboards on nearby roadways.  

The park makes blocking light a key part in its design with walls blocking incoming light from passing cars. The walls also track the sunrise and sunset through an angled cutout. The floor has specific spots for people to stand so their shadow is cast out in a specific direction.  

The bricks that make up the plaza’s floor serve a purpose by indicating the degrees of a compass, which allows people to accurately chart stars and celestial bodies. In short, every part of the park is thoroughly designed for a cosmic experience.  

“I have never run out of things to look at doing this for 25 years,” Hoehne says.