Muskegon Astronomical Society Hosting Open House at Wastewater Site for Meteor Shower

Andrew Trzaska | July 30, 2013

The Muskegon Astronomical Society will host two open houses at Muskegon County’s Wastewater Treatment Site in late summer, including one that will allow visitors to see the famous Perseid meteor shower.

The Society’s meteor shower will take place on Saturday, August 10 starting at 8 p.m. Sunset happens at 8:54 p.m. that night, with moonset at 10:26 p.m.

Muskegon County’s wastewater site can be reached from its access road, on the east side of Maple Island Road. A 501(c)3 non-profit, the Muskegon Astronomical Society uses the wastewater site for stargazing because there is much less light pollution than in the county’s more populated areas. It maintains a domed observatory on-site at the wastewater facility, on the eastern segment of White Road off the access road, with the hopes of promoting amateur astronomy.

All are welcome to attend, though the event will be cancelled if the evening is cloudy. Astronomical Society members will be at the event to answer questions.

The Perseid event happens in late July and early August each year as the planet Earth passes through the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. Debris from the comet’s tail hit the earth’s atmosphere at speeds around 130,000 miles per hour and ignites, producing the “shooting star” flashes one can see with the naked eye. NASA says the Perseid event is the most active meteor shower each year.

A second viewing open house will be held on Saturday, September 7, which is not tied into a meteor shower but will provide an opportunity to see the night sky.

The wastewater treatment facility covers 11,000 acres of land on the east end of Muskegon County, which among other components includes intake, treatment lagoons, and a turbine that collects the water and generates electricity. A large portion of the facility is covered by agricultural fields where treated water is used to water crops. That water eventually ends back up in the Muskegon River.

The county has even looked at using some of the site to generate wind power.

Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters urged county residents who have not visited the site to see what it has to offer.  She cited many other activities that happen at the wastewater sites, including bird watching, turkey hunting, model airplane flying, rocket launches by Muskegon Community College students, dog trials, and snowmobiling. It even attracted a national rocketry event last year.

Commissioner Susie Hughes commented on the unique setting of the wastewater site and all of the activity it attracts, both human and non-human. Because of the amount of water flowing through the site’s land and lagoons, it attracts species of owls and cranes not normally seen in Muskegon County, which in turn attracts bird watchers and groups like Pheasants Forever.

“The wastewater facility is totally unique in Muskegon County because it creates its own environment,” said Hughes. “This kind of activity can be found nowhere else in Muskegon County.”

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst