Painting the Night Sky

The Sky Grew Darker… by Fire Fighter’s Wife

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Beth shared this lovely photo & sentiment. See more in her Landscape album on Flickr.

Also, don’t forget to look for Perseid meteors tonight & for the next week or two!

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Chasing the 2020 Perseid Meteor Shower

Milky Way over Bond Falls with a dash of Perseids by Sathya

“I am beginning to love the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
~Sathya R.

EarthSky explains that the annual Perseid meteor shower is one of the most beloved meteor showers of the year, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, where the shower peaks on warm summer nights:

No matter where you live worldwide, the 2020 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. On the peak mornings in 2020, the moon will be at or slightly past its last quarter phase, so moonlight will somewhat mar this year’s production. Still, there are some ways you can minimize the moon and optimize your chances for a good display of Perseids this year. Here are some thoughts:

The Perseids tend to be bright, and a good percentage of them should be able to overcome the moonlight. Who knows? You still might see up to 40 to 50 meteors per hour at the shower’s peak, even in the light of a bright moon. Will you see over 100 per hour, as in some years? Not likely. Still …

Try to watch after midnight but before moonrise. If fortune smiles upon you, the evening hours might offer you an earthgrazer – a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but memorable. Perseid earthgrazers appear before midnight, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.

Watch in moonlight, but place yourself in the moon’s shadow.

Consider watching after the peak. People tend to focus on the peak mornings of meteor showers, and that’s entirely appropriate. But meteors in annual showers – which come from streams of debris left behind in space by comets – typically last weeks, not days. Perseid meteors have been streaking across our skies since around July 17. We’ll see Perseids for 10 days or so after the peak mornings on August 11, 12 and 13, though at considerably reduced numbers. Yet, each day as the moon wanes in the morning sky, less moonlight will obtrude on the show. Starting on or around August 17, moon-free skies reign all night long.

You can read about the taking of this photo & purchase a print from Sathya in Chasing the Perseids at his blog Like the Ocean & see more in his awesome Showcase album on Flickr.

There’s more Bond Falls & more Perseids at Michigan in Pictures.

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Comet Neowise gets better & better!

Lake Michigan … trifecta! by Ken Scott Photography

Space.com says that those who have gotten up before sunrise to gaze into the twilight skies to see Comet Neowise have been greeted by the best comet performance for Northern Hemisphere observers since the 1997 appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp, emphatically ending nearly a quarter-century of lack of spectacular comets, and it’s only going to get better:

The first good opportunity for evening viewing begins on July 12, when the head of the comet will stand 5 degrees above the north-northwest horizon, 80 minutes after sunset (the end of nautical twilight). By July 14 its altitude will have already doubled to 10 degrees, and by July 19 it will have doubled yet again to 20 degrees up by the end of nautical twilight. By then it will have moved to above the northwest horizon.

So, we at Space.com feel that the best time to view the comet during the evening will come during the July 14-19 time frame.

We also strongly recommend that observers should seek the most favorable conditions possible. Even a bright comet, like this one, can be obliterated by thin horizon clouds, haze, humid air, smoke, twilight glow and especially city lights. We especially emphasize that last factor: the farther away you get from a metropolitan area, the darker your sky and the better your view of NEOWISE. Binoculars will enhance your view.

And more good news: No moonlight will brighten the sky, as the moon will be a waning crescent and visible only in the morning sky through July 20. On successive July evenings the comet will grow fainter, but it will be farther from the sun, setting later and visible in a darker sky. As we move into August, the comet will be very well placed for observers with small telescopes.

Read on for more tips & happy comet hunting to you all!

Ken was in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore looking towards the Manitou Islands & writes that he captured Comet Neowise, the Northern Lights and an Iridium Flare plus the bonus reflection on Lake Michigan!! The bright light to right of center horizon is the South Manitou Island Lighthouse. See it bigger on Facebook.

Be sure to follow Ken Scott Photography & view & purchase prints at kenscottphotography.com!

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See Comet Neowise in Michigan this month!

Comet Neowise by Lake Superior Photo

Comet Neowise by Lake Superior Photo

Shawn of Lake Superior Photo took this photo of Comet Neowise peeking through the clouds and fog yesterday morning. She shares that it’s visible to the naked eye & you can catch it the next few days in the northeast before sunrise!! EarthSky explains how to see Comet Neowise:

We still have to wait for another very bright comet, what astronomers call a great comet. There’s no strict definition for great comet, but most agree that Hale-Bopp – widely seen by people in 1997 – was one. Lesser comets are moderately frequent, though, and, right now, there’s a nice binocular comet in the dawn sky. Some skilled observers have reported that – once you spot it with binoculars – you can remove them and see the comet with the unaided eye. Using binoculars or other optical aid is a must, though, if you want to see this comet’s split tail. The comet is called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is up at dawn now; it will be highest in the dawn sky around July 11. Then it will gradually approach the horizon each day. By mid July (around July 12-15), the comet will become visible at dusk (just after sunset), low in the northwest horizon.

If the comet remains relatively bright, it might be easier to see in the second half of July during evening dusk, because, at that time, it will appear somewhat higher in the sky.

You can view the photo on the Lake Superior Photo Facebook, view & purchase work at LakeSuperiorPhoto.com & also check out this awesome video from Shawn’s YouTube!

Michigan’s 2020 Firework Shows Take a Step Back

Bay City's 'Big Show' - focus pulling by Tom Clark
Bay City’s ‘Big Show’ – focus pulling by Tom Clark

Few things in our normal lives have been untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, and public fireworks displays are no exception. Instead of the normal pages & pages of options, MichiganFireworks.com lists just a couple dozen 2020 shows still happening.

Tom took this photo at the Bay City Fireworks Festival back in 2018. He writes that “Focus Pulling is a technique of adjusting focus from out of focus to tack sharp during a firework explosion over 1 to 3 seconds. similar physical operation as zooming during exposure only you use the manual focus ring instead of the zoom ring.”

Pretty sweet effect! See more at www.tom-clark.net/fireworks!

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Broken Barn and the Galaxy

Broken Barn and the Galaxy by Jibu John

Broken Barn and the Galaxy by Jibu John

This photo is from July of 2017. See more in Jibu John’s showcase on Flickr!

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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!