Wildfire in the Sky

Sleeping Bear Bay Northern Lights, photo by Kenneth Snyder

Here’s a feature via Leelanau.com

A Conflagration of Storms from his online book The 23rd Cycle, Dr. Sten Odenwald tells of the evening of March 13, 1989 when a massive wave of solar energy struck our atmosphere, creating one of the most impressive northern lights displays of the modern era.

Alaskan and Scandinavian observers were treated to a spectacular auroral display that night. Intense colors from the rare Great Aurora painted the skies around the world in vivid shapes that moved like legendary dragons. Ghostly celestial armies battled from sunset to midnight. Newspapers that reported this event considered the aurora, itself, to be the most newsworthy aspect of the storm. Seen as far south as Florida and Cuba, the vast majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere had never seen such a spectacle. Some even worried that a nuclear first-strike might be in progress.

Luke Pontin, a charter boat operator in the Florida Keys, described the colors in reddish hues as they reflected from the warm Caribbean waters. In Salt Lake City, Raymond Niesporek nearly lost his fish while starring transfixed at the northern display. He had no idea what it was until he returned home and heard about the rare aurora over Utah from the evening news. Although most of the Midwest was clouded over, in Austin Texas, Meteorologist Rich Knight at KXAN had to deal with hundreds of callers asking about what they were seeing. The first thing on many people’s mind was the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS29) which had been launched on March 13 at 9:57 AM. Had it exploded? Was it coming apart and raining down over the Earth? Millions marveled at the beautiful celestial spectacle, and solar physicists delighted in the new data it brought to them, but many more were not so happy about it.

Silently, the storm had impacted the magnetic field of the Earth and caused a powerful jet stream of current to flow 1000 miles above the ground. Like a drunken serpent, its coils gyrated and swooped downwards in latitude, deep into North America. As midnight came and went, invisible electromagnetic forces were staging their own pitched battle in a vast arena bounded by the sky above and the rocky subterranean reaches of the Earth. A river of charged particles and electrons in the ionosphere flowed from west to east, inducing powerful electrical currents in the ground that surged into many natural nooks and crannies. There, beneath the surface, natural rock resistance murdered them quietly in the night. Nature has its own effective defenses for these currents, but human technology was not so fortunate on this particular night. The currents eventually found harbor in the electrical systems of Great Britain, the United States and Canada.

Read on for much more about how our electrical grid can be brought to its knees by the power behind the beauty of the northern lights and get much more in the 23rd Cycle.

Kenneth took this photo back in July of 2012. See more great pics in his Sleeping Bear Dunes album & also check out many more northern lights photos in the Leelanau.com group on Flickr!

Blue Ice at Bay City

Bay City Blue Ice, photo by Great Lakes Drone Works

Great Lakes Drone Works captured some awesome shots from the ice on Saginaw Bay near Bay City. They write:

We made our way out to Bay City State Park to capture some images of these huge chunks of ice. At first we were hoping drone photos would be the way to go but after walking around and getting up close, it was clear that ground photography was the better option.
Blue ice occurs when weather conditions — such as a lack of high winds — allow water to freeze slowly and evenly, resulting in ice composed of large crystals (unlike snow, which is formed quickly and made up of small crystals).

When light hits these big ice crystals, it can travel deep into the structures (compare this to snow, wherein light hits a sharp edge and reflects off of it right away, resulting in blinding white). When the light travels deeper into slowly formed ice, some of the red wavelengths of sunlight — which is the longest wavelength of visible light — get absorbed into the ice structure.

The blue, which is the shortest wavelength of visible light, bounces back out, meet our eyes, and results in a deep aqua color.

Head over to their Facebook for more shots and get lots more icy goodness at the ice tag on Michigan in Pictures!

Northern Lights Tonight??!!

via leelanau.com

Night Sky Life Over The Lake, photo by Matt Kazmierski 

The K-index is a scale that measures geomagnetic activity and the NOAA NWS Space Weather Prediction Center says we’re looking at a potential K-index of SIX tonight! That means Northern Lights are very likely tonight! Click the link above for much more and to subscribe to aurora alerts!

Matt took this last summer on Lime Lake in Leelanau County. View bigger and see more from Matt on Flickr!

Last Blast of Summer!

Last Blast of Summer, photo by paula liimatta

Did you get all your summertime fun in? If not, get on that before it’s gone!

Paula took this a year ago at Blackrocks in Marquette’s Presque Isle Park. View it background bigtacular and see more in her Summer 2017 album on Flickr.

More Summer Wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Wearing o the Green (ice)

Icicles in cave – Grand Island Ice Curtains on Lake Superior, photo by Craig

Craig writes:

A little emerald green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Viewing this ice curtain from the inside at Grand Island near Munising Michigan, highlights the blue and teal hues that nature provides.

View the photo bigger and see more in Craig’s Grand Island Ice Curtains set.

The Michigan UFO Craze of March, 1966

The UFO Show, by Jamie MacDonald

WDIV Local 4 / ClickOnDetroit shared a feature last year on the Michigan UFO Craze of 1966:

In 1966, a string of seemingly odd occurrences in Washtenaw County drew the attention of the entire country. The events centered on a sudden wave of UFO sightings, with reports by police and citizens in March 1966.

The same lights were spotted by officers in Ohio, just across the Michigan border, and by observers at Selfridge Air Force Base. The sightings triggered investigations by the Civil Defense and U.S. Air Force.

A few days following the first reports, the lights were spotted again at various locations around Washtenaw County, with one deputy reporting something floating in the sky – described as looking like a “child’s top.”

On Sunday, March 20, 1966, the sheriff’s office received reports of a UFO landing in a wooded, swamp area of Dexter Township. Police spoke to Frank Mannor, a truck driver who had gone into the swamp with his son. Here’s what Mannor told police:

“We got to about 500 yards of the thing,” Mannor told interviewers. “It was sort of shaped like a pyramid, with a blue-green light on the right-hand side and on the left, a white light. I didn’t see no antenna or porthole. The body was like a yellowish coral rock and looked like it had holes in it—sort of like if you took a piece of cardboard box and split it open. You couldn’t see it too good because it was surrounded with heat waves, like you see on the desert. The white light turned to a blood red as we got close to it and Ron said, ‘Look at that horrible thing.’”

More from Click on Detroit.

More cool clouds from Jamie right here on Flickr and definitely follow MacDonald Photo on Facebook!

Here’s a one hour UFO special with Walter Cronkite from 1966:

Walking on Water, Michigan Style

Walking on Water, Michigan Style by Andrew McFarlane

Here’s a shot I took while standing on the amazingly clear ice on Lake Michigan’s Suttons Bay on last Saturday with my sweetheart! mLive liked it enough to share in their article about Grand Traverse Bay freezing over (Suttons Bay is a “sub-bay” of GT Bay – here’s a map):

“Back in the early to mid-1900s the bay froze 80-90% of the time,” said Heather Smith, Grand Traverse baykeeper for the center. “Around 1990, ice cover dropped to 20-30%.”

This winter is the eighth time Grand Traverse Bay has frozen over since 1990.

The frozen conditions likely extend far beyond Power Island, at least close to shore. Last weekend, ice boaters, ice fishermen and people walking their dogs flocked to the frozen surface of Suttons Bay for some winter fun.

Grand Traverse Bay is divided neatly by Old Mission Peninsula into its East Arm and its West Arm. Its East Arm runs north of Elk Rapids, while its West Arm includes the popular Power Island and extends to Suttons Bay.  From there, the bay curves around the Leelanau Peninsula where it merges with Lake Michigan.

Happy Valentines Day everyone!!