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Great Balls of Fire! Catch Perseid Meteor Shower From Chicago Beaches This Weekend

By Kim Bellware in News on Aug 10, 2012 6:00PM

Photo from Chicagoist user John Crouch

Attention skywatchers: The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks Saturday and Sunday—and the weather is looking clear. To help area stargazers get an eyeful o' sky, The Illinois Science Council has teamed up with The Chicago and Evanston Park Districts to extend beach hours at select beaches this Saturday and Sunday nights.

If you're rusty on your Perseid knowledge, the name comes from Perseus, as the meteors radiate from the constellation's direction. According to NASA, the Perseids are associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun just once every 133 years (though meteor shower viewing has happened pretty regularly during the past decade). With Perseid rates going as high as 100 per hour, coupled with a clear sky and waning moon, viewers should be able to spot more than a few fireballs from the shore.

Per the Illinois Science Council:

"While stargazing in Chicago is hampered by light pollution, the City's position west of the lake is fortunate. Ideal viewing for Chicagoans, aside from driving away from the City, is along the lakefront, facing northeast away from city lights and toward rising stars.

If you can't make it to the beach, NASA is also holding a live chat on Aug. 11-12 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA will also broadcast a live feed of the meteor shower on the night of Aug. 11, from a camera mounted at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Meteor Viewing

Saturday, Aug. 11: 9 p.m. - midnight
12th Street Beach (1200 South), Chicago
Montrose Beach (4400 North) Chicago
Lighthouse Beach Park (2611 Sheridan Rd. -Central St. at Sheridan Rd.) Evanston

Sunday, Aug. 12: 9 p.m. - midnight
12th Street Beach (1200 South), Chicago
Montrose Beach (4400 North) Chicago

The ISC also notes: "No swimming or entry into the water is allowed at the beaches during these events. (This isn't rocket science, people, it's star-gazing. From the shore, not in the water. Don't get the park districts mad at ISC.)"