Seeing stars.

Looking for a little nighttime thrill? If you happen to be awake very early on Wednesday morning -- say about 3:30 a.m. -- go outside to watch the Lyrid Meteor shower! Even though we don't have the darkest skies, being just outside of how-orange-can-we-make-the-night-sky Chicago, I've seen meteor showers before in this area and it's pretty darned magical! Dress warmly and bring something hot to sip. Then lay back on a lawn chair or lie down on a blanket, and point your eyeballs to the sky.

I like tracking meteor showers and other celestial events such as aurora displays (there was an amazing display that lit up the skies back in 2003, and almost everyone in the entire midwest missed it!), brighter than usual planets, International Space Station flybys, moon phases, and the like.  With the best of intentions, I get excited about meteor showers. I mark them on my calendar, and check the weather forecast in the hopes of having clear skies. Naturally they are best seen in the middle of the night when the skies are darkest and, not surprisingly, when I'm usually asleep. So I keep missing them.  Oh, you’re usually asleep in the middle of the night too? No wonder we keep missing these meteor showers!

If you don’t happen to catch any shooting stars, then you still might see a
satellite flyby of some sort on Wednesday morn. (Substitute your local zipcode at the very end of that link to see the flyby schedule in your 'hood.) Even though the flybys themselves aren’t tremendously spectacular -- really just a quiet steady light that cruises peacefully across the sky -- it’s pretty amazing to know there are people in that thing. Or you might literally see some space junk or a toolbag dropped by an astronaut. Again, mostly just specks of light traveling slowly overhead, but I am fascinated that this stuff is orbiting above us while we go about our business on the mother planet.

If you don’t happen to catch a flyby then keep an eye out for the Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter converging at dawn. Satisfy your inner astronomy geek at the SpaceWeather site, which has lots of great user-submitted photos of planets, satellites, and awesome pictures of the northern lights.

And if all that isn't enough for you even before you have breakfast, Wednesday is also Earth Day! Maybe you should take Wednesday off.