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!
January 10, 2015
Through the magic of Twitter, I came across the website Shalee Wanders the other day. Created by Shalee Blackmer, it’s a really engaging site she created to inspire people (especially young people) to get out and enjoy traveling on a budget.
The post that drew me in was her Michigan Bucket List, a compilation with some photos of a lot of very fun things to do from to hiking the Porcupine Mountains to exploring the Detroit Packard Plant. Even better, there’s 250+ comments from people with more ideas for getting the most out of Michigan.
PS: I do feel that I need to point out that last summer Lake Superior was ice cold, making this leap especially impressive!
November 18, 2014
The Great Lakes Echo has a great WKAR Current State feature produced by April Van Buren that I encourage you to check out to get a real feel for Michigan surfing. It’s titled Can’t get to California? Surf the Great Lakes and features Bob Beaton, president of the Great Lakes Surfing Association and Joe Matulis, owner of East Lansing-based paddleboard and surfboard company Matuli.
The story of surfing the 25 foot waves at Grand Haven the night the Fitz went down is reason alone to check it out, and this 15 minute feature takes you from the birth of Michigan surfing in the 70s when they tore the masts off of sailboats and made their own boards, to the recent past when they … well … still made their own boards while learning to surf to be more employable as ocean lifeguards, and all the way up to the present day with heated wetsuits that let you surf two hours in the dead of winter without a break. Except for the winter waves because this is Michigan, so of course the best waves are found in winter!
If you’re talking about cold weather surfing, it doesn’t get much colder than Lake Superior in April! Check out Shawn’s photo bigger and get many more from this April surfing session on Lake Superior in Marquette in her Marquette MI Surf 04-12-2013 album on Facebook. Shawn also has a gallery of some long period Superior winter waves at lakesuperiorphoto.com that was featured in Surfer’s Journal.
Lots more surfing on Michigan in Pictures.
November 12, 2014
Michigan in Pictures regular Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photo is one of the best photographers of the Michigan night sky around, and on the evening of November 22nd , you have a chance to learn from her at a Night Sky Workshop. She writes:
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a wonderful place to discover the magic of night sky photography, due to the abundance of easily accessible dark sky locations. These night sky workshops are designed for those looking for a basic understanding of the equipment and technique necessary for capturing the night sky.
Photography workshops will take place at LakeSuperiorPhoto- gallery/studio on 211 S. Front, Marquette Mi. 49855. There will be an hour class at the studio where I will cover techniques for capturing night sky photos, from basic camera set up and settings, to a brief discussion of post processing to helpful websites and software to help you come away with great night sky photos.
During this workshop we will concentrate on the techniques necessary to capture low light and night sky photos. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we have a chance to photograph the stars or maybe even possibly the northern lights. No matter what weather conditon – we will conduct the workshop and you will come away with everything you need to know about capturing great night sky images.
She has 4 spaces left – click here to register!
The Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014 at 10:35 a.m. EST (15:35 UTC). We on Earth – 300 million miles (500 million km) away – won’t know the lander has set down successfully until a signal is received back at about 11:02 a.m. EST (16:02 UTC). Both NASA and ESA will provide live online coverage of this first-ever attempted landing on a comet.
Rosetta spacecraft will do the equivalent of transferring an object from one speeding bullet to another, when it tries to place its Philae lander on its comet. Read more about the mission’s dramatic attempt to land on a comet here.
After landing, Philae will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet’s surface. It also will drill into the surface to study the composition and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies.
Philae can remain active on the surface for approximately two-and-a-half days. Its “mothership” – the Rosetta spacecraft – will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun for its July 2015 perihelion (closest point), and then moves away.
September 5, 2014
It’s raining like crazy here in Traverse City this morning, so let’s take a trip back to last summer and up to Partridge Bay, just north of Marquette on Lake Superior.
More Lake Superior beauty on Michigan in Pictures.
March 11, 2014
NOAA’s current space weather forecast reports an M Class (moderate) solar flare from solar region AR2002. Spaceweather.com adds that AR2002 has destabilized its magnetic field, making it more likely to erupt, and that NOAA forecasters are estimating a 60% chance of M-class flares and a 10% chance of X-class flares during the next 24 hours. X-class flares are major solar events that can spawn incredible auroras visible far to the south of us, planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. Click to Space Weather for a video of AR2002 development.
While there’s not much chance of a major event, I thought it was interesting that 25 years ago this week, one of the most significant solar storms in memory created a spectacle in the skies as it demonstrated the power and danger of solar weather to modern society. A Conflagration of Storms begins:
On Thursday, March 9, 1989 astronomers at the Kitt Peak Solar Observatory spotted a major solar flare in progress. Eight minutes later, the Earth’s outer atmosphere was struck by a wave of powerful ultraviolet and X-ray radiation. Then the next day, an even more powerful eruption launched a cloud of gas 36 times the size of the from Active Region 5395 nearly dead center on the Sun. The storm cloud rushed out from the Sun at a million miles an hour, and on the evening of Monday, March 13 it struck the Earth. 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.
…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.
You can read on for more about how the storm spawned a power outage in Quebec and pushed US systems to the brink of collapse. If you want to totally geek out on auroral science, check this article out about how the Earth’s magnetosphere actually extends itself to block solar storms.
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.