Check the weather predictions in your area for Aug. 11-13. That is when the Perseids are supposed to be peaking with bright meteors shooting across the sky at 50 to 100 an hour.
Best time, say the experts, is in the northern hemisphere right before dawn, so also check the sunrise times for your area.
Because these meteors are bright, plentiful and have long tails, the largish waning crescent moon might not be much of a hindrance the night of Aug. 11. By Aug 13 the moon will be thinner though there may be fewer meteors.to spot.
So where do they come from?
The Perseids are debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. They are called Perseids because they look like they emanate (their radiant) from the Perseus constellation as the Earth moves through their trail each summer.
The comet’s name comes from Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who discovered it in 1862.
Sky watchers have two meteor showers to spot the rest of July and much of August: the Delta Aquariids and the Perseids.
Although the Aquariids, a sparse shower of about 20 meteors per hour, are best seen in the Southern Hemisphere they can be spotted as far north as the mid-northern latitudes. Just watch for them after the moon sets around midnight this weekend until just before dawn, July 27-28. However, the moon, which is in its first quarter isn’t much of a factor.
The comet of origin is suspected to be 96P Machholz. Named for where they seem to come from, the radiant is the Aquarius Constellation in the southern sky.
Because the Aquariids continue through late August, you may see them when you watch for the Perseids that peak Aug. 11-13.
You will know which is which because the Perseids, a strong shower of up to 150 meteors per hour during its peak, come from the northern part of the sky where you find the Perseus Constellation. The comet of origin is 109P Swift-Tuttle.
If watching for the Aquariids this weekend, you may also see the Perseids because they are very bright and already started about July 17. However, they don’t peak until about the second week of August when the moon will also be bright.
The weekend of July 17 will be a great time to check out the night sky.
The NEOWISE Comet (C/2020 F3) can be seen zooming across northern United States and Canada after sunset. Watch for it now because it won’t be back for thousands of years. Tip: Look for the Big Dipper. Start with binoculars to first see the comet below the Big Dipper but then try unaided.
But also try to spot the planets. The schedule of when they first appear this weekend goes from late night July 17 through early July 18. Being able to see all seven planets over two days is a rare occurrence.
Get comfortable. It’s time to visit some of the places that have intrigued you or are on your someday list. Don’t dress for travel.
Lots of destinations have added virtual tours. Some are OK even though they expect you to read French, such as on the 350 degree Louvre exploration or Spanish such as with the Guggenheim in Bilbao videos on Mark Rothko’s “Untitled” and Jeff Koons’ “Puppy.”
Others, like the ones here, have videos and cams that make visitors feel they are there.
So warm-ups or jammies are OK as you visit outer space, a zoo, an amazing garden, a Royal home and an aquarium. Just remember if looking at a cam that the place may be in a different time zone so might have different action at a later or earlier hour.
Don’t bother calling NASA or the local police if you see a fireball during pre-dawn hours this weekend through Monday.
The Perseid meteors are already zooming across the sky but they peak after midnight from August 12 to 13.
This year, 2018, the meteors should be easily seen because the moon is in its new phase Aug. 11, and only a mere waxing crescent Aug. 12 and 13 (Sunday-Monday) which means its illumination is too low to interfere with shining meteors streaking overhead.
However, to best spot them, seek out areas away from street and commercial lights, oh, and be patient. There should be 60 to 70 meteors flying overhead per hour.
The Perseids are pieces from the Comet Swift-Tuttle that we can view when the earth passes through its path. Although it does so mid-summer from July 17 to Aug. 24, the densest pass-through is Aug. 12.
As to fireballs, NASA experts say the Perseids have more than other big meteor showers. For more NASA meteor information visit NASA Perseids.
If in Chicago, rain or cloudy skies may prevent you from seeing the Harvest Moon Oct. 5, but if you are elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere you should be able to see what looks like a large, orangey-toned impressive orb. (The moon also looked impressive Chicago Oct. 4 when the weather cleared).
It’s dubbed the Harvest Moon because it is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox when farmers enjoy more moonlight to finish harvesting their crops.
That’s because even though the moon typically rises 50 minutes later each fall and winter day, the moon’s orbital path is narrower in the Northern Hemisphere near the autumn equinox. That orbit makes it rise only about 35 minutes later each day.
BTW, the orange color is noticed when seeing the moon through the Earth’s atmosphere near the horizon. The moon also looks larger from that angle.
The next time a total solar eclipse crosses the United States isn’t that far off. It’s April 8, 2024
If you didn’t have a chance to experience totality on Aug. 21, 2017 you might want to plan where you want to see it next time. Even if you don’t go you might know someone who will. So save those eclipse glasses if lucky enough to have a pair.
Carbondale, IL will again be dead center when the eclipse path crosses the United States. But the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse will cut the opposite direction. It will go from Mexico in the southwest to Maine in the northeast as it moves across Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Vermont.
Consider then, taking a spring vacation in Austin or Dallas Texas, Indianapolis, Toledo or Cleveland, Ohio or the Buffalo, Niagara Falls area or even Montreal. Chicago won’t be in the direct total solar eclipse path until Sept. 14, 2099.
To go now to walk across the map visit Adler Planetarium’s “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit. It has a terrific floor map of the total solar eclipse path for 2017, 2024 and 2099.
The Adler also has a total solar eclipse experience at one end of the exhibit complete with cooler air, expected sounds and a good visual eclipse.
Why experience totality
The following quote from Adler Astronomer Larry Ciupik, the Doane Observatory director, describes what he saw in Capo San Lucas, Mexico July 1991.
“It didn’t matter how much I knew about it or prepared for it, my first total solar eclipse was unexpected and unlike anything I’ve ever seen!” Ciupik said on an Adler web site.
He went on to explain. “In the last few seconds before totality, the sky darkened to a deep blue, then purple, and faint wavering lines appeared—shadow bands—whisking across the sand of our beachside site. Suddenly, the Sun itself dramatically changed. I took off my special solar viewing filter and saw what looked like a hole in the sky surrounded by a pearlescent glow. The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, resembled outstretched wings several times wider than the hole on each side.”
Also, totality will last longer on its path. It will range from three minutes plus seconds to four minutes plus seconds over most of the United States in April 2024 instead of the two minutes plus seconds it did in August 2017. For the 2024 path click here and at Time and Date.
To figure the time of the eclipse in the city you want to visit check its latitude and longitude then go to NASA Path.
The information is thanks to NASA and Fred Espenak. The numbers are in Universal Time so for central daylight time subtract 5 hours and eastern daylight time subtract 4 hours.
“Chasing Eclipses”is up now through through Jan. 8, 2018. The Adler Planetarium is on the Museum campus at 1300 South Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60605. For ticket and other information visit Adler Planetarium and call (312) 922-7827.
Just about everyone in the Chicago area knows that the moon will block out most of the sun midday, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.
And most of them have heard that they need the certified glasses to watch the event or watch through a hole aimed at the ground where they see the event’s shadow.
Chicago will be in about 87 percent darkness during the height of the eclipse by 1:19 p.m. which is enough to feel the temperature change and that night has come.
So, the question is where to watch. Certainly Chicago’s TV channels, including WGN, will be broadcasting. But to experience the event with others check the places listed here and your local library, park district, forest preserve district or junior college.
Adler Planetarium on the Museum campus at 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, provides the best overall experience because along with giving out the proper glasses at no charge, it will have free general admission so visitors can see its “Chasing Eclipses exhibit. The Adler will also have lots of outdoor activities. For details visit Adler Eclipse Fest.
Chicago Botanic Garden at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, is holding a viewing party from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Esplanade and in the Krasberg Rose Garden. The event includes free solar glasses (one per family while supplies last) that will begin distribution at 10 a.m. There will also be other activities. For details visit Botanic Garden Eclipse.
Chicago Park District will host eclipse events at 20 parks and include glasses provided by the Adler Planetarium until they run out. For park locations visit Chicago Park District Eclipse.
Chicago Public Library will host viewing events at several branches. For the one nearest you click CPL Events.
Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston, will have a viewing party at its main location on Orrington Avenue from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more details visit EPL.
Lake County Forest Preserve District has a solar eclipse viewing party at Ryerson Woods, 21950 N. Riverwoods Rd, Riverwoods, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.. It’s free and for all ages but adult supervisions required for children.. Viewing will be by indirect projection. Viewer supplies and instruction available. Visit LCFP.
Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville is having a viewing picnic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Naperville residents and members free. General admission is $5. Bring lunch. Limited space so first come basis. Viewing glasses are complementary. More information at NaperSettlement.
Park District of Oak Park and Oak Park Public Library will host a viewing party at Scoville Park, 800 Lake St., Oak Park. They will have some solar glasses and instruction on pinhole viewers. If conditions dictate the event will be at the library. For more information visit PDOP.