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.

South Taurid Meteor Shower and Northern Lights!

photo date/id: view larger here: and yes, feel free to share!

FIREBALL!, photo by Ken Scott

Well, my farewell tour to Autumn lasted a whole day. What can you do with things to share like this though?

Yesterday NOAA’s Space Weather tipped us off that there was a chance of strong geomagnetic storms producing northern lights. Now NOAA forecasters are saying there’s a good chance of a strong, G3-class geomagnetic storm during the next 24 hours that could bring auroras as far south as southern Michigan and even into Illinois & Ohio! Top that off with clear skies in the forecast and that means EVERYONE in Michigan should make a point to get out to someplace dark tonight for better than average chance of seeing some killer aurora action!

It gets better though! EarthSky shares information about the South Taurid meteor shower that peaks on November 4th & 5th and is underway right now.

The meteoroid streams that feed the South (and North) Taurids are very spread out and diffuse. That means the Taurids are extremely long-lasting (September 25 to November 25) but usually don’t offer more than about 7 meteors per hour. That is true even on the South Taurids’ expected peak night. The Taurids are, however, well known for having a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. Plus, the other Taurid shower – the North Taurids – always adds a few more meteors to the mix during the South Taurids’ peak night. In 2015, the slim waning crescent moon coming up before dawn will not seriously obtrude on this year’s South Taurid meteor shower. The South Taurids should produce their greatest number of meteors in the wee hours – between midnight and dawn – on November 5. Remember, it’ll be possible to catch a fireball or two!

Late night November 12 until dawn November 13, 2015, the North Taurids

Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour. The North and South Taurids combine, however, to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky.

Read on for info about where to look for the best chance – short answer is to the east between midnight and dawn!

Ken writes:

My friend Annette came up for a visit from Detroit and I wanted to show her some Perseid Meteors, so I got permission to work in the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Park after dark (thank you folks!) and well, we got more than we bargained for … a 4+ second fireball and unknown to us because they were hid by the trees and very dim … Aurora Borealis!!
and did I mention 2 ISS flybys!!
She paraphrased ‘we don’t see this in Detroit’ . . .
It was a good eve

View his photo bigger, see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow and enjoy this timelapse!

More northern lights and more meteors & meteor showers on Michigan in Pictures!

Otter Creek Aurora

Otter Creek Aurora

Otter Creek Aurora, photo by Snap Happy Gal Photography

This is one shot from an incredible video that Heather made of the northern lights as seen from Esch Road Beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. That’s Otter Creek in the foreground.

Click to view bigger, follow Snap Happy Gal on Facebook, and definitely watch that video – meteors!!

Lots more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures.

Heavenly curtain at the Phoenix Church

A special Sunday “I changed the cover of the Michigan in Pictures Facebook” edition of Michigan in Pictures.

God is Light

God is light, photo by Jiqing Fan

The Keweenaw County Historical Society page about their Phoenix Church in Houghton explains:

St. Mary’s Church was built in 1858 to serve the Catholic residents in the nearby mining community of Cliff, scene of the area’s first major copper discovery in 1844. Services continued until 1899 when the church was dismantled and reassembled in Phoenix, where it was renamed The Church of the Assumption. Masses were held until 1957, when the last service marked a century of providing spiritual guidance to mining families and their descendants.

In 1985 the Keweenaw County Historical Society took over the property and began extensive repair and restoration work. The church now appears much as it did when folks from another century knelt in prayer, a fitting memorial to one chapter of Keweenaw’s proud heritage. Although now deconsecrated, the church is still used for weddings and memorial services.

More on Pheonix Church from the Keweenaw County Historical Society.

View his photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his Houghton & UP Mich slideshow.

More northern lights and more churches on Michigan in Pictures.