STEVE: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement

Five Minutes with STEVE by Shelbydiamondstar Photography

Five Minutes with STEVE by Shelbydiamondstar Photography

This spring has been big for fans of the aurora borealis. Shelby took created this photo of five, 1-min tracked shots blended with an untracked foreground shot the night of March 13/14th in Copper Harbor. It shows a phenomenon I’d never heard of, a Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement aka STEVE about which Space.com says (in part):

A typical aurora — sometimes called the northern lights or the southern lights, depending on the hemisphere in which it’s located — occurs when charged particles from the sun interact with Earth’s oxygen and nitrogen molecules. This interaction excites the molecules and causes them to glow.

But STEVE, formally known as Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, is different. In the Northern Hemisphere, the phenomenon is visible from areas farther south than a typical aurora, and it looks like a ribbon of pink or mauve light. Sometimes, STEVE even has a “picket fence” appearance, with green columns of light passing through the ribbon. Auroras, by contrast, usually are shimmering green ribbons.

…The new study examined satellite data gathered above STEVE events in April 2008 and May 2016. The measurements included information about Earth’s magnetic and electrical fields in the magnetosphere, the region of Earth’s atmosphere where the planet’s magnetic field is stronger than any influence coming from the sun. Then, scientists compared the satellites’ findings with amateur photos of STEVE taken from the ground at the same time.

When STEVE was on display, the study authors realized, energetic electrons were pouring into Earth’s ionosphere, the layer of the planet’s atmosphere where atoms lose electrons due to solar and cosmic radiation. The friction that flood creates heats particles, which creates the pinkish glow, almost like an incandescent light bulb.

Satellite information further revealed how the “picket fence” aspect of STEVE develops. The data revealed waves moving from Earth’s magnetosphere to the ionosphere. In this region, the waves can both energize electrons and move them out of the magnetosphere, creating the picket-fence appearance, which happens simultaneously in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Lots more at Space.com.

You can comment on Shelby’s photo right here. For sure follow her on Facebook and view & purchase her work at shelbydiamondstar.com.

Lots more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures!

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Grand Rapids Blues

Blue Bridge by Dan Gaken

Blue Bridge by Dan Gaken

Dan shares:

I’ve never spent much time in Grand Rapids, but I have seen photos of this striking bridge across the Grand River. I wanted to capture the river as the sun went down. I love watching how quickly light can change. These three photos, all very different, were taken within 15-20 minutes of each other on Saturday, 6 March 2021. The photo above is the third in the series, taken at night with most of the light in the image now comes from the lights on the bridge, hotel windows and street lights.

Image 1: Just at sunset, you can see the warm tones from the last light on the buildings

Image 2: Blue hour – the sky almost balances the surface of the river perfectly

Perseverance: New Mars Rover Lands Today

Milky Way + Mars viewed from Garden Peninsula MI by Daniel Sandin

Milky Way + Mars viewed from Garden Peninsula MI by Daniel Sandin

NASA’s Perseverance Rover will land on the surface of Mars today, Feb. 18, 2021 in a search for ancient life that will test the next generation of exploration tools:

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion, and our nation’s capability, to take on and overcome challenges. It will collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth, search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.

Perseverance is also ferrying several cutting-edge technologies to the surface of Mars – including a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.

The landing takes place just before 4 PM EST & you can watch online at NASA.

Daniel took this photo back of Mars in July of 2018 on the UP’s Garden Peninsula. See more great night photography on his Flickr & for sure check out his website – he looks like a very interesting guy!

Here’s NASA’s YouTube stream which goes live around 2 PM today.

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Michigan Lights Up the New Year!

Michigan Lights up the New Year by Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) UW-Madison

Michigan Lights Up the New Year by CIMSS UW-Madison

This satellite photo from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin shows:

…two of the first 2021 images from the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites when they flew over the U.S. overnight to acquire stunning VIIRS nighttime imagery with light from recently full moon (98% illumination). City lights shimmer in the wintry landscape while a large storm swirls in the Mississippi Valley. Including a zoom into the Great Lakes Region because there’s no place like home!

Indeed!! Head over to their Facebook page for more & congratulations for being a part of the most welcoming state from space on the planet!! ;) 

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Essexville Ice Magic

Essexville Ice Formation by Jeff Caverly

Essexville Ice Formation by Jeff Caverly

I’ve featured this stunning photo before but had to bring it back for an encore! Head over to Jeff’s Flickr for more & definitely follow Jeff Caverly Photography on Facebook!

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The Great Silver Lake Pyramid

The Great Silver Lake Pyramid by Neil Weaver

The Great Silver Lake Pyramid by Neil Weaver

Here’s a simply stunning shot from Silver Lake Sand Dunes, which is located on the shore of Lake Michigan between Muskegon & Ludington.

Neil has several more stunning shots from the Silver Lake Dunes on his Facebook page and some great photography (including his 2021 calendar) for sale at neilweaverphotography.com!

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Magnetic North: Northern Lights likely tonight!

Magnetic North by Aaron Springer

Magnetic North by Aaron Springer

The NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center reports that geomagnetic Storm Watches are in effect from December 10th & 11th, 2020 due to anticipated Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) effects giving us a good chance of seeing the northern lights! The CME occurred on December 7th and analysis suggests CME arrival possible late on 9 December, initially resulting in G1 (Minor) storm levels. As CME effects continue, activity is likely to increase, especially if the magnetic field carried with the CME connects well with Earth’s magnetosphere. The potential for strong storm levels exists and a G3 (Strong) Watch is in effect for December 10th. CME-related disturbances are forecast to continue into 11 December, likely resulting in G2 (Moderate) storm levels 

As a quick rule of thumb, we can occasionally see Northern Lights at the G1 level, often at G2 and almost definitely at G3. Here’s hoping for clear skies!!

Aaron took this photo  at Otter Creek in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore back in March of 2015 & shared: A very memorable night. After seeing all 4 indicators in red on [a now defunct aurora tracker website] (and I had never seen that before), I bolted for the lake with what was an already late start. Soon after arriving I punched through the ice while jumping from flow to flow in the shallows. This was the first time I have ever shot these and despite having one leg wet to the knee I managed to stay out for five hours on sheer excitement. 

See more in his Aurora Borealis gallery on Flickr & here’s hoping for some clear skies tonight!

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Internationally Lit

sault ste. marie international bridge, michigan by twurdemann

sault ste. marie international bridge, michigan by twurdemann

The International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie is the only vehicular crossing between Ontario and Michigan within a 300-mile distance, connecting the sister cities of Sault Ste. Marie across the St. Mary’s River.

See more in twurdemann’s International Bridge gallery on Flickr.

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2020 Geminid Meteor Shower on Tap!

Geminid Meteor by Ken Scott Photography

Geminid Meteor by Ken Scott Photography

Science News has an excellent story by Ken Crowswell on the Geminid Meteor Shower which peaks this Sunday night (December 13) when:

…countless meteors will shoot across the sky as space particles burn up in our atmosphere and meet a fiery end. Most meteor showers occur when Earth slams into debris left behind by a comet. But not this meteor shower, which is likely to be the most spectacular of the year. Known as the Geminid shower, it strikes every December and arises not from a flamboyant comet but from an ordinary asteroid — the first, but not the last, linked to a meteor shower.

…Unlike the Perseid meteors, which people have been observing for nearly 2,000 years, the Geminids are relatively new. First reports of their existence came from England and the United States in 1862. The shower in those days was weak, producing at most only one or two dozen meteors an hour. During the 20th century, however, the shower strengthened. Nowadays, at the shower’s peak, a single observer under a dark sky can see more than 100 meteors an hour. That’s better than most Perseid performances.

A heat-seeking spacecraft named the Infrared Astronomical Satellite discovered a small asteroid & Harvard astronomer Fred Whipple noticed it followed the same path around the sun as the particles in the Geminid meteoroid stream:

The newfound asteroid, Whipple declared, must be their long-sought source. The find also explained why the meteoroids were so dense: They come from a space rock rather than an icy comet.

The asteroid revolves around the sun every 1.43 years and comes very close to the sun, cutting well inside the orbit of Mercury, the innermost planet. Astronomers therefore christened the asteroid Phaethon, a son of Helios the sun god in Greek mythology. At its farthest, Phaethon ventures beyond the orbit of Mars and reaches the asteroid belt, home of the largest space rocks, between the paths of Mars and Jupiter.

There’s so much more right here – a truly excellent article if you have the time!

I’ve featured this photo Ken took in December of 2012 before – he’s one of the best for night sky pics! As we’re heading into the holidays, definitely consider one of Ken’s Leelanau calendars – they’re fantastic! Follow Ken on Facebook for the latest & see more in his massive Skies Above gallery on Flickr.

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Last night at Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Last night at Silver Lake Sand Dunes by Neil Weaver

Last night at Silver Lake Sand Dunes by Neil Weaver

Neil captured this stunning shot of the galactic core of our Milky Way stretching across the night sky over Silver Lake Sand Dunes during a recent visit. Head over to neilweaverphotography.com or follow him on Facebook for more great pics!

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