Clever Apes: Comet cometh

August 12, 2010

If you get yourself away from the city tonight -- far away -- you can catch one of nature's great pyrotechnic displays. The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will be visible in the northeast sky. Your best bet is getting the city lights behind you when you're looking toward the meteors, so "¦ hit the road to Michigan or borrow a boat. (or join the Adler Planetarium crew for viewing party). The meteors are actually tiny comet bits. Most are probably sand-grain sized, but they're moving so fast (140,000 mph, according to NASA) they release a huge amount of energy and burn brightly enough to be clearly visible from earth. At least, if you can get Chicago out of your rearview mirror. The annual show happens when the earth passes through a debris trail left by the comet Swift-Tuttle. Comet debris may actually have had an enormous role to play in Chicago's history. In fact, some people think it was behind what was arguably the defining event of Chicago's development. Or maybe not. On the next Clever Apes, we'll invite scientists to weigh in on this hypothesis, as we explore the theme of "Playing with Fire." It's coming up on Monday August 30th on-air and online. Find it here or subscribe to our podcast.

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