May the 4th be with Michigan!

"Midnight Light" Frankfort, Michigan by John McCormick

“Midnight Light” Frankfort, Michigan by John McCormick

May 4th is known as Star Wars Day – May the Fourth be with you – an annual celebration of one of our shared modern stories. If you’re up before dawn tomorrow, you can step out to see if you can see Eta Aquariid  meteors in the east. Earthsky notes that the forecast calls for the greatest number of Eta Aquariid meteors to fall before dawn on (or near) May 5. However, this shower has a rather broad maximum, so just as many meteors may be flying on the mornings after.

John took this photo of the Frankfort Light back in September of 2017. See it and more in his Starry Night gallery and be sure to follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook!

Here’s a supercut trailer to get you in the mood!

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Mapping the Moon

Moon Beam & LIghthouse by RJE

Moon Beam & Lighthouse by RJE

Earthsky reports that for the first time, the entire lunar surface has been completely mapped and uniformly classified by scientists from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. There’s a video below too. They write:

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced the new Unified Geologic Map of the Moon on April 20, 2020. They said it shows the moon’s surface geology, with rock layers and craters charted “in great detail.” The map is a synthesis of six Apollo-era regional geologic maps, updated with data from more recent moon missions.

USGS said it’s designed to serve as “the definitive blueprint” for lunar science and future human missions to the moon, and to be used by the international scientific community, educators and the public at large.

To create the new digital map, scientists used information from six Apollo-era regional maps along with updated information from recent satellite missions to the moon.

The existing historical maps were redrawn to align them with the modern data sets, thus preserving previous observations and interpretations. Along with merging new and old data, USGS researchers also developed a unified description of the stratigraphy, or rock layers, of the moon. This resolved issues from previous maps where rock names, descriptions and ages were sometimes inconsistent.

Head over to Earthsky for more, and if you like astronomy, I really recommend subscribing to their newsletter!

Check out more stunning shots from RJE on Flickr.

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Lights in the Darkness

Detroit lit up in red white and blue to honor medical professionals, first responders, service workers

Detroit lit up in red white and blue by kare hav

Here’s an absolutely stunning photo from yesterday that’s the latest cover for the Michigan in Pictures Facebook page. It shows the city of Detroit from across the Detroit River as it lights up the night in red white and blue to honor medical professionals, first responders & service workers.

They definitely need all our support. The Detroit Metro Times reports that the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting Detroit harder than New York City:

In just the past three days, Detroit’s death toll nearly doubled, reaching 221 on Tuesday. During that period, the city averaged more than 3o deaths a day. And public health officials warn that the worst is yet to come.

Detroit has a rate of 32.9 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 21.2 deaths per 100,000 people in New York City. More than 5,500 Detroit residents have tested positive for COVID-19 — a nearly five-fold increase since March 27. With a severe shortage of testing kits, public health officials believe far many more Detroiters have been infected.

Mayor Mike Duggan has made it a priority to increase the city’s testing capacity. Frustrated by the slow pace of testing, Duggan led the creation of a regional site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds at Eight Mile and Woodward, where he expects at least 14,000 people will be tested for COVID-19 over the next six weeks. During the first two days, 43% of the people who were tested were positive for the coronavirus. The city is also working with doctors who are willing to see patients who don’t have insurance.

“We’re going to make testing available to every single person in this city who needs [it],” Duggan said Thursday. “It is critical that every single Detroiter have access to this.”

Duggan said the city is now testing 800 people a day.

More than 150 Detroit Police Department employees, including Chief James Craig, have tested positive for COVID-19, and an additional 524 officers and police civilians were under quarantine, as of last week. At least 43 firefighters and medics also have confirmed infections, and more than 75 have been under quarantine.

Read the rest at the Metro Times & see more of Michigan’s largest city in Kare’s Detroit photo album.

Please feel welcome to share photos or info about ways your community is coming together to support medical & essential people in this dark time & please stay safe!!

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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!

Lunar Eclipse coming January 20th!

October 8, 2014 Lunar Eclipse, photo by David Marvin

On Sunday night we have a chance to see the last total lunar eclipse until May 26, 2021! EarthSky shares information about viewing the lunar eclipse:

On January 20-21, we’ll have the first full moon of 2019, and the first lunar eclipse of 2019 (and this is an eclipse-heavy year, with three solar and two lunar eclipses). It can be viewed from North and South America, Greenland, Iceland, Europe, northern and western Africa, plus the Arctic region of the globe. More details – and eclipse times for North America, plus links for those elsewhere – below.

The eclipse will happen on the night of the year’s first of three straight full supermoons, meaning the moon will be nearly at its closest to Earth for this January, as the eclipse takes place.

The January 20-21 total eclipse of the moon lasts for somewhat more than one hour. It’s preceded and followed by a partial umbral eclipse, each time persisting for over an hour. The whole umbral eclipse from start to finish has a duration of nearly 3 1/3 hours.

Additionally, a penumbral lunar eclipse takes place before and after the umbral lunar eclipse. However, a penumbral lunar eclipse is so faint that many people won’t even notice it while it is happening. In our post, we only give the times of the moon passing through the Earth’s umbra – dark, cone-shaped shadow.

The lunar disk often exhibits a coppery color during a total lunar eclipse. Although the moon is completely immersed in the Earth’s dark shadow, the Earth’s atmosphere refracts (or bends) sunlight and the longer wavelengths of light (red and orange) pass onward to fall on the moon’s face. The dispersed light from all of the world’s sunrises and sunsets softly illuminates the totally eclipsed moon. Actually, if you were on the moon, looking back on Earth, you’d see a total eclipse of the sun.

They note that the partial umbral eclipse begins at (roughly) 10:34 PM with the total eclipse starting at 11:41 PM. The greatest eclipse is at 12:12 AM with the total eclipse ending at 12:43 AM.

David took this photo in October of 2014. Check it out background bigilicious on Flickr and head over to his Marvin’s Gardens blog for more pics from the eclipse & David!

Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks this Weekend!

Starry Night by Steven Karsten

The annual Orionid shower peaks this Saturday, but Earthsky’s page on the Orionid Meteor shower says that Friday night might be the best viewing:

The Orionid meteor shower is expected to peak this weekend, though this year, in 2018, the shower must compete with the glare of the brilliant waxing gibbous moon for much of the night. As is standard for many meteor showers, this shower takes place primarily between midnight and dawn – regardless of your time zone. Typically, the Orionids’ strongest showing comes during the few hours before dawn. offering perhaps 10 to 15 meteors per hour in a dark sky.

The advantage of watching late Friday to Saturday morning – rather than the following nights – is that there is less moonlight to obstruct the show.

The Orionids stem from bits and pieces from the most famous of all comets, Comet Halley, pictured above. The picture shows Comet Halley itself at its 1910 visit. The comet last visited Earth in 1986 and will return next in 2061.

As Comet Halley moves through space, it leaves debris in its wake that strikes Earth’s atmosphere most fully around October 20-22, every year. The comet is nowhere near, but, around this time every year, Earth is intersecting the comet’s orbit.

If the meteors originate from Comet Halley, why are they called the Orionids? The answer is that meteors in annual showers are named for the point in our sky from which they appear to radiate. The radiant point for the Orionids is in the direction of the constellation Orion the Hunter. Hence the name.

View Steve’s photo of Orion taken during the 2012 Geminid showers on Flickr and see more of his night photography on Flickr!

More meteoric fun on Michigan in Pictures!

 

Lyrid Meteor Shower AND Northern Lights this weekend!!

Lyrid Meteor … sprinkle, photo by Ken Scott Photography

I got an alert this morning that the Kp levels that predict the likelihood of northern lights is at 5 to 6 over the next two nights making the aurora a strong possibility for much of Michigan. Lots about the northern lights on Michigan in Pictures.

Now let’s add into the mix the annual Lyrid Meteor Shower. It’s a more variable shower than the Perseid or Leonid showers, but it has still produced some impressive showers in the past AND we are blessed with a waxing moon that will make viewing a lot better. EarthSky shares:

The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks this weekend! It’s active each year from about April 16 to 25. In 2018, the peak of this shower – which tends to come in a burst and usually lasts for less than a day – is expected to fall on the morning of April 22, with little or no interference from the waxing moon.

No matter where you are on Earth, expect the greatest number of meteors to fall during the few hours before dawn.

In a moonless sky, you might see from about 10 to 20 Lyrid meteors an hour at the shower’s peak on the morning of April 22. In 2018, the waxing moon will set before the primetime morning hours. An outburst of Lyrid meteors is always a possibility, too, though no Lyrid outburst is predicted for 2018.

In 1982, American observers did see an outburst of nearly 100 Lyrid meteors per hour. Around 100 meteors per hour were seen in Greece in 1922 and from Japan in 1945.

Much more including precise viewing tips at EarthSky!

Ken writes that (back in April of 2016) he shot over a 3 hour period in hopes to catch the meteor ‘shower’ and only caught this one streaker. View his photo bigger, see more in his Skies Above album, and visit Ken Scott Photography to view & purchase work!