August 17, 2015
NOAA’s Space Weather Advisory Center is a go-to resource for early alerts on potentially good nights for viewing the Northern Lights in Michigan. The Aurora Borealis made an appearance over the weekend, and Space Weather suggests that tonight holds some promise:
The CME (coronal mass ejection) that produced G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storms on August 15th, 2015 seems to have moved past the Earth. However, we are still under the influence of a high speed solar wind stream from coronal hole 88 (CH 88) and G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storms are possible in the evening to overnight hours. A G1 Watch has been issued for the UTC day of August 17th to reflect this activity.
Head over to NOAA Space Weather for lots more including images of solar activity and all kinds of cosmic goodness.
August 10, 2015
The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks August 11-13 and is the closest thing to a sure thing in when you’re talking meteor showers. The Perseids kick out 10+ meteors per hour at peak, and the darker your setting, the more you will see. EarthSky has detailed tips & diagrams about this summer favorite in Everything you need to know: Perseid meteor shower:
Start watching in the second week of August, when the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is rambling along steadily, reliably producing meteors each night. Then keep watching in the second week of August, when the Perseids are rising to a peak. The Perseid shower is known to rise gradually to a peak, then fall off rapidly afterwards. In early August (and even through the peak nights), you’ll see them combine with meteors from the Delta Aquarid shower. Overall, the meteors will be increasing in number from early August onward, and better yet, the moonlight will diminish until the new moon on August 14, 2015.
Don’t rule out early evenings. As a general rule, the Perseid meteors tend to be few and far between at nightfall and early evening. Yet, if fortune smiles upon you, you could catch an earthgrazer – a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but most exciting and memorable, if you happen to spot one. Perseid earthgrazers can only appear at early to mid-evening, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.
As evening deepens into late night, and the meteor shower radiant climbs higher in the sky, more and more Perseid meteors streak the nighttime. The meteors don’t really start to pick up steam until after midnight, and usually don’t bombard the sky most abundantly until the wee hours before dawn. You may see 50 or so meteors per hour in a dark sky.
An open sky is essential because these meteors fly across the sky in many different directions and in front of numerous constellations. If you trace the paths of the Perseid meteors backward, you’d find they come from a point in front of the constellation Perseus. But once again, you don’t need to know Perseus or any other constellation to watch this or any meteor shower.
Read on at EarthSky for lots more and I hope you get a chance to enjoy Michigan after dark this week – it’s worth it!!
View Ken’s August 2012 composite of 8 meteors taken over an hour at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse on Cathead Bay bigger, see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow and head over to Ken Scott Photography on Facebook for a Perseids photo from last night!
PS: You can see a timelapse clip from this night on YouTube too!
April 10, 2015
Stannard Rock Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Tech University College of Engineering
I came across this stunning video overflight of Stannard Rock Lighthouse last month and discovered a lighthouse I wasn’t familiar with.
Stannard Rock Lighthouse at Lighthouse Friends says (in part):
Stannard Rock, a substantial reef barely covered by the waters of Lake Superior, was named for its discoverer, Captain Charles C. Stannard of the American Fur Company, who charted the hazard in 1835. Because of its remoteness – the nearest land is twenty-five miles away, and the harbor at Marquette is distant forty-five miles – the lighthouse atop the reef has been called “the loneliest spot in the United States” and “the loneliest lighthouse in the world.”
The first plan to mark the reef came in 1849, when $1,000 was appropriated for “a floating bell at Stannard rock,” but as this amount was insufficient to moor a vessel with a bell there, it appears the effort was abandoned. In 1866, the Lighthouse Board determined the time had come to mark the nearly hidden menace to navigation:
Stannard’s rock, lying about twenty-three miles southeast of Manitou Island light, is the most serious danger to navigation in Lake Superior. This shoal is about three-fourths of a mile in extent; it rises two and a half to three feet above the water, and is fifteen or twenty feet in diameter. Its exact locality is known to but few; being so far from land it is seldom seen, and is much dreaded by all navigators. The increasing commerce of the lakes will, at no distant day, demand that it be marked by a light-house, the construction of which will, from the circumstances of its location, be a serious engineering difficulty. As a preliminary to this, and to render navigators familiar with its location, the board recommend that it be marked by a day-beacon, to be composed of a single wrought-iron shaft, not less than one foot in diameter, surmounted by a cage that would be visible not less than five or six miles.
…Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands seventy-eight feet tall and exhibits its light at a height of 102 feet above Lake Superior. The tower tapers from a diameter of twenty-nine feet at the pier to just under eighteen feet at the lantern room, while the seven floors inside the tower all have a diameter of fourteen feet.
Read on for a whole lot more about the history of this now abandoned light, including photos.
The photo comes from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, part of the documentation of their Ecology of Lake Superior aboard the EPA Research Vessel Lake Guardian presentation. It’s pretty cool and I definitely recommend clicking through to see more photos & video and read about their mission.
View the pic big as Lake Superior and see more in their Lake Superior on board the RV Lake Guardian slideshow.
March 21, 2015
Lighthouse Friends’ page on the Muskegon South Pier Light begins:
The name ‘Muskegon’ comes from the Ottawa Indian term ‘Masquigon,’ meaning “marshy river or swamp,” and refers to the Muskegon River that expands into Muskegon Lake before emptying into Lake Michigan. Settlement on the shores of Lake Muskegon began in 1837 with the establishment of Muskegon Township. Nicknamed the ‘Lumber Queen of the World,’ Muskegon was home to more millionaires than any other town in America during the late 1800s, when its lumber helped rebuild Chicago after the great fire of 1871.
In August 1838, Lieutenant James T. Homans visited the river and included the following in a report to the Secretary of the Treasury:
Muskegon river, on lake Michigan, came next under my observation, it is a large stream, opening, within half a mile of its outlet, into a considerable lake, eight miles long by four wide. The channel in, is wide and easy of access, and not less than twelve feet of water in it; making this harbor, in my estimation, the best on lake Michigan, all things considered. Its value as a safe haven, and the rich lumber trade in which it will soon be engaged, (three extensive steam saw-mills having been erected there,) entitle it to a light-house near the entrance. I selected a point, on the south side of the river’s mouth, as the best location, in the event of an appropriation being made for a light there.
On March 3, 1849, Congress set aside $3,500 for a lighthouse at the site selected by Homans, and in 1851 a one-and-a-half-story, rubblestone dwelling, surmounted by a wooden tower, was built. The dwelling measured thirty-six by eighteen feet, and the top of the tower stood twenty-six feet above the ground. Six lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors were originally used in the lantern room, but a sixth-order Fresnel lens replaced these in 1856. Alexander Wilson was hired as the light’s first keeper at an annual salary of $450.
Read on for lots more including photos.
February 18, 2015
Here’s an incredible shot of Big Red aka the Holland Harbor Lighthouse. In his extensive article on the history of the Holland Harbor Light, Terry Pepper explains how the nickname came to be:
A Coast Guard crew arrived in Holland in 1956, and gave the combined fog signal building and lighthouse a fresh coat of bright red paint in order to conform to its “Red Right Return” standard, which called for all aids to navigation located on the right side of a harbor entrance to be red in coloration. Local residents thus began referring to the fifty year old structure as “Big Red,” a name which has stuck through the years. The Fourth Order lens was subsequently removed from the fog signal lantern in the late 1960’s, and replaced with a 250 mm Tidelands Signal acrylic optic.
With the fading of the Great Lakes passenger fleet, Holland Harbor had ceased to serve any real commercial traffic. With the station now serving only as a beacon to guide pleasure boats in and out of Lake Macatawa, the Coast Guard announced plans to abandon the old fog signal building to eliminate ongoing maintenance costs in 1972. Over the years, “Big Red” had become as much of an iconic symbol of tourist-centered Holland as tulips and windmills, and fearing the loss of their beloved landmark, the citizenry of Holland gathered together and circulated petitions in an attempt to save the historic structure. To this end, the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Commission was formed in 1974 to coordinate preservation and restoration efforts, and continues to manage the structure to this day.
View Tony’s photo big as Big Red on Facebook and see and purchase some of his work at imagesforyourwalls.com. If you’re in an icy mood, consider attending the opening of his Frozen In Time exhibition at the Holland Arts Council from March 5 – April 18, 2015. The opening reception is March 5th, starting at 6pm.
February 17, 2015
“Love lingers when the heart remembers to touch the light leaking from the soul.”
Here’s a pretty incredible shot from Sunday in Frankfort Harbor.
In addition to being a pretty great photographer with a penchant for adventure, Sarah is an ambassador for Outdoor Bella, a community of strong women who are building strong relationships and lasting friendships and love to embrace the outdoors. She’s hosting a snowshoe hike meetup at 9:30am on Sunday, March 1st at the Sleeping Bear Point Trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, followed by lunch at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor following the hike. Get all the details right here.
January 28, 2015
Today’s photo is one of the most incredible pictures I’ve seen. In addition to the Marquette Harbor Light and the frozen Superior shore, there’s a cornucopia of solar optics that fairly defies imagination.
Atmospheric Optics is a wonderful website, certainly the best I’ve found for describing solar phenomena in a clear and inspiring manner. Here’s a bit of decoding of what’s happening in the skies of Marquette yesterday, but definitely follow the links to explore. There’s so much information and some great photos too!
First, above the lighthouse, there’s a 22º radius halo:
…visible all over the world and throughout the year. Look out for them (eye care!) whenever the sky is wisped or hazed with thin cirrus clouds. These clouds are cold and contain ice crystals in even the hottest climes.
The halo is large. Stretch out the fingers of your hand at arms length. The tips of the thumb and little finger then subtend roughly 20°. Place your thumb over the the sun and the halo will be near the little finger tip.
The halo is always the same diameter regardless of its position in the sky. Sometimes only parts of the complete circle are visible.
There’s also a sundog, known also as parhelia or mock sun. These appear in the 22º halo, even when you can’t see the halo. You can see one at the visible base of the halo on the right:
They are most easily seen when the sun is low. Look about 22° (outstretched hand at arm’s length) to its left and right and at the same height. When the sun is higher they are further away. Each ‘dog’ is red coloured towards the sun and sometimes has greens and blues beyond. Sundogs can be blindingly bright, at other times they are a mere coloured smudge on the sky.
They advise you’ll see one or two a week if you look and if you click over you can learn about how they form & moon dogs.
Finally, we come to the circumzenithal arc (CZA), the upside down rainbow at the top:
…the most beautiful of all the halos. The first sighting is always a surprise, an ethereal rainbow fled from its watery origins and wrapped improbably about the zenith. It is often described as an “upside down rainbow” by first timers. Someone also charmingly likened it to “a grin in the sky”.
The CZA is never a complete circle around the zenith, that is the exceptionally rare and only recently photographed Kern arc.
PS: Check out Dominic B. Davis’s photo of the solar halo in the morning too!