Perkins Observatory to Provide Free Online Programming in December

You’re invited to join Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory in December for a free online discussion of “Stellar Heartbeats” and, depending upon the weather, either free virtual skywatches or planetarium talks.

Perkins Observatory to Provide Free Online Programming in DecemberAt 8 p.m. Dec. 10, Robert Harmon, Ph.D., an Ohio Wesleyan professor of physics and astronomy, will present “Stellar Heartbeats” as part of the observatory’s New Vistas in Astronomy lecture series.

“In most stars, the inward pull of gravity and the outward push of pressure are always in balance,” Harmon explains, “but pulsating variable stars alternate between gravity being stronger and pressure being stronger, causing the surface to move rhythmically in and out like a slowly beating heart.

“I’ll describe how they work, and how Edwin Hubble used Henrietta Swan Leavitt’s discovery that brighter Cepheid pulsating variables beat slower to show that our Milky Way Galaxy is but one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in an expanding universe,” Harmon said of his presentation.

A member of the OWU faculty since 1999, Harmon teaches courses in theoretical physics as well as in theoretical and observational astrophysics. He actively uses Perkins Observatory for classes and research, including an ongoing study of starspots and what they can teach us. Similar to sunspots, starspots are dark regions on stars that indicate strong magnetic fields.

Also in December, Don Stevens, observatory director, will host free Friday guest nights consisting of virtual telescope observing or planetarium talks. The events will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 and 11.

All events will be limited to the first 100 participants who join. The Zoom links for the events will be posted under the “Upcoming Events” section of the Perkins Observatory webpage at

Keep watching the Perkins website, Stevens, said, as an additional Dec. 18 holiday-themed event may be added.

Owned by Ohio Wesleyan, Perkins Observatory is an active research facility used by OWU students and faculty. “The Place for Space,” founded in 1923, also conducts hundreds of public programs and traditionally welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year. Learn more at