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.

Twilit Aurora from the Keweenaw Peninsula

Twilit Aurora Borealis

Twilit Aurora, photo by Eric Hackney

Wowzas!!! Here’s the northern lights as seen last night from the Keweenaw Peninsula. Space Weather is saying that there’s a good chance of more strong northern lights tonight!

I’ve written about the science behind the colors on the Northern Lights, but how about some highlights of the beliefs about colors of the aurora from ancient people around the world?

In Bulfinch’s Mythology, Thomas Bulfinch claimed in 1855 that in Norse mythology: The Valkyrior are warlike virgins, mounted upon horses and armed with helmets and spears … When they ride forth on their errand, their armour sheds a strange flickering light, which flashes up over the northern skies, making what men call the “aurora borealis”, or “Northern Lights”.

The Algonquin think the lights are their ancestors dancing around a fire.

The northern lights in Scotland were known as “the mirrie dancers” or na fir-chlis. The dance often ended in a fight – “the mirrie dancers bled each other last night”. The appearance of the lights also predicted bad weather.

In Latvian folklore the aurora borealis, especially if red and observed in winter, are fighting souls of dead warriors especially if it is red and seen in the winter. It is an omen foretelling disaster.

Russian folklore associates the northern lights with the fire dragon (“Ognenniy Zmey”). The dragon came to women to seduce them when their husbands were gone.

The Finns named the northern lights revontulet, or fox fires. According to their legend, foxes made of fire lived in Lapland. And, the fox fires were the sparks they took up into the atmosphere on their tails.

Click for more including photos!

View Eric’s photo bigger and see more in his 9-7-15: Northern Lights V slideshow.

Many more Michigan aurora pics on Michigan in Pictures!

Epic Sable Point

Epic Sable Point Northern Lights

Epic Sable Point, photo by Jamie MacDonald

NOAA’s Space Weather Advisory Center is a go-to resource for early alerts on potentially good nights for viewing the Northern Lights in Michigan. The Aurora Borealis made an appearance over the weekend, and Space Weather suggests that tonight holds some promise:

The CME (coronal mass ejection) that produced G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storms on August 15th, 2015 seems to have moved past the Earth. However, we are still under the influence of a high speed solar wind stream from coronal hole 88 (CH 88) and G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storms are possible in the evening to overnight hours. A G1 Watch has been issued for the UTC day of August 17th to reflect this activity.

Head over to NOAA Space Weather for lots more including images of solar activity and all kinds of cosmic goodness.

Jamie says that he went to shoot the Milky Way over the lighthouse and was treated to the Aurora Borealis too! View his photo bigger and see more in his Landscapes slideshow.

Lots more about Big Sable Point Lighthouse and tons more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures!