February 19, 2014
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center reported this morning:
Earth is currently under the influence of a coronal mass ejection (CME) and G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storming has been observed. This is likely the result of what was expected to be a near miss from an event originally observed on the 14th. This CME has a fairly well-organized magnetic field structure so continued G1 (Minor) to G2 (Moderate) storming is certainly possible. Stay tuned for updates as this event unfolds.
The Aurora Borealis was out last night, and I thought it a good time to share Shawn Malone’s Insider Secrets for Northern Lights that she wrote for the Pure Michigan Blog a couple of months ago:
Michigan has a lot of things going for it when it comes to northern lights viewing, the most important being 1). latitude and 2). relatively low light pollution in many areas. Northern Michigan sits in a great location latitude-wise, as the auroral oval dips further south on nights of stronger auroral activity. The Upper Peninsula is blessed with hundreds of miles of shoreline along the south shore of Lake Superior, which provides some of the best northern lights viewing in the lower 48 due to the very dark night skies. When looking north over Lake Superior, one can see right down to the horizon and take in a 180 degree unobstructed view of the night sky. Getting to a location without the obstruction of a treeline or hills is important at our latitude, as many times an auroral display will sit very low on the horizon. Having a dark night sky with little light pollution is necessary when looking for the northern lights, as the light of the aurora is equal to the brightness of starlight.
People often ask me how I’ve been able to see so many northern lights displays over the years and a lot of it has to do with what I mentioned above. I live in Marquette, Michigan which sits centered on the south shore of Lake Superior, and when looking north there’s nothing but lake for hundreds of miles. Marquette and locations nearby have many areas along the lakeshore still publicly accessible, allowing for the opportunity to view the aurora right from the shoreline.
If you’ve never seen the northern lights and want to maximize your opportunity to do so, learn and pay attention to sunspot activity, as that’s what drives the northern lights.
Read on for tips on where to catch these lights, some more photos from Shawn and her incredible, Smithsonian award-winning video Radiance.
Michigan in Pictures has a TON of Northern Lights information & photos that includes the science and stories of this incredible phenomenon.
December 14, 2013
Today’s post might win the 2013 Incomprehensible Garbledegook Award…
Almost all of the photos on Michigan in Pictures are those added to the Absolute Michigan pool on the excellent photo sharing site Flickr, with occasional photo posted to the Michigan in Pictures Facebook mixed in. While that’s very convenient for me, there’s a whole lot of great photos on Twitter and Instagram too.
If you’re interested in sharing your photos and aren’t into Flickr, please feel free to use the “michpics” hash tag: #michpics on Twitter and #michpics on Instagram. If your photo is in some other place, you can tweet it with that hash tag.
Thanks everyone for sharing and I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of Michigan’s beauty this weekend!
Jiqing Fan took some amazing photos this fall. View his shot from Brockaway Mountain on the Keweenaw Peninsula bigger and see more in his slideshow. Past features of Jiqing Fan on Michigan in Pictures.
November 14, 2013
This EarthSky article on the Pleiades gives some great lore and viewing tips and says that:
In our Northern Hemispheres skies, the Pleiades cluster is associated with the winter season. It’s easy to imagine this misty patch of icy-blue suns as hoarfrost clinging to the dome of night. Frosty November is often called the month of the Pleiades, because it’s at this time that the Pleiades shine from dusk until dawn. But you can see the Pleiades cluster in the evening sky well into April.
November is also the month of the Aurora, delivering some of the best northern lights action. Kevin took this photo during one of the best solar storms in the last several decades on November 10, 2004. He wrote the following (in part) after viewing these lights:
It was a Dark and (Solar) Stormy Night. Stormy with shafts and rays of light streaming from the heavens.
We all knew there was a chance of another auroral display tonight. We were waiting. And then around 10:30pm or so (from Grand Rapids), the wait was over. This time I went out with my brother, taking back roads and such until we finally found a great spot in northeastern Kent County. We ended up off Old Belding Rd on Lessiter Rd, which is on the way to the Grattan Raceway.
The road faced north, so we were shooting right down the middle of it. There were some clouds around to the north, but nothing too bothersome. Most of the action was to the northeast, with not much seen in the way of color except green, and an occasional red and blue. There were curtains, rays, shafts, and some really good pulsing going on.
I of course used my 35mm film camera, and my brother had his Canon Digital SLR. I was a tad pickier this time, and only shot 3 rolls by the time 1:30 rolled around, and it started to wane. Also, we were getting some clouds coming in, so we bailed.
On the way back to civilization, I noticed it was picking up again … I finally found a place a few miles down the road with a good northern horizon, and set up the camera again.
Oh… My… God. The curtains! The pulsing rays!! The pulsing shafts of light as they flickered up the magnetic lines of force to the corona. I was seeing pulsating shafts from the south!! All of them converging near Orion, forming another spectacular corona. I shot, moved the camera, and shot again. Always looking for the best display, and ever mindful to watch for composition (at least I was keeping my photographers’ hat on during this), I shot frame after frame. At one point I was going to leave, as it was dying again. But as I put my camera in the car, it flared up to the point I HAD to get set up again; another roll of film in the camera. I finally stopped around 3:00, as it was dying down, and also because I knew if I didn’t force myself, I’d shoot until I ran out of film. … In all my years of observing the aurora, I’ve never seen such intense pulsating effects. Also, the coronas (all 5 I counted) had more detail in them than I had ever seen.
More of the night sky on Michigan in Pictures.
October 15, 2013
Run, don’t walk to watch Shawn’s latest video Radiance. It’s another eye-popping look at the aurora borealis featuring her photos set to “The Opening” from the forthcoming Album: “FOUND” by David Helpling/Jon Jenkins.
Speaking of northern lights, it looks like we have a 25% chance of the aurora over the next 3 days according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
Speaking of Shawn’s video, after you watch it be sure to check out North Country Dreamland, the 2013 Smithsonian In Motion Video Contest Viewer’s Choice award winner!
October 2, 2013
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center posted Geomagnetic Storm Starts Early about 8 hours ago:
The awaited CME passed the ACE spacecraft around 0100 UTC on October 2 (9:00 p.m. EDT October 1), sooner than forecasters had expected. G1 (Minor) Geomagnetic Storming now prevails, with the prospects of G2 (Moderate) levels still to come. The shock had no effect on the current Solar Radiation Storm, still declining through the S1 (Minor) category. Aurora watchers in North America may want to check the skies in the next few hours.
Those who got out were rewarded, and there’s more on tap for tonight. With this strong on an aurora at Torch Lake, the might be visible tonight in Grand Rapids or even further south!
PS: Shawn Malone simply posted “Oh My” about an hour ago, so definitely take a look at her Lake Superior Photo Facebook later today when she’s had a chance to grab some shut-eye and post them!
September 30, 2013
Make this the evening of October 2nd & 3rd – I misread the alert!
The latest Space Weather forecast says that S1 (Minor) solar radiation storm conditions are expected
tonight and tomorrow night Wednesday & Thursday night due to particle enhancement associated with the 29 Sep coronal mass ejection (CME). They have revised Thursday up from Minor to Moderate too!
That’s good enough reason to check in on Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photo. Shawn takes amazing pictures of the Northern Lights and all things Upper Peninsula. This summer, her incredible North Country Dreamland video won the Viewers Choice in the 2013 Smithsonian in Motion video contest.
Much (much) more about the aurora borealis on Michigan in Pictures!
August 5, 2013
I’ve had an eye on the Space Weather over the last few days, and while it doesn’t look like this weekend’s G1 level solar storm has produced anything, there’s a slight chance we’ll see something tonight. Their definition of the G1 level says that aurora may be visible at high latitudes, i.e., northern tier of the U.S. such as northern Michigan and Maine, so you want to check tonight!
May 6, 2013
Last night I got an alert of a moderately strong solar flare with the possibility of generating northern lights. When I went looking to see if anyone had photographed them, I discovered that Michigan in Pictures regular Shawn Malone has just released a truly stunning video featuring a series of time-lapses of the night skies of northern Michigan! She writes:
Rare pairings caught on camera include ribbons of aurora above a full moon fogbow on the horizon of Lake Superior, the aurora and an isolated singular lightning storm cloud over Lake Superior, and the aurora and Milky Way in several scenes including Copper Harbor, Marquette, Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks, and Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.
…All scenes are within 200 miles or so of my home in Marquette, Mi. and I feel very blessed to live where I do and to share the beauty that I see ‘in my own backyard’ with you. I hope it inspires others to take time to find the beauty that is everywhere around us and also to raise an awareness about the importance of preserving our night wondrous starlit skies.
The shot above is one of 33 different scenes in the video and shows Miners Castle in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. See it bigger in the video and see a lot more on the Lake Superior Photo Facebook.
Much more from Shawn on Michigan in Pictures.
Today’s Space Weather Forecast says that there’s chance for R1 – R2 (minor – moderate) solar radio blackouts are possible through 26 April due to solar Region 1726 which will rotate off the visible disk on or about 26 April.
Much (much) more about the aurora borealis including how weather on the sun impacts the northern lights on Michigan in Pictures.
April 15, 2013
The Lyrid Meteor Shower at spaceweather.com explains that:
Every year in late April Earth passes through the dusty tail of Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1), and the encounter causes a meteor shower–the Lyrids. This year the shower peaks on Saturday night, April 21st. Forecasters expect 10 to 20 meteors per hour, although outbursts as high as 100 meteors per hour are possible.
Lyrid meteors appear to stream from the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra. In fact, Lyrids have nothing to do with Vega. The true source of the shower is Comet Thatcher. Every year in April, Earth plows through Thatcher’s dusty tail. Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth’s atmosphere traveling 49 km/s (110,000 mph) and disintegrate as streaks of light.
Lyrid meteors are typically as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper, which is to say of middling brightness. But some are more intense, even brighter than Venus. These “Lyrid fireballs” cast shadows for a split second and leave behind smokey debris trails that linger for minutes.
Occasionally, the shower intensifies. Most years in April there are no more than 5 to 20 meteors per hour during the shower’s peak. But sometimes, when Earth glides through an unusually dense clump of comet debris, the rate increases.
There’s no way of knowing whether or not this would be a big year, but I’d say that with the Iron Lady’s recent passing, there’s a chance! FYI, Comet Thatcher was named by A.E. Thatcher way back in 1861.
Nobody I know caught the Northern Lights Saturday night, but I thought that Cory’s photo taken when he went looking for Lyrids on April 22, 2012 would be the next best thing! Check it out on black and see more in his Space slideshow.