Escaping Chicago's light pollution
August 10, 2007 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Meteor Filter: On sunday or monday night I was hoping to take my special lady out to the middle of nowhere and watch the Perseid meteor shower, which is supposed to be quite a show this year. Where should we go to escape Chicago's light pollution?

We live in the Chicago suburbs (Naperville and Mt. Prospect respectively). I'd be willing to drive 1-2 hours to find a good dark place where we could spread out a blanket/sleeping bag and watch the shower. Using either Naperville or Mt. Prospect as a starting point, which highway could we jump on and how far should we go? Any additional meteor viewing advice is welcome.
posted by buriednexttoyou to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
not familiar with chicago, but for any city, you want to drive towards the meteor shower, so that the city lights are behind you, not between you and shower. the perseid meteor shower will be in the northeastern sky, so drive northeast.
posted by brooklynexperiment at 8:31 AM on August 10, 2007

Northeast, you say? Know anybody with a boat?

Maybe you could watch from the tip of Montrose Beach or Wilmette's Gillson Park. Although these parks will close at night and you'll probably get chased out. How late were you planning to watch? How about camping at Illinois Beach State Park?
posted by hydrophonic at 9:02 AM on August 10, 2007

I can't give you specifics, but driving on over to Michigan is pretty painless, and that's northeast. The St Joe's area has parks and such. It's perty. Staying in Chicago or even going to the northern burbs is still pretty darn close to the city lights.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:09 AM on August 10, 2007

I'm with iquanapolitico. Getting away from light pollution is your first priority.

My best meteor viewing has always been a long drive away in SE KS, though there is a state park or two in NE OK with pretty good light conditions. I never had much luck in the Chicago area with stargazing, but I've only tried it two or three times, in fall or winter.

It's close to a new moon, so the viewing conditions will be perfect, modulo cloud cover and the aforementioned light pollution.

I was going to also Suggest the alpha-Aurigids, which are predicted to be spectacular this year, and will peak the morning of Saturdy the 1st, but for us midwesterners, it will be well into morning twilight, and the moon will be waning gibbous just over your shoulder as you're looking up at Auriga; the conditions are not as ideal as this weekend. If you get cloud cover this weekend, they're a good 'plan B'.

Good luck!
posted by willconsult4food at 9:49 AM on August 10, 2007

We live in Island Lake. It's not quite the middle of nowhere, but close. We can see lots of stars. I'd head up to Chain O' Lakes area - wouldn't it be nice to sit by a lakeshore and watch the meteors?
posted by desjardins at 9:56 AM on August 10, 2007

Northeast won't be a problem - drive around the lake and into Michigan. The Warren Dunes area is quite nice and is only a couple of hours away.
posted by aladfar at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2007

Are there special programs at any observatories, like Yerkes near Lake Geneva? I know that the one we have outside Madison is doing a small open house that I plan to attend with my sweetie.
posted by Madamina at 10:09 AM on August 10, 2007

I have no idea where you shoudl go. However, as a veteran of years of meteor shower watching, I have some other advice. Make sure you have something to lie ON not just lie under. It gets really cold at night up where you are and if the sky is clear you'll want to stay out longer but it will aso be getting really cold. Not getting damp is part of staying warm. So, I'd bring some sort of tarp and, depending on how cozy you are with your ladyfriend, two sleeping bags zipped together. Also, pillows because you'll be laying flat on your back and the back of your heads can get plenty numb. Alternately, lawn chairs are a decent way to keep your back/butt off the ground, but unless you have a really good directional view, you could wind up not having as much to look at unless you can lay them out flat.

One the best viewing experiences I ever had was going out to the Snoqualmie pass with some friends in a convertible. We had the heat to blast occasionally and we were sitting well off the ground facing the right direction all wrapped in blankets and the minute we were ready to go we were on the road.

As for stuff to bring, you're not going to the movies so you could bring some music if you wanted to [assuming you're not in someone's back yard]. Again, it will be cold so dress in layers and don't forget things like hats and scarves esp if either of you is skinny and/or prone to heat loss. Take a thermos with something warm to drink (tea, mulled wine, cocoa) and make a late night picnic out of it with snacks and other stuff to pass the time with in case it turns out to not be a great show (though it's really supposed to be pretty good). Have fun!
posted by jessamyn at 10:18 AM on August 10, 2007

Try the Indiana Dunes national lakeshore.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:00 PM on August 10, 2007

My fiance and I were going to go outside of Nekoosa, WI from Chicago for last year's Perseids. Since this will be happening at the beginning of the work week, it'll be too far for you to drive, probably. Instead, he recommends Dark Sky Finder to find something appropriate closer to your homes.
posted by princesspathos at 10:06 AM on August 11, 2007

Northern Boone County. Try around Capron or Poplar Grove. There's also the little town on 173 between Poplar Grove and Harvard. I forget the name. it's a nothing little town. Around those towns, go up a farm road.

Not only is there no light around there, there's no largeish city for about half an hour around. You'll love it.
posted by InnocentBystander at 2:21 PM on August 12, 2007

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