August’s annual Perseid meteor shower is already underway. The very best viewing nights will be this Sunday and Monday, when viewers can expect to see more than one meteor every minute. However, the whole event stretches over the course of several weeks.
Mother Nature’s spectacular light show can be seen any time after dark, but the best show will be from midnight to dawn, particularly after the half-moon sets around 1:00 am.
Whiterock Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust near Coon Rapids, is among the best places in the state to view this annual marvel. Iowa’s astronomers have determined that the property is one of the very darkest places in Iowa. With those dark skies come great opportunities for stargazing.
The very darkest place at the Conservancy, is a remote pasture, ringed by woods, known as the “Starfield.” To get there, from Highway 141 three miles east of Coon Rapids, take Fig Avenue (a gravel road) south, cross the Middle Raccoon River and go up the other side, and then turn left on 140th Street. Watch for the Starfield sign about a half-mile east on your left. Once you pull in and park, get out your blanket or some lawnchairs, let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and then lay back and enjoy the “Oohs” and “Aahs.”
If you can’t make it for the Perseid meteor shower, make sure to mark your calendar now for Friday, August 30, when amateur astronomers from all over the Midwest bring their telescopes and gather at Whiterock for their annual Star Party (www.iowastarparty.com). This astronomer gathering allows telescope enthusiasts to compare notes and scopes, enjoy several nights of star-gazing, and hold a banquet with a featured astronomy speaker.
Whiterock Conservancy is an Iowa Environmental Council member organization and is home to many exciting examples of sustainable land management in addition to serving as a resort.