WYSO Curious is our series where listeners can ask questions and producers at WYSO try to find the answers. Today’s question comes to us from retired lawyer Nadine Ballard who has asked - two years in a row - where’s the best place in the Miami Valley to watch a sunset.
Nadine writes, "I am originally from an area of Michigan with a lot of lakes so watching the sunset over water is an experience I have always enjoyed." Nadine says now that she’s retired, “both my limited budget and my bad knees prevents me from traveling to places I would love to see the sun set. So now, from my flat neighborhood, every time I see in the distance, a small portion of the sun melt into the horizon turning the sky into a painting of red and orange hues, I wonder where can I go close to home to see the full picture of this gorgeous sunset?"
When I think of the best places to watch the sunset in the Miami Valley Area, there are a couple that spring to mind. The most obvious one is the lookout at Woodland Cemetery. It’s the highest point in Dayton and has an beautiful view overlooking the city.
Deed’s Point Metro Park along the Miami River has a great urban skyline view, and just south of Dayton is the Miamisburg Mound, which is one of the two highest conical mounds in Eastern North America with a stunning 360 degree view for miles.
But there is only one place in the Miami Valley where you can catch sunsets that are really out of this world.
"This is my favorite place for sure. We can simulate a sunset here on any night of the year, or a thousand years in the past, or in the future. Plus we can experience sunsets on other planets," says Jason Heaton, Director of Astronomy at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton. We’re inside the Caryl D. Phillips Space Theatre at the museum. Jason’s at the control panel which operates the images projected onto the huge domed ceiling above us.
"This is actually today, what it would look like if we could rip off the planetarium dome and it were sunset."
With a few taps of his keyboard, the lights dim.
"Right now, since you can’t see it, we’re simulating a blue sky," says Jason. "Changing colors of the sunset and at the same time moving through time about ten minutes per second. So that there’s a glow of twilight around the horizon, and then you see things peek out of the night sky."
What I’m watching now is blowing my mind. The huge doom is filled with stars and the milky way stretches across the sky, and then suddenly we’re looking down onto the earth at night where the lights clearly illuminate the outline of North America.
"This is the music for when we launch ourselves off the earth, and watch the same sunset in space," says Jason as the show shifts. From miles above the earth, we’re looking down, watching the sunset traveling across the planet as it spins.
"A sunset from space, as well as on the earth, is to give you an idea that, you know, we are all the time on a rock that is hurtling through space. We may see a sunset, but we’re moving. We’re on this planet. Which is one of many."
From earth, we travel through space to Mars, where we watch the sunset on the fiery red planet.
"And here’s the difference. You have yellow skies on Mars, but at sunset, the sky turns blue," says Jason. "Here now, when we’re looking back, we can imagine that we’re doing a planetarium show on Mars, looking back, identifying a little dot in the sky that is our planet."
Back on planet earth, the shows over, and the house lights come up in the theatre.
"There ya go. That’s my favorite place to watch a sunset.You’ll be pleasantly surprised, if you haven’t been here in awhile. This is a treat, I think."