Dark Sky to City Dwellers: Get Lost

Tonight’s the peak of the Perseid’s meteor shower, but I can’t watch it from my backyard in Philly. Let’s lament together over city’s lack of access to nighttime nature.

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I was born just about 27 years ago during the Perseids meteor shower. Usually these early August days are sweltering and the meteors that fly at night look like electrical fuses burning out. In the past, I have been lucky enough to watch these meteor showers from my family’s house on Long Island. But since my birthday and the apex of the meteor shower arrive on the unaccommodating time of around 2am Tuesday morning, I am stuck trying to find a way to watch these meteors in town.

It’s been near impossible to find a place where I can do this. It seemed like Brandywine Park in Wilmington, Del. was the perfect solution — they actually had a meteor-shower watching event. But when I called to RSVP, I was told the event happened last night. With the cloudy sky, an approximate number of three meteors were seen. Could I go to Clark Park? I hear it’s not very safe at night. What about the Schuylkill River? There’s probably a lot of street lamps that will pollute the view. I called University of Pennsylvania’s Astronomy Dept. and the woman answering the phone laughed off my request for information on where to get some dark sky. I’ve been emailing a few local astronomy clubs — no answer. I tried the Franklin Institute and got put on hold for about 10 minutes waiting for an operator.

Anyone out there willing to help with this quest? Post your suggestions in the comment box below.

All this got me thinking about the problem of wanting a patch of dark sky in the city, and yet also wanting streets and parks to be safely lit. Is there any way to have both?

Photo by Joe Westerberg

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Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

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Tags: philadelphia

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