Stargazing is an ever-popular summertime activity, but what about watching meteor showers? With the biggest shower of the year, the Perseids, just around the corner, it's a good time to learn about meteor showers and how to spot them. Here’s a schedule of upcoming showers and some Kansas observatories where you can go to learn more about astronomy.
What is a Meteor Shower and When Does it Occur?
Meteors, also commonly referred to as shooting stars, are pieces if interplanetary debris that burn up upon entering the Earth's atmosphere, leaving a visible streak of light behind. Meteor Showers occur when the Earth, in its orbit, passes through the remaining pieces of disintegrated comets.
Here's a look at the meteor shower schedule for 2016.
August 12: The Perseids - Featuring a best hourly rate of 90 meteors per hour, the Perseids are kind of a big deal. The meteors we see in the Perseid shower are are the result of the disintegration of the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun every 130 years. Start watching on the evening of the 11th and stay up as late as you can!
October 21: The Orionids - A result of Halley's Comet, this shower can be observed in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres, but moonlight may interfere with visibility.
November 5: The Southern Taurids - This shower actually lasts from September to November, but it's so broad an weak that you may not notice it. It only produces a dozen meteors per hour at its highest volume.
November 5: The Southern Taurids - Creating narrow and concentrated streams of debris, this shower offers little more than a trickle of shooting stars.
December 14: The Geminids - Usually the best show of the year, this one concludes the 2016 meteor shower calendar. it features more than 100 meteors per hour!
Lake Afton Public Observatory - Goddard, Kansas
The recently reopened Lake Afton Public Observatory is located just west of Wichita in Goddard, Kansas.
Home to a 16-inch Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, the observatory allows guest to view Saturn, the moon, star clusters and more!
The observatory is open from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Lake Afton Public Observatory will also feature special events and exhibits from time to time.
Banner Creek Observatory - Holton, Kansas
The Banner Creek Science Center and Observatory is located in Holton, Kansas. The observatory features a 20 inch reflector telescope. Many of Banner Creek's guests come to see the stars, but stay to learn more about science.
This observatory offers mini science classes and seminars intended to spark curiosity and create interest in STEM fields. (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) Tours of the observatory can be scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
To learn more about Banner Creek Science Center and Observatory, click here.
Clyde W. Tombaugh Observatory - Lawrence, Kansas
This observatory, named for Clyde W. Tombaugh, the American Astronomer who discovered Pluto and former student of the University of Kansas, is located on the campus of the University of Kansas.
This observatory is open to the public on the second and fourth Sunday nights of each month from 8 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., provided that skies are clear. The observatory is at 500 Lindley Hall.
For more Information, call (785) 964-3166.
Crane Observatory - Topeka, Kansas
Topeka's Crane Observatory is located on the Washburn University campus in the Stoffer Science Hall at 1700 College Avenue. This observatory often holds open houses, allowing guests to come in an view the night sky through a Warner & Swasey refracting telescope that was built in the late 1800s. The open house schedule begins in October. Times for the events vary, but all are held in the evenings.
Washburn's Stoffer Science Hall is also home to a planetarium that hosts regular open houses, also beginning in October. Thes events take place from 3-4 p.m. on select Saturdays.
Click here to learn more.
Farpoint Observatory - Eskridge, Kansas
Located in the Mission Valley school district, Farpoint Observatory can be found in Eskridge, Kansas, which is about 30 miles southwest of Topeka. This observatory features FAST, (Farpoint Astertoid Search Team), who are responsible for the discovery of over 600 asteroids as well as one of the faintest comets discovered by an amateur astronomer.
Farpoint also offers public open houses, with three dates this summer. Tours can also be scheduled by appointment.
More information on Farpoint Observatory is available here.
Powell Observatory - Louisburg, Kansas
Powell Observatory is located in Louisburg, Kansas, just 25 miles south of Kansas City. It features 12, 12.5, 16 and 30 inch telescopes, including the Ruisinger telescope, which is among the largest telescopes for public viewing within a five state area.
Part of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, this observatory holed events on a weekly basis. Whether you're new to astronomy or very experienced, there are events to suit your need.
For details on Powell Observatory, click here.
PSU Greenbush Astrophysical Observatory - Girard, Kansas
This observatory on the Pittsburgh State Campus in Girard, Kansas, features a research-grade telescope with a 24-inch mirror and six portable telescopes with 8-inch lenses. The telescope was designed by Tombaugh in New Mexico in the 1960s. In the 1990s, PSU brought the telescope to Kansas.
Located on the Greenbush campus, the observatory hosts monthly events that are free and open to the community.
Learn more here.
Kansas Wesleyan Observatory - Salina, Kansas
As you may have guessed, this observatory is located on the campus of Kansas Wesleyan University at 100 E. Claflin in Salina, Kansas. It features a 16-inch telescope.
No specific details regarding hours of operation are available online, but for more information, you can call (785) 827-5541.