Esky’s Planet Walk to get an upgrade

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Dan Young, co-chair of the Delta Astronomical Society and designer of Escanaba’s Planet Walk, points to an informational placard of the sun on Ludington Street. The current planet walk was completed in 2002. The society is planning to upgrade the planet walk with updated information, repairs and improvements.

ESCANABA — Escanaba’s Planet Walk on Ludington Street will be getting an upgrade. Years of outside elements have taken a toll on the posts and attached placards stationed along the 11 block walking tour.

The beginning of the planet walk was installed in front of the Escanaba Public Library in 2002. Designer and co-chair of the Delta Astronomical Society (DAS), Dan Young, created the scale model of the solar system. Originally Young wanted to install the planet walk in Ludington Park, but the idea surfaced it would be better suited along Ludington Street. The sun’s station was placed near city hall. Starting from the sun, Young marked where each planet would be placed using the scale he created.

“Turned out, Earth is right in front of the American flag in front of city hall and the library,” said Young.

Now 17 years later Young and the DAS have plans to rework the planet walk in 2020. It will be refurbished with color plaques and a QR code that can be scanned using a cell phone. The code will send a video to the cell phone providing additional information from each station. There are 12 stations at this time, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Voyager 1.

To limit cost, new color placards will be formatted to fit into the original frames. The frames need minor repairs such as cleaning, staining, sealing and protection with scratch and fade-resistant hardened polycarbonate covers. The original plaques are etched aluminum and sealed beneath hardened polycarbonte and are fading and corroding.

Information at each station needs to be updated. When it was originally designed in 2001, the Hubbell Telescope didn’t have high resolution, Pluto hadn’t been visited, and Voyager 1 wasn’t close to entering interstellar space.

“Originally the Voyager was installed in front of Anderson Funeral Home and now it would be past Riverside Chevrolet if I were to place it to scale. Voyager keeps traveling,” said Young.

DAS members will provide all the labor and materials for the project.

“Each placard will be in color instead of black and white, the graphics will be suspended in high-tech, fade-resistant polymers printed in Escanaba by Genesis Graphics Company,” said Young. “The brochures will also have updated new scientific information and graphics.”

Young was hooked on astronomy after the first time he looked through a telescope.

“My parents got me a cheap three inch telescope for Christmas. My older brother and I took it up to a flat carport roof, set it up and pointed it at a bright star we saw in the sky … I looked through the eye piece and saw Saturn, and I was hooked,” Young said.

Young advises others who are newly interested in astronomy to buy a good pair of binoculars.

“Anything from a 10 x 50,” said Young. “Ten is the power of the little lenses, 50 is the size of the big ones. In astronomy, the most important thing is the size of the mirror … because the bigger they are, the more light they gather and it’s all about gathering light.”

A telescope or pair of binoculars with higher power will show more particles in the atmosphere. Young says there is a lot of humidity in this area and the air is not still.

“During a good freezing night you can get out and see a lot with a high powered scope,” said Young. “If you can stand the cold.”

Other ideas to get started in astronomy include purchasing an astronomy magazine and installing a free astronomy app on a cell phone. A mount of a telescope is just as important as the telescope, and a reflecting telescope is the best, noted Young.

The DAS started in 1985 and became a non-profit in 1989. In 1986 many people wanted to see Halley’s comet and the members got together to build a large telescope to view the comet. In 1991 the DAS broke ground for an observatory, 10 miles west of Escanaba.

“We keep the observatory kinda quiet because it’s on private property,” said Young.

From early spring to early fall, the DAS holds activities at the observatory.

“Usually we like to have observations during the first quarter of the moon, because that gives us a moon that’ll be in the sky soon after darkness falls and will have interesting stuff,” said Young. “…There are a lot of craters and mountains and stuff … In the first quarter you get some really nice shadow details so you can see relief.”

Watching the moon through a telescope allows you to see rims of craters light up from the sun, and large shadows moving over craters in real time.

The DAS is a club for people interested in astronomy and space. It meets the last Tuesday of each month, usually at Bay College. Anyone 13 years old and up can join. Dues are paid once a year, full membership is $25, students and seniors are $21. For $18 you can get the newsletter through email. DAS can be contacted by calling 789-0325 and for observation information call John Burroughs at 789-1414. Young can be contacted by email at dyoung@chartumi.net.