Wisconsin Man Builds Planetarium in Backyard

According to the Bible, it took six days to create the heavens and the earth. As CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports, it took Frank Kovac 10 years to recreate them in his backyard.

In the north woods of Wisconsin, a job in a paper mill is about as good as it gets. But for 45-year-old Frank Kovac, it was his second choice. His first was to be an astrophysicist. As a little kid, he dreamed of exploring outer space. Later, when he couldn't cut the college math, he gave up the degree, but never the dream: For the past 15 years he has been charting his own course for the stars.

Robert Briggs is town chairman of Monico, Wis., the town where Frank launched his space program. Monico has a three-pump gas station, a two-bit bar -- and now, thanks to Frank -- one remote planetarium.

Frank basically built it in his backyard.

Kovac Planetarium

"To be a planetarium director you need college," Frank said, "but if you build your own, you can run it!"

Frank still works part-time at the paper mill, but the planetarium is now his full-time passion. He opened it a few years ago, although so far business has been far from stellar.

On tours, Frank says, "My name is Frank Kovac and I designed and built the world's largest rolling, mechanical, globe planetarium."

Because Frank couldn't afford a fancy projection system to mimic the revolution of our planet, he came up with a way to move the heavens instead.

As for the individual stars?

"I took luminous paint and I painted every star that you would see out in the night sky," he said.

There are 5,000 hand painted stars, each in its proper location and brightness.

It's really a shame more people haven't the Kovac Planetarium. But friends and neighbors are confidant that will change. Why? They say it's in the stars.

"People who send out good, receive good," said one neighbor. "Frank is a good man."

Frank is obviously genuine. And if only sincerity sold tickets - or optimism was sight you could see - he'd have the next Disneyland.

Should you ever find yourself in the north woods of Wisconsin, tickets are $12.
  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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