Turkey Run State Park

23 03 2012

Nature Center Planetarium, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana. Photo credit: JR

My students are on spring break this week, so we snuck away to go hiking for a couple of days at Turkey Run State Park.* When we stopped in at the Nature Center to read about the local geology yesterday afternoon, we discovered a miniature planetarium in the building. We were anxious to get out on the trails so we didn’t make the planetarium show yesterday, but we made time to watch it this afternoon.

As you can see by the photo, it’s a nice set up—a small dome with a movable projector. The park interpreter, Angie, opened the show with a projection of the sun, rising in the east, following its early spring line, and setting in the west. After this, she walked the audience through the circumpolar constellations (with relevant myths) before branching out to the story of Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, and Perseus. Someone had clearly taught the kids sitting across from us something about Greek mythology—they were all over the backstory for Perseus. The last third of the program was dedicated to Orion and the surrounding constellations. Props to the woman in the audience who knew the distance to Betelgeuse (640 light years from here, if you’re interested).

Poster, Nature Center Planetarium, Turkey Run State Park, Indiana. Photo credit: JR

Angie did a great job, even pointing out the difference between a constellation (Ursa Major) and an asterism (Big Dipper). I could tell she was used to talking to children because she worked in several “let’s review what we’ve learned” passages into the presentation. And before she brought the program to a close, she rotated the stars so the audience could watch the circumpolar constellations do their thing over the course of the artificial night. The program ended where it began, with the sun rising in the east, bringing us full circle in just over forty minutes.


*The photos from my phone are available on my flickr site. Sadly, I don’t have any from our hike down Falls Canyon “trail” (the trail looked suspiciously like the creek bed), mostly because I was never able to find a stable point to stop and mess with my phone. If I learned one thing thing this weekend, it was this: do not hike Trail 9 at Turkey Run State Park in the rain. There’s a reason it’s considered the most rugged trail in the park.