Deep in the North Woods of Wisconsin, some 230 miles north of Milwaukee, sits the world’s largest rotating-globe planetarium.
It’s the brainchild of Frank Kovac, a former paper mill storeroom clerk, who built this roadside attraction in his backyard. Entirely homemade, the project took nearly a decade to complete.
Frank’s planetarium is one of only four of its kind ever built, the oldest dating back nearly 400 years.
At StoryCorps, Frank spoke about how his lifelong fascination with the stars turned into a project of cosmic proportions.
Click here for the transcript.
As a child, my dad had a small telescope, and I asked him if we could take it outside and look at the sky. And he said, "Sure, we'll go look at the moon." From that day forward I wanted to be an astrophysicist, but I was always terrible at math, so I worked as a store room department clerk at the local paper mill.
And then in the year 1995, I did a presentation at a local town hall. A group of Boy Scouts wanted to come out and look through the telescopes that I have. It turned out to be a cloudy night, and I thought I'm going to fix that. I'm going to build a planetarium so we can never cloud out the stars.
My neighbors, they were asking me, "How are you going to do it without any knowledge of engineering?" And I says, "Well I just have an idea. In my mind I can envision this before I even built it."
My planetarium is about 22 feet in diameter. The globe itself weighs approximately 4,000 pounds. And when I turn on the motor, it rotates around the audience replicating the night's sky.
Every single star is painted with glow-in-the-dark paint. About 5,000 dots. One dot at a time. And it took me about five months to get every single constellation you see in the Northern Hemisphere.
My first show I had just two people come. And I was a little nervous because I was a very shy person. I did terrible. I stuttered too much. But nobody complained and now I never tire of giving a show. I almost feel like it's always my first one.
My dad past away about the year I started to build the planetarium. There were days I kind of wondered if I was even going to make this thing work. And you wonder why am I doing this? And I felt that my dad was there watching over me. You know, I don't think I have the knowledge to build a planetarium, and here it is. The dream come true.