Man stargazing at John Glenn Astronomy Park in Logan (photo by Brad Hoehne)

Visit the Best Stargazing Spot in the Hocking Hills

John Glenn Astronomy Park director Brad Hoehne shares his inspiration for helping set aside a place where everyone can share in the splendor of the night sky. 

Humans have always looked to the night sky and marveled. For countless generations, we have put our hopes, dreams and stories in the connect-the-dots patterns above. Those who built Stonehenge did it. Those who laid down the stones of the ancient Kivas in New Mexico’s desert to match the rising sun and stars did it. And those who formed the great mound of the Newark Earthworks in Ohio to point to the most northerly moonrise — a feat which would have taken more than 18 years of careful observation to pull off — were clearly obsessed with the heavens. 

Gazing at the sky and stars is in our bones.

Sadly, since the advent of electric lighting, the sky in its unblemished state has faded from view. Most of us live in a place where the ghostly arc of the Milky Way is invisible against a pall of illumination. From my backyard in Columbus, a meager few dozen stars can be made out.

In the early 2000s, I found myself confronted with a question: “Where can I go to see the stars?”

Cities were too bright. Parks were closed after dark. Private land was off limits. The ordinary stargazer had been squeezed out of the places where they could engage in one of humanity’s oldest pastimes. It was as if someone had drawn a curtain over the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley.

For this reason, back in 2003, I dreamed of a place that was open, convenient, away from city lights and amenable to stargazing. It would be a place anyone could visit and one that paid homage to the thousands of generations of humans that watched the skies before us. The park’s features would capture the rising and setting of the sun on the first days of the seasons, like Stonehenge or the great Mayan temples of Chichen Itza.

Members of the organization Friends of the Hocking Hills State Park worked to make the idea a reality. Why the Hocking Hills? It was in the middle of one of the few remaining oases of dark sky in Ohio. There were hundreds of campgrounds, cabins and other lodgings nearby. Millions of people were within easy driving distance. Finally, thanks to the rerouting of state Route 664, a newly formed plot of land on a suitable plateau had become available.

Since opening on the first day of summer in 2018, John Glenn Astronomy Park has shown tens of thousands of people the rugged mountains and craters of the moon, the hard-to-believe-they’re-real rings of Saturn, shimmering great globular clusters a half million stars strong, the ghostly glow of stellar nurseries and the remnants of dying stars — all through one of our telescopes.

Others have visited the park to lie on their backs and count meteors during the annual Perseid meteor shower. Thousands sat socially distanced in our field and gawked at the comet NEOWISE, which hovered in the evening sky during the first summer of the pandemic. Many have turned this place into a mecca for capturing photos of constellations, the Milky Way and objects in the distant heavens.

You, too, are welcome to visit and marvel along with us.

20531 St. Rte. 664, Logan 43138,