For Jeffrey Wise, it was love at first sight—first sight of Jupiter, that is. Unsure what he wanted to do after high school, the Reynoldsburg native found his calling one fateful moment when he found himself looking through a friend’s telescope
in the south of France.
“I was there for a weekend, and it was super magical. It was the first time that I ever saw Jupiter with my own eyes through a telescope. It blew my mind and sparked this fire in me.” Returning to Columbus, Wise enrolled as a non-traditional student, first at Columbus State Community College and now at OSU. His current Celestial Stroll project is driven by the desire to bring a similar sense of wonder to Columbus. The proposed science and art exhibition would create a permanent scale model of the solar system to educate and inspire our community.
“When I was learning about the scaling of the solar system” while a student at Columbus State Community College, Wise remembers, “I was intrigued” by a scale model in front of the Smithsonian along the National Mall in Washington D.C. In that model, the sun is about the size of a grapefruit. Wise thought that maybe Columbus could go bigger. “It would be one of the largest linear scale models that would be on permanent exhibit in the country.”
Wise reached out to the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) to help bring his vision into reality, and found enthusiastic support. COSI CEO David Chesebrough writes, “This seamless fusion of sculpture, interactive exhibits and science education matches well with COSI’s initiatives. Celestial Stroll portrays the nature of our existence on planet Earth, celebrates the human capacity to explore and uses interactive models as powerful tools of exploration. Through such an experience, we believe that the project has the capacity to instill a sense of wonder, change perceptions and inspire the next generation of explorers.”
Wise has also received advice from Ithaca, New York’s Sciencenter, based on their experiences with their own Sagan Planet Walk, a scale model roughly half the size of that planned for the Celestial Stroll. Wise credits them with helping him anticipate “how a local science center can work in conjunction with the project, making it mutually beneficial for the city, the science center and the outdoor space.” The Sciencenter also shared data with Wise about costs for construction and maintenance and the revenue generated by the extra traffic in the public space. Once the project is built, COSI has agreed to take on the ongoing maintenance costs.
Though the site isn’t finalized, Wise hopes that the model will be located on the Franklinton side of the Scioto River and integrated into the Scioto Greenways project currently under construction. The Greenways project creates about 33 acres of new green space downtown with walkways and bikeways that make it a natural fit with the Celestial Stroll. The model of our sun would be about a half meter across—about half the length of a standard baseball bat—and be located near the Main Street bridge, while the most distant planet, Neptune, would be across from the North Bank Park.
Wise hopes to construct the Sun out of a transparent spherical solar power collector, a technology recently developed by Andre Broessel. “The idea would be to have the model sun collect the energy from the Sun, from the city and from the Moon to power the light fixtures within each of the stations of the planets,” Wise explains. The four inner planets would fall between the Main Street and Town Street bridges. With a half meter wide sun, the scale of our own planet is quite small—just 4 millimeters across, or roughly the size of an ant. All planet models would be suspended in acrylic stations in order to allow the tiny planets to withstand the elements.
“Part of the project idea is to help people understand and directly experience the true vulnerability of the Earth,” says Wise. The Celestial Stroll would “help people really, truly grasp how small we are and what our true focuses should be.” He observes, “Rather than fighting each other, we should be working together. It is the only smart thing to do.”
Wise also hopes to benefit the community through forming a scholarship fund, The Celestial Foundation, for low-income families in the Columbus area. He wants to extend opportunities to those in need while also helping Columbus to maintain its status as one of the world’s most intelligent cities. Scholarship recipients would not be bound to science or astronomy majors, but allowed to pursue their true passions, just as he has been lucky to do himself.
Wise adds, “In my life, I feel like I’ve had so many opportunities just because of the family that I happened to grow up in, the city that I lived in, the people who have come into my life and some of the major inspirations that have come into my life, and I know that a lot of people don’t have that opportunity.”
Reflecting on what the project could mean for Columbus, Wise says, “There is this very unique and very wonderful dance that all the planets are doing around our sun. When you can see it in true perspective, it is art in itself.”
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