2017-08-10 / Life in Leelanau

Leelanau County star gazers gear up for cosmic light show

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


TINA GREENE will be watching the Perseid Meteor Shower from her dock on Suttons Bay. TINA GREENE will be watching the Perseid Meteor Shower from her dock on Suttons Bay. There’s a “really big show” appearing this week and all you need to do is look up to see it.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is set to appear Friday and Saturday nights Astronomy hobbyist Tina Greene of Suttons Bay is fired up.

“I’ll be putting a mattress out on our dock and will be watching from there,” Green said. “August is a very exciting month in astronomy.”

The Perseid Shower lights up the Earth’s sky every summer as the Earth passes through the trail left by Comet Swift-Tuttle.

This year, NASA forecasters are predicting an “outburst,” with more than double the normal rates overnight Friday and Saturday. The Perseids which appear to come from the direction reside in the northeastern part of the sky.

“It comes right after the ‘Sturgeon Moon’ (Monday), a full moon which was called this by Native Americans who noted the sturgeon were more plentiful and easier to catch at this time,” Greene said.


WINSTON BALCK, 8, Mabel Balck, 10 and Louise Balck, 4, all of Reston, Va., try on special eyeglasses that will be available to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse at the Leland Township Library. WINSTON BALCK, 8, Mabel Balck, 10 and Louise Balck, 4, all of Reston, Va., try on special eyeglasses that will be available to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse at the Leland Township Library. The waning full moon may make it difficult to see the astronomical activity. Still locals and visitors to Leelanau County are at an advantage compared to downstate gazers due to our dark night skies. In more populated areas the sky glows with light pollution.

Greene and her son were part of an astronomy group downstate that held parties in public parks to watch the sky.

“We dressed in pajamas and greeted them as they came out for the night,” she explained. “People would raise their hands and ask ‘What time does the show start?’”

Norm Wheeler has opened the Lanphier Observatory at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor to the public twice a week each summer since 1984. It was part of the deed when the observatory was originally conveyed to the school in 1976.

Wheeler has retired from teaching full time at the Leelanau School but offers an evening astronomy class to Leelanau School students.

He said that this summer has been unusual in that there were several cloudy nights, making visibility poor.

“I’ve never had so many weeks with just one good night for viewing,” Wheeler said. “And those nights we had 60 to 80 people.”

Those attending the viewings include campers from D. H. Day Campground or Platte River Campground; people with condominiums at The Homestead, and retired professors of science and astronomy.

“A lot of people have never seen the Milky Way and I love to watch their mouths drop open when I point it out,” Wheeler said. “It’s great.”

He suggests that people planning to watch for the meteors that appear as shooting stars seek out places where they can see in all directions — like a beach or a sand dune.

There’s plenty of stargazing spots that meet that description on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Leelanau State Park, located north of Northport is one of 18 parks statewide that will host “Meteors & S’mores” Saturday from 9 to 10:30 p.m.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages day-use park visitors and campers to bring blankets, seating and bug spray to a designated viewing area to watch the show.

The National Park Service, as part of its “Find Your Park After Dark Summer Star Parties” will host two sessions to watch for the meteor shower at the Thoreson Farm near Port Oneida: Saturday from 4 to 6 and 9 to 11 p.m.

Park passes are required at both the state and national parks.

Experts suggests that gazers allow about 45 minutes their eyes to adjust to the dark.

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