About 12 years ago, I was just a regular weather junkie. But one night, after I got home late from work, the sky came alive. The northern lights had shown up to dance in the very southern WI sky - truly, a very unusual event. I now know that while they are fairly common in the top, northern regions of the state, they are not so common in the Milwaukee area! The lights this night were green and there bars of green lights dancing across the sky and the sky itself was green - I have never seen anything like it before, nor since. I am envious of those of you who live so much further north than I do! I was hooked on learning about the "weather" in outer space that caused this amazing phenomenon. Solar flares, solar winds, coronal holes, meteors...you name it, I wanted to know about it.
I have passed this interest on to my children and while I had not yet taken the younger two children to one of our local astronomical societies public viewing nights, they came to me a couple of weeks ago at the campground we were at over Independence Day weekend. My younger two (ages 5 & 7) are now hooked. The group that meets nearly every clear Saturday night out at this state park pointed out constellations that I have pointed out to them before, but they used a very cool laser pointer. They also had their telescopes set up and showed the small crowd Saturn, a star cluster, & Jupiter as well. Another man was taking a digital photograph through his telescope, but was thrilled to open up his laptop computer and show everyone some of the amazing photos he had taken with his personal telescope. My little ones are now mostly on the hook and I will pull them in the rest of the way with the Perseid meteor shower!
We entered the Perseid meteor shower window last week (and yes, we have seen some, even from our light polluted back yard) - the peak is around Aug 12, but the window is from July 13-Aug 23, I believe - meaning, while the heaviest fall will be around the 12th, there will still be plenty to see in the surrounding days! It is usually a fabulous shower and that peak window is just amazing! It looks like this years may be much better than usual according to this article on Space.com. For best viewing, get away from the city lights if you can, but we have seen some amazing fireballs from this shower from our not so very dark back yard when we lived in the city (the red one was fantastic!). Get a blanket or two, some bug spray, & be in an open, but darkish area. Sit back and watch the show!
Check and see if there is an astronomical society/group in your area - quite often, they have public viewing nights and you can see the planets, star clusters, etc. through their scopes (they LOVE to share their love of all that is outer space!). Don't feel defeated by thinking you cannot see anything from the city. Even in the most light polluted cities, you CAN usually see the planets through some pretty average scopes!
This post is incomplete - I need to get ready for a CM book night, but I want to publish this anyway - there are some amazing resources out there for learning about the night time skies and I want to share them with you. I will finish this up later tonight or tomorrow!
Some of my favorite book resources:
Sign & Seasons
Some of my favorite space sites:
Space Weather caught my attention over a decade ago and it has not let go! Whether it is solar flares (we are getting ready to see some doozies!), meteor showers, planets in the sky, SpaceWeather.com has been a wonderful resource for the beginner!
Has the sun been active and they say we might have northern lights? See where they are at the NOAA's Space Prediction Center (30 Min forecast page is Here)!