In 1996, Frank Kovac was frustrated with not being able to see the sky. On a Boy Scout trip to the Mud Creek Observatory in Wisconsin, Kovac and his troop were unable to see the stars because of a thick cloud cover that obscured the sparkly universe. Thus began a 10-year journey for Frank Kovac: he was going to build the night sky in his own backyard.
Kovac’s interest in the universe was not ignited on that night in 1996. In his youth, Kovac dreamed of being an astrophysicist but gave up on his college degree. Though a paper mill worker by trade with only a high school diploma, Kovac was determined to satisfy his longing for the stars.
The result was the Kovac Planetarium housed in the middle of Northern Wisconsin, “Where the Universe Revolves Around You.”
Kovac created a 22-foot-diameter, two-ton globe tipped at 45 degrees so that it was on the latitude appropriate for his part of the country. Next, he painted every star visible in the northern hemisphere within the globe, focusing on painting each to its appropriate brightness and position. He meticulously hand painted more than 5,000 stars inside his globe. The globe itself is only the fourth globe-style planetarium in existence—and the other three reach back to the 15th century. His machine is electrically powered (the speed can be controlled) because he couldn’t afford to have a projection system typical of state- or educationally-run planetariums.
Though Frank continues to work part-time at the paper mill, the planetarium is his true love. When on the tour you will not just see the amazing planetarium but meet Frank who will proudly state, “My name is Frank Kovac and I designed and built the world’s largest rolling, mechanical, globe planetarium.”
Know Before You Go
From Monico (the nearest town to Rhinelander), the planetarium is five miles east on Highway 8.