Wisconsin Man Builds Backyard Planetarium
Frank Kovac, a paper-mill worker from Monico, Wis., spent 15 years building a planetarium in his backyard. The structure is 22 feet (6.7 meters) wide and weighs 2 tons (1,818 kilograms).
Credit: Frank Kovac/Kovac Planetarium

A Wisconsin paper-mill worker who once dreamed of being an astrophysicist has brought the stars within his grasp, building an elaborate planetarium in his own backyard.

Frank Kovac, 45, spent about 15 years constructing his planetarium in the small northern Wisconsin community of Monico, CBS News reports. The spherical structure — which is 22 feet (6.7 meters) across and weighs 2 tons (1,818 kilograms) — is the world's largest rolling, mechanical, globe planetarium.

Kovac couldn't afford a projection system that mimics the rotation of the Earth, so he spins the planetarium itself, using an electric, variable-speed motor controller.

Kovac hand-painted 5,000 stars on the planetarium's ceiling, giving each one its proper location and brightness. [Top 10 Star Mysteries.]

"I took luminous paint and I painted every star that you would see out in the night sky," Kovac told CBS News.

Years ago, Kovac had wanted to be an astrophysicist, but the college math proved too much for him. So he took a job at the local paper mill instead, according to CBS News. Though Kovac still works at the mill part-time, he devotes much of his time and energy to the Kovac Planetarium, which opened to the public a few years ago.

"To be a planetarium director, you need college," Kovac told CBS News, "but if you build your own, you can run it!"

Tickets for the planetarium cost $12. Business is a little slow so far in Monico (population: 400 or so), but Kovac is an optimist.

"It's gonna just take off, like a rocket to the stars," he told CBS News.