Yerkes offers chance to view meteors
IF YOU GO
What: Perseid meteor shower viewing event
When: 9 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11.
Where: South lawn of Yerkes Observatory, 373 W. Geneva St., Williams Bay.
Cost: $5 per person or $15 per family
Reservations: Visit astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/news.html or call (262) 245-5555, Ext. 810.
WILLIAMS BAY Ever wanted to fulfill that childhood dream of wishing upon a shooting star?
Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay is giving people an opportunity to witness dozens of meteors streak across the sky—and send their requests into the heavens—during a two-hour event Wednesday night.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs about the same time every year and offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for astronomers to reach out to the community and for people to learn about the night sky, said Kyle Cudworth, director of the observatory.
“This meteor shower is probably the most reliable shower of the year,” he said.
Meteors are particles of space dust shed from a comet and spread out along the comet’s orbit, Cudworth said. Earth cuts through the comet trails, and the dust burns up in the upper atmosphere, creating a show of light, he said.
“We see a streak in the sky,” he said. “The common terminology is that they’re falling stars or shooting stars, but they have nothing to do with stars.”
Astronomers estimate between 50 and 100 meteors an hour can be seen with the naked eye during the shower, Cudworth said.
Although the public is not being invited to use the Yerkes telescope, the Yerkes grounds provide a fairly open and dark viewing area away from city lights, and the waxing crescent moon means a fairly dark sky, he said.
People watching for meteors will be encouraged to lie down and look up into the sky. They should bring blankets and pillows or lawn chairs. Guides will be on hand to help participants spot meteors as well as find Saturn, Mars and Venus.
The meteor shower is at its peak Wednesday and Thursday, he said.
Officials at Yerkes Observatory, which now is more of an educational facility than a research facility, hope people come away with an appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the night sky, Cudworth said.
“We hope they realize that we have an amazing night sky, and if you get a little bit away from city lights, you can see a lot of incredible things just with the naked eye,” he said.