American Dream

Bay City Fireworks Festival, photo by Jeff Caverly

“There are those who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American Dream.”
-Archibald MacLeish

View the photo background big and see lots more from Bay City’s Fireworks Festival in Jeff’s slideshow!

Moons Big & Small: Perigee & Apogee Moons

A comparison of the perigee and apogee Moons of 2011.

Moons Big and Small, photo by Kevin

Last night I learned that the full moon was at apogee, and with all the love I’ve given to supermoons, I figured that I should throw a bone to the tiny ones as well. Kevin is a regular on Michigan in Pictures with his stunning photos of the night sky. He made a comparison of the perigee and apogee Moons of 2011 and shared this explanation:

The Full Moon of October 2011 was near apogee, which is the furthest point in the Moon’s orbit of the Earth. Back in March, you may recall, the Moon was at it’s closest point in its orbit to Earth, and the media dubbed it the “Supermoon.”

According to several sources, the difference in size between the March Full Moon and the October Full Moon is 12.3%. Why is there such a difference, you may ask?

Well, the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical, just as the Earth’s is around the Sun. That means that as the object – the Moon in this case – orbits the “parent” object (the Earth) it will never be the same distance away.

The image I put together shows the difference between the size of the Moon at perigee (March 2011) and apogee (October 2011). This comparison makes the size difference quite clear.

Kevin adds that both images of the Moon were taken with exactly the same equipment. View it bigger and see more in his massive The Moon slideshow.

PS: This full moon is the strawberry moon, and you can click that link for more about that and (unsurprisingly) a photo from Kevin!

Dance of Light, March of Science

Dance of Light, photo by Eric Hackney

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
― Marie Curie

The NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has forecast a G2 level storm for tonight, which may very well produce Northern Lights! The SWPC is an invaluable scientific resource that is wholly produced by our tax dollars. In addition to letting us know when northern lights are possible, the SWPC helps to maintain our modern communication grid when the Sun gets a little extra exuberant.

It’s my heartfelt belief that one of the duties of our government is to work to make our country the leader in scientific advancement. As threats in public health, the environment, and a host of other realms increase, we need to be investing much more in science, not less.

To any who are participating in any of the 15 local Science Marches in Michigan today, the March for Science in Washington DC, or anywhere else, I salute you.

View Eric’s photo bigger and see more in his Personal Favorites slideshow.

PS: Happy Earth Day everyone.

Rare “Pure Award” for the Headlands Dark Sky Park

Milky Way, photo by Joseph Snowaert

I’ve been an astronomy nut since I was a little kid, and I’m always happy when the importance of the night sky gets the recognition it deserves. That’s certainly the case as the Headlands Dark Sky Park has won Michigan’s most exclusive tourism award. Absolute Michigan explains:

Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands won the distinguished recognition of the state’s premier Pure Michigan campaign at the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism Tuesday when they won the Pure Award for 2017. The Pure Award, which has only been awarded twice in the 10 years of the Pure Michigan campaign, recognizes best practices in stewarding and preserving Michigan’s natural, cultural, and heritage-based resources.

“This award helps us further realize our goal of safeguarding the community’s natural and direct encounter with Northern Michigan’s unique and exceptional environment, both by day and by night,” said Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

…The Headlands International Dark Sky Park is a 600-acre park on the Straits of Mackinac, two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City, at 15675 Headlands Road. The park is free and open to the public every day. While no camping is allowed, visitors are welcome to stay overnight to observe the dark sky overhead. The Headlands became the 6th International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. and the 9th in the world in May 2011, as designated by the International Dark Sky Association (www.darksky.org), and each month free programs are held for the public.

Read on for more.

Joseph took this photo back in May of 2014. View it background big and see more in his Writing Center slideshow.

Speed limits (and probably fatalities) going up in Michigan

September 13 – Stars and Cars Part 4, photo by Andrew Pastoor

I was on the fence about posting this, but after I found this cool photo I just had to! Michigan Radio reports that a new law directing the Michigan Department of Transportation to increase speed limits to 75 miles an hour on up to 600 miles of rural highways in the state will have consequences:

Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says there’s decades of research proving that more people will die as a result. For every five miles’ increase in the speed limit on interstates and highways, says Rader, fatal crashes increase 8%.

He says Michigan is not alone; many other states are also raising speed limits. He says very high speeds cancel out the life-saving features on cars like seat belts and front air bags.

“In 2013 alone, speed limit increases resulted in about 1900 additional deaths,” says Rader. “That would essentially cancel out the number of lives saved that year from front air bags.”

Read on for more and get more about the law from mLive, It will go into effect following studies.

View the photo bigger and see more in Andrew’s Project 365 | 2014 slideshow,

Falling Skies: The Geminid Meteor Shower

falling-skies

Falling Skies, photo by Heather Higham

The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight but will continue tomorrow as well. EarthSky explains:

The shower starts around the second week in December, but, in a bit of bad timing, full moon comes on the peak night (December 13-14) this year. Still, these meteors are known for being bright, so some Geminid meteors may well overcome this year’s moonlit glare. Watch on the evening of December 13 until dawn December 14. The nights before and after might be good as well. Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night.

…Your local peak will typically be centered at about 2 a.m. local time, no matter where you are on the globe. That’s because the constellation Gemini – radiant point of the shower – will reach its highest point for the night around 2 a.m. (your local time). As a general rule, the higher the constellation Gemini climbs into your sky, the more Geminid meteors you’re likely to see.

Heather took this photo in September of 2016, and there’s FOUR meteors!! View it bigger, see more in her Night Sky slideshow, and view & purchase photos at snaphappygal.com!

Lots more meteors on Michigan in Pictures.

 

Lions in the Sky: The 2016 Leonid Meteor Shower

aurora-fireball-by-ross-ellet

Aurora Fireball, photo by Ross Ellet

Space.com’s page on How to Watch the Leonids says in part:

The Leonid meteor shower happens every year in November, when Earth’s orbit crosses the orbit of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The comet makes its way around the sun every 33.3 years, leaving a trail of dust rubble in its wake. When Earth’s orbit crosses this trail of debris, pieces of the comet fall toward the planet’s surface. Drag, or air resistance, in Earth’s atmosphere cause the comet’s crumbs to heat up and ignite into burning balls of fire called meteors.

…The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Thursday, Nov. 17, and early the following morning. Skywatchers might be able to see some meteors as early as Sunday, Nov. 13. However, with a full supermoon slated to rise Monday, Nov. 14, moonlight will likely outshine most meteors, rendering them difficult to see.

But don’t feel bummed if you don’t spot any of the early meteors. The Leonids will continue to graze the night sky until Nov. 21. At this point, the waning moon will be at its third quarter, meaning only half of the moon’s face will illuminate the sky. With less of the moon’s natural light obstructing the view, skywatchers who were unable to see the meteor shower at first will still have a chance to catch the last Leonid meteors.

Ross took this photo in late September of 2014 and writes:

The sky was cloudy most of the night, but at 3:30am there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We made our way to the lakeshore and sure enough the northern lights were dim on the northern horizon. At one point you could hear the howl of a distant wolf pack while the northern lights were out. Then moments later a slow move fireball flashed across the sky. It lasted a couple seconds and the brightness pulsed as it moved through the atmosphere. After that the aurora faded, but several more meteors (some very bright) streaked above us.

View it background bigtacular and see more in his Porcupine Mtns slideshow, and definitely check out his website, Ross Ellet’s Weather & Photography for more!!

PS: Some of the best northern lights on the year happen in November so be sure to keep an eye on the skies!