Put August 11 on your calendar to watch the night sky. The best meteor shower of the year, the Perseids, will be entertaining night sky watchers with at least 40 fireballs an hour when they peak next week. However, they have been known to rack up as many as 100 meteors per hour.
As debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs annually when earth’s orbit takes it near the comet’s path from the end of July to mid-August. The meteors are already zooming across the sky but in 2021 the peak is Aug. 11-13.
If you like company or have trouble seeing them, tune into NASA which has invited everyone to watch with them. Watch time is Aug. 11-12 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. CDT on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
If weather is a problem, there is likely to be a second chance Aug. 12-13. The livestream is hosted by the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
A crescent moon will be setting early so moonlight shouldn’t be a factor. Watch between midnight and dawn away from city lights. Some folks stretch out on blankets but if the ground is dewy damp pull out a lawn chair.
Don’t worry if you don’t see any meteors right away. It takes a few minutes to adapt to the night sky. The meteor shower radiant appears to be above Perseus.
American Indians and farmers (among other groups) associate each full moon with animal and plant seasons. So when looking up July 23-24 think of that large orb moving westward across the sky as the Buck Moon because those deer are growing their antlers now. Or call it the Hay Moon because farmers usually load their hay in barns now away from storms.
It will look full for a few days but optimal fullness is when it is directly opposite the sun. In central part of the United States that is July 23 at 9:37 CDT.
Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois is the historic Mississippi hillside town of Galena. Its gorgeous fall color draws visitors from mid-September to Halloween, so if going then, book your stay now (weekdays are better).
But the shops, the mid-to late 1800’s structures, charming inns and good food make Galena a fun break in the routine pretty much any time of year. (Folks come here to ski Chestnut Mountain even if not every shop is open)
An easy three-hour drive from Chicago on I 90, the vacation begins when turning before Rockford onto US 20, General Ulysses S. Grant Highway when the four-lane expressway becomes a scenic two-lane road.
As you wind through the hills of Stephenson and Jo Davies Counties, you may realize you are on a ridge with grand vistas of lush valleys.
Although you can continue north through Galena to cross the Mississippi at East Dubuque into Iowa (and go the The Field of Dreams baseball movie destination), Galena is a getaway destination, itself.
Go back in time
Indian tribes roamed the area. then it was settled by French traders and explorers. However, the town flourished in the early 1800s when galena ore (lead) boats plied the Mississippi River. It then became a gateway west when Ulysses S. Grant’s family lived and worked here in the mid-1800s.
Galena was on the stage coach route (there still are some stage coach signs). Then by 1854, the rail line went through making it a natural stop for Abraham Lincoln who used the balcony of the Desoto House Hotel on Main Street to campaign for John Fremont in 1856. The Desoto House was also the campaign headquarters for Grant. Go in to see its staircase and ask about a tour.
A couple of other good stops are the old railroad depot on the south side of the Galena River. It houses the Galena Area Tourism Bureau. Also on that side of the river is Gen US Grant’s home built for him as the town’s favorite son.
Ask about walking tours when at the depot. The Galena Historic District covers about 85 percent of the city and includes some 800 properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Think food, boutiques and quirky shops when strolling downtown Galena’s Main Street.
When pulling onto the street from US 20 I spied the cheese and wine store that I knew was there. But the unknown treasure was Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn a few stores down. I loved the roosters and birdhouses in front. My husband was drawn to the antique toy trucks in back.
Another fun store was Celebrity Hats on the other side of the street. Go in. Find your style.
Among the taste treats on the street were two chocolate stores and a patisserie that also did cocktails and sandwiches. Really. Called Bread & Vine, it did good macarons, lovely desserts and yummy sandwiches including a Croque Monsieur and savory croissant with smoked salmon.
There are a couple of chains but most of the stores are unique.
Some folks journey to Galena just for the Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant. You do need a reservation. The place is that popular. I made ours before leaving town. It is known for its steaks but we chose seafood because we know everything there is well prepared and we had meat before we left. The front of the restaurant is on Main Street but its outdoor space is behind it where people park. This end of the street is blocked off for outdoor, curb and street side tables.
Also good is the historic Desoto House. It has three restaurants that are open at different times of the day. For lunch we did the Green Street Tavern where I had the best garlic French fries ever tasted with a delish pulled pork sandwich. My husband had an apple and mixed berry salad with walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette .
Our dinner the night before we left was at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill at the Irish Cottage where we were staying. I liked their beer battered cod and seasoned Irish chips. My husband liked the traditional corned beef.
Galena has several B and Bs. Check the Galena Country tourism stay/site for ideas. We liked the Irish cottage for its first-floor patio suites but there were several other places that also looked good including the Goldmoor Inn which is a Select Registry on the road to Chestnut Mountain and the Chestnut Mountain Resort. Both have good views and friendly service.
This July 4th, toast our country’s Independence Day with family and friends or just your pet who hates firecracker sounds to watch “A Capital Fourth” from Washington D.C.
Hosted and broadcasted by PBS, the show starts at 8 p.m. ET with a star spangled list of performers, the National Symphony Orchestra and members of the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, “Pershing’s Own” U.S. Army Band, the Joint Armed forces Chorus and the Armed forces color Guard.
It ends with spectacular fireworks filling the Capitol sky to the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s ” 1812 Overture.
Hosted by recording artist/Broadway/TV star Vanessa Williams, top names in pop, R&B, country, Broadway and classical entertainment will perform from their pre-taped locations across the country. World-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renée Fleming opens the show in Washington DC with the national anthem.
Also watch Gammy-winning country star Jennifer Nettles from the famed Town Hall in NYC’s Town Hall with the Broadway Inspirational Voices; actress/singer Auli’i Cravalho from the Unisphere; the multi-Grammy Award-winning band Train from near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Entertainers recorded in Washington, DC include the “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight; country music star Mickey Guyton; Tony Award-winning Broadway and television personality Ali Stroker; ACM New Male Artist of the Year, multi-platinum country music singer-songwriter Jimmie Allen and Broadway star Laura Osnes
The National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by top pops conductor Jack Everly, will play John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare” in tribute to the members of Team USA who are getting ready for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The concert also honors members of the military and their families for their contributions and dedication to service.
When and How
The 41st annual broadcast of A Capitol Fourth airs on PBS Sunday, July 4, 2021 from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The program can also be heard in stereo over NPR member stations nationwide, and will be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and at A Capitol Fourth.
The Supermoon looming large at the horizon June 24, 2021 is the “Strawberry Moon.” It is also called the “Roses Moon.” Either name implies a reddish or rosé colored moon. It may take on that hue as it rises similar to a sunrise or sunset because of the time of year.
At the Summer Solstice the sun is high in the sky and the moon is low. Thus the moon will be seen through enough more of the atmosphere to appear to have a tinge of color.
Full moons are given names of crops, animal behavior and farming lore appropriate for their time of year. But not as well known is the connection to honey.
According to some NASA findings on European full moon names, the June full moon is also called the “Mead Moon” and “Honey Moon.. Also noted is that the term “honeymoon” goes back to the 1500s in Europe.
Expect to see the moon appearing full Wednesday through Friday. It’s listed by some sky publications as a “Supermoon” because its orbit takes it close (perigee) to earth.
For good info on perigee, Supermoons and new moons that are full visit Time and Date.
Folks in northern Canada can catch the best part of June 10’s eclipse event as the new moon’s orbit moves it across the sky to block the sun.
In the US, the best areas to see it are north and east such as in New York City where the eclipse magnitude will be 80 percent and last for more than an hour after sunrise. .
Chicago area residents will be able to see an eclipse, it just will be a partial one and not last long. Thus, the best way to catch it is after getting protective glasses or using an alternative viewing method, to look to the horizon when the sun appears.
That means watching beginning at 5:15 a.m. through 5:39 a.m. Compared to the north east including NYC’s high magnitude, Chicago’s magnitude will be 35 percent at 5:18 a.m.
Maybe you think of winter, spring, summer and fall as your year’s seasons but astronomers also have at least one other seasonal time frame: Eclipse Season. It is the short period when a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse happen near each other.
Coming up is a short lunar eclipse on May 26, 2021. Don’t blink because you may miss it.
It is called short because totality lasts just a bit more than 14 minutes. According to astronomers, that is the 10th shortest totality for a lunar eclipse between the years 1600 and 2599.
To better understand what will be happening, know that during the lunar eclipse a full moon will be moving through the Earth’s umbral shadow and be fully in that shadow for slightly more than 14 minutes. But the entire movement through the shadow will be about three hours.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that the part of the United States where you are watching the eclipse will matter as to totality with west of the Mississippi River better than east.
But as TV commercials say Wait. The eclipse is just part of May’s lunar special event. Because the May full moon’s orbit takes it closer to Earth than the year’s other full moons, it will be 2021’s best and brightest Supermoon. During the eclipse, it will appear as a blood moon.
The lunar event is followed by an annular solar eclipse on June 10. That eclipse’s partial phases will make it the 5th longest worldwide for an annular solar eclipse that happens in the same season as a total lunar eclipse.
But forget about blinking. Proper glasses or other safety precautions are needed to protect your eyesight.
EarthSky has an excellent summary of Eclipse Season. Also see Time and Date for information on both the lunar and solar eclipses this year and in the future.
The Eta Aquarids, the first half of Halley’s Comet’s two rounds of meteor showers, peak May 4-6, 2021. The two meteor showers are debris from Comet Halley as Earth passes through the comet’s path around the Sun.
Seen in both hemispheres, the Southern Hemisphere arguably offers a better view now when its radiant, the Aquarius constellation, is overhead and Northern is better for its second round, the Orionids, in October. But both meteor showers are popular with sky watchers.
After acclimating your sight to the night, look in the southern sky for Eta Aquarii, the constellation’s brightest star. Depending on the weather, you may be treated to more than 30 meteorites per hour.
The moon, now in its waning crescent phase should not be a factor, particularly if watching for the meteorites early on May 6 before dawn.
Forget about turning off the light that may be keeping you up on April 26-27. It’s streaming in through the windows from upstairs, outside. However, the source will have seemed larger earlier in the evening.
What’s shining through the windows if the sky is clear, is not merely a full moon. The orb outside is a Supermoon. It really isn’t larger. It just plays tricks on the eyes and perspective as it appears huge when first appearing at the horizon and in early evening.
The April full moon, also known as the “Pink Moon” is a Supermoon because it will be closer to Earth than most other full moons. The exception being the full moon in May 26, called the “Flower Moon” that will be even closer.
Some astronomy sites only designate the April and May full moons as Supermoons. Other sites include June 24’s which is also close. Still other sites include the March full moon which was fairly close.
For times to watch or photograph the moon check. EarthSky. The site also has the April, May June, 2021 Supermoons’ distances from the moon to Earth with April 27 at 222,212 miles (357,615 km), May 26 at 222,089 miles (357,462km) and June 24 at 224,662 miles (361,558 km).
If interested in how this all happens, you should know about the lunar perigee. It’s when the moon’s orbit brings it to its closest point to Earth. The opposite is apogee.
Of course, the third factor is where the earth is in relation to the moon and the sun to be a full moon. So, the April Supermoon actually happens about 12 hours short of it lunar perigee and May’s Supermoon falls about nine hours after perigee. The reason some sites refer just to April and May’s full moons as Supermoons is because less than 24 hours occur between the perigee and full moon phase.
Next, don’t be surprised if bothered with sinus trouble and have a full-moon sized headache. Because the pull of the full moon, particuclarly the Supermoon, does influence the tides, lore has it that their affect on humans and animals can also be felt.
Even though Mother’s Day isn’t until May 9 in 2021, reservations fill fast so now is the time to figure out something special. The ideas listed here: Stay, Play, Eat, Treat, Spa and Ooh La La, can also apply elsewhere so consider them a guide. For parts two and three in this series visit Chicago Theater and Arts and Dining Out-Eating In.
Book a room or suite at the Deer Path Inn, a historic 1929 hostelry that would fit well in a British town but actually is in Lake Forest, IL. Ranked No 1 Resort Hotel in the Midwest and 18th in the world, according to Travel & Leisure, it s a block from the town’s historic Market Square and Metra train station.
Or reserve a room with a view at Sable at Navy Pier. A new hotel in the Hilton Curio Collection it features Offshore, supposedly the world’s largest roof-top bar. Outside the door, stroll Navy Pier which reopens April 30, 2021 and ride its famed Centennial Wheel (Check ahead for ride tickets).
Relax on a scenic boat ride that starts on the Chicago River near Michigan Avenue. Among the choices are the popular architectural tours on Wendella and the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise on the First Lady.
Or stroll the paths, scenic water features and see what’s blooming at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Go online ahead of time to get a parking pass because there is timed entry and Mother’s Day is very popular here.
Or enjoy a French Toast Flight at Batter and Berries in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. BTW they also have delish omelets, breakfast sandwiches and waffles.
Pick up a cake, torte or pastry from a great patisserie. Hard to decide what to get when looking at the lineup of cakes, croissants and chocolate treats at Ambrosia, a European style patisserie in the northwest suburb of Barrington.
The same is true of Vanille a French patisserie in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Get Mom a gift certificate for the Peninsula Spa Chicago. She can use the pool before or afterwards or just sit along side it to view the Magnificent Mile. Hotel.
Or get a gift certificate for the Midtown operated spa at the Hyatt Lodge, Oakbrook. The Lodge has nice grounds and spa.
Ooh la la
Say Happy Mother’s Day as if it were Valentine’s Day with candy and flowers.
The Chicago area has several good candy shops. Among them is Sweets in Lake Forest that is also known for its ice cream and Amy’s Candy Bar in Ravenswood. Both are local favorites that may become your new go-to place.
For flower arrangements and plant pots with a little oomf to them check out Phillip’s and Athena.