Buhl Planetarium Visitor: Tom Miller

Tom Miller, from Youngstown, Ohio, visited Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science several times when he was a child. He was impressed with the poem written by Pittsburgh poet Ann Curran, titled "Me and Buhl Planetarium." The following are his comments regarding his visits to Buhl Planetarium:

When I was a kid, my parents would take us down to the Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh. There, they had little science exhibits or on the lower level a huge model railroad layout. But, the main attraction was the sky show under the huge dome. Before the sky show began, they would play a classical symphony and we could relax while the lights imperceptibly dimmed very slowly to darkness. Then, in the center of the room the big Zeiss star projector began to hum and slowly rise up from the floor as the stars came out.

I was startled by the Tesla Coil when it sparked like thunder. or something out of an old Frankenstein movie; also fascinated with the Van De Graaff Generator. I liked riding that stationary bicycle in the basement that was attached to a generator that would light up a line of light bulbs. I also liked watching the Foucault Pendulum slowly pendulate back and forth and waiting for it to hit a peg (Editors Note: The Foucault Pendulum can still be viewed, free-of-charge, any time the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is open to the public. The Buhl Planetarium Great Hall, where the Foucault Pendulum Pit has been located since 1939, is now used as a cafe by the Children's Museum.)

My parents bought, for me, a radiometer at the Buhl Planetarium souvenir stand.

When I was in college in the 1970s as a hobby project, I bought a kit from Edmund Scientific to hand grind an 8" mirror for a Newtonian Reflector telescope. I finished it and had it aluminized at our Astronomy Department at Youngstown State University...and through it I could see the rings of Saturn and the great red spot on Jupiter :-) This was inspired by the visits to the Buhl Planetarium and made possible thanks to the local library Astronomy section.