10 p.m. to 3 a.m., Monday, May 5
Kitt Peak Observatory54 miles west of Tucson, off state Route 86
Southern Arizona's wide open spaces and a general appreciation for dark night skies make for great cosmic viewing. But when it comes to getting a glimpse of something moving among the stars, you never know when to be looking up. That's where Kitt Peak's "Meteor Mania!" series comes in. Experts at the observatory west of Tucson will lead groups in telescope use from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. at various times throughout the year when chances are best to see meteors streaking across the night sky. "After midnight is the best time to view meteors," said Bob Martino, a Kitt Peak spokesman. "You just lay back and keep your eyes open." The next program, on Monday, centers on the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which Martino describes as a "dependable" event because it happens every year. It's made up of pieces of Halley's Comet that broke free from the comet's nucleus. Other shows scheduled for 2014 include Camelopardalids on May 24 and a "triple threat" event on July 28 featuring comets from three different showers. Advance registration is required for Meteor Mania!, which costs $45 for adults and $25 for children ages 8 to 16. Kitt Peak members get in for $40. Visitors are encouraged to dress warmly, Martino said, because "people always underestimate how cold it will be on top of the 7,000-foot mountain." Because cloud cover can ruin a good sky-watching party, a decision on whether to proceed with viewing will be made on the morning of each event. If it looks like viewing conditions won't be satisfactory, registered participants will be notified, Martino said.