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!

Good Luck Aurora!

good-luck-aurora-borealis

Good Luck Aurora, photo by Lake Superior Photo

Shawn of Lake Superior Photo shared this and writes:

So.. it looks like aurora could be active through the weekend… good luck photo: one of the more memorable geomagnetic experiences from the south shore of Superior… a very animated proton arc from a little over a month ago

NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center confirms that a G1 warning is in effect tonight & tomorrow that brings the chance of northern lights sightings to Michigan and an even more potentially potent G2 warning is in effect for the 24th. Click for more about the scales and definitely consider subscribing for aurora alerts!!

Follow Lake Superior Photo on Facebook and view & purchase photos of northern lights (aurora panoramas too!) and more at LakeSuperiorPhoto.com!

More about northern lights including what a “proton arc” is on Michigan in Pictures!

Northern Lights and a Proton Arc!

Milky Way, A Proton Arc, and the Northern Lights

The Milky Way, A Proton Arc, and the Northern Lights!, photo by Eric Hackney

Last night I got a couple of texts that the northern lights were out. By the time I got to the beach here in northern lower Michigan, they had died back to a soft arc on the horizon. Up on the Keweenaw however, they were pretty spectacular!

In addition to being spectacular, Eric’s photos introduced me to a new northern lights term, the mysterious proton arc or proton aurora. which NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day explains in this link filled post (picture is below):

What are auroras made out of? Triggered by solar activity, normal auroras are caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons and the oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s upper atmosphere. The electrons come from the magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. As the excited oxygen and nitrogen molecules return to their low energy state, they emit light, seen as the auroral glow.

Sometimes, however, auroras can be caused by collisions with heavier protons, causing a more energetic display with strong ultraviolet emission. In addition, protons can temporarily capture an electron and emit light for themselves. Such a proton aurora is seen above, recorded by the IMAGE satellite. A special feature is the bright spot near picture center, embedded in a ring of auroral emission around the north magnetic pole of planet Earth.

Most solar wind protons never reach the Earth to cause auroras because they are completely deflected away at a great distance by the Earth’s magnetic field. The bright spot in the auroral ring indicates a particularly deep crack in the Earth’s magnetic field where protons were able to flow along a temporarily connected region between the Sun and the Earth, relatively undeflected, until they impacted the Earth’s ionosphere.

Read on for lots more. The good news? It looks like the wide coronal hole that was responsible for last night’s aurora will continue to kick out the celestial jams for a couple of days, meaning this weekend offers a great chance to see the northern lights in Michigan!

View Eric’s photo bigger and see more in his 9-1-16: Northern Lights IX slideshow.

Much more about the northern lights / aurora borealis on Michigan in Pictures!

Photo courtesy NASA:

Proton Arc Nasa

Perseid Explosion at Day Farm

Definitely watch Ken’s Perseid video at the end!

D H Day Farm ... perseid meteor shower

D H Day Farm … perseid meteor shower, photo by Ken Scott

I’ve shared this before, but Space.com has an interesting story about how the upcoming Perseid Meteor shower (peak August 11-13) came to be known as “The Tears of St. Lawrence” and also some of the science behind this annual August sky show:

Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”

The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”

…We know today that these meteors are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Discovered back in 1862, this comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the Sun. With each pass, it leaves fresh debris — mostly the size of sand grains with a few peas and marbles tossed in.

Every year during mid-August, when the Earth passes close to the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, the bits and pieces ram into our atmosphere at approximately 37 miles per second (60 kps) and create bright streaks of light.

Read on for more including diagrams and viewing tips.

Ken Scott captured these Perseid meteors last August over a 2 1/2 hour period at the D.H. Day Farm in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He says that the barn is lit by rogue lightning and that this is a composite of many meteor images, where each photo is rotated around the north star so that the ‘point of origin’ of the shower can be seen better. He understands it visually but not scientifically – anyone have a simple explanation for him?

View his photo bigger, see more in his Skies Above slideshow, and view and purchase his work at kenscottphotography.com.

Northern Lights Rewind: July 11th Edition

Aurora Appears on Great Sand Bay

The Aurora Appears, photo by Eric Hackney

NOAA and the National Weather Service provide forecasts for the Northern Lights through the Space Weather Prediction Center. They have a Minor Watch in effect for this evening due to a “disturbance in the solar wind due to a recurrent positive polarity coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) is likely to cause minor geomagnetic storming.”

Pretty sure that Obi-wan Kenobi or Yoda is monitoring the situation as well. If you’d like to up your chances of seeing the northern lights, definitely try stepping outside around 10:30 PM (or later) and taking a look up. Their Aurora Alert email is a great resource as well, delivering timely emails that let you know when conditions are right for the aurora

Eric took this photo one year ago today on Great Sand Bay way up on the northern shore of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula – could we get a repeat tonight?? View it bigger, see more from this night in his 7-11-15 Northern Lights III slideshow, and definitely follow Eric Hackney Photography on Facebook!

Much more about the northern lights on Michigan in Pictures!

Michigan Northern Lights Alert!

Arc of Green by Eric Hackney

Arc of Green, photo by Eric Hackney

While it’s virtually impossible to predict when the aurora borealis will make an appearance, it’s tied to what’s happening on the sun. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center keeps tabs on what our local star is doing and is my go-to for Northern Lights forecasting. They are reporting strong geo-magnetic storms likely tonight and tomorrow so keep an eye on the skies.

Also, do yourself a favor and sign up for their Aurora Alerts!

Eric took this last night. View the photo bigger and see more from the May 8th aurora on his Facebook page.

Tons more northern lights including the colors of the Northern Lights on Michigan in Pictures

Purple Rain: Colors of the Northern Lights

Purple Aurora

Isle Royale Aurora, photo by Ross Ellet

Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool.
~Prince

Prince was a musician who had a huge effect on my life. I went to school near Minneapolis when he was transforming music through his own work and what he did with a host of artists. I’m very sad at his passing. Down at the bottom I have one of my favorite clips of Prince.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the northern lights dozens of times but have probably only seen purple auroras three or four times. Causes of Color explains the colors of the northern lights:

The sun radiates all visible colors, which is why sunlight appears white. The spectrum of visible light associated with the aurora is much more restricted. The aurora is caused by charged particles in the solar wind colliding with atmospheric atoms and ions. The collisions cause the electrons of the atmospheric atoms to become excited. As the electrons return to their original energy levels, these atoms emit visible light of distinct wavelengths, to create the colors of the display we see.

The color of the aurora depends on the wavelength of the light emitted. This is determined by the specific atmospheric gas and its electrical state, and the energy of the particle that hits the atmospheric gas. The atmosphere consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, which emit the characteristic colors of their respective line spectra. Atomic oxygen is responsible for the two main colors of green (wavelength of 557.7 nm) and red (630.0 nm). Nitrogen causes blue and deep red hues.

Most of the auroral features are greenish-yellow, but sometimes the tall rays will turn red at their tops and along their lower edges. On rare occasions, sunlight will hit the top part of the auroral rays to create a faint blue color. On very rare occasions (once every 10 years or so) the aurora can be a deep blood red color from top to bottom. Pink hues may also be seen in the lower area of the aurora. In addition to producing light, the energetic auroral collisions transmit heat. The heat is dissipated by infrared radiation, or transported away by strong winds in the upper atmosphere.

Read on for more and also check out more about the Northern Lights on Michigan in Pictures.

Ross took this on August 10th last summer. He says “The Northern Lights over Moskey Basin in Isle Royale National Park. This is the first time in my life I have seen a bright purple aurora develop.

View his photo background bigilicious and see more in his Aurora slideshow.