Ohio Wesleyan professor and astronomy researcher Robert Harmon, Ph.D., will present a free online lecture Dec. 10 as part of Perkins Observatory’s December programming. (Photo by James DeCamp)

Seeing Stars

Perkins Observatory to Provide Free Online Programming in December

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, Ohio – 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.

At 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 owu.edu/perkins.

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 owu.edu/perkins.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.