Swift-Tuttle, a massive comet whose nucleus is at least 24 kilometers in diameter, annually provides some of Earth’s inhabitants with a spectacular meteor shower. The mass of interplanetary debris that Swift-Tuttle incites regularly soar through the Earth’s atmoshphere between August 11 and 13, visible from a new location each year.
This year, the meteor show, which is famously reliable and known as Perseids, will illuminate the skies of Chicago and its suburbs. It is one of the universe’s rare annual treasures, and one that may be easily enjoyed by Chicagoans under the proper conditions.
The meteors will be most prominent during the early hours of Monday and Tuesday, although viewers might be able to catch a glimpse on Sunday morning as well.
During these times, the Perseids will theoretically be visible from any place with a sky view within Chicago or its suburbs, but there are measures that meteor-seekers may take to maximize visibility.
Ideal viewing locations are those with as little surrounding light as possible — light dulls the prominence of the meteors’ flashes. Subsequently, the suburbs are much more conducive to gazing than is the city. Yet in either case, it behooves viewers to face away from the largest, universal light impediment, the moon (although it will be a mere waxing crescent during the shower) and to limit as much surrounding light as possible.
As the meteors heave increasingly close to Earth, NASA’s tracking and path predictions will likewise increase in accuracy. The administration has fashioned a website, equipped with a “Fluxtimator,” for hopeful star-gazers to access. It calculates the optimal direction towards which one should be positioned and also provides additional resources that identify the area within one’s 60-mile radius with the least “light pollution.”
If you wish to make a true excursion, visit AstronomyClubs.com to find a local chapter and expert to join a watching party.
Whether at a vigilantly calculated angle and location or from the comfort of a bedroom window, Perseids promises to share its impressive spectacle with all in Chicago and its neighboring towns who are committed enough to wake up in middle of the night. Because it tends to change location from year to year — it’s first human sighting is believed to have been in China in 69 BC — those lucky enough to conveniently enjoy it this year definitely ought to exploit the opportunity.