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.

#TBT Jungle Love in Prehistoric Michigan

Jungle Love, photo by Matt Stangis

The Rapidian has a feature on prehistoric Michigan’s tropical seas, jungles and inhabitants that’s a great read and the ultimate Throwback Thursday! Here’s a small slice:

After about 60 million years, warm, shallow seas came down again from the Arctic and covered Michigan during the Silurian period. At this time the land would have been in a subtropical climate that gave rise to large coral reefs across the state. Fossil findings show that the largest and oldest reef extends through the center of the Upper Peninsula. A species of coral that lived during this time period would eventually become fossilized and become what we refer to as Petoskey Stones.

The seas retreated over time, leaving a desert scattered with fossilized remains that eventually formed the limestone that is located over one hundred and twenty feet below us today. The sections of this exposed limestone is what created the Grand Rapid’s famous rapids. Much of the salt deposits that were left from retreating seas of this period are still mined in Detroit.

The Devonian period around 400 million years ago saw the rise of vertebrates in Michigan. North America was covered with up to 40 percent of water. There were a great number of fish swarming the salt and fresh water seas. The Ganoid species were in a crude state of evolution. Many of them had armor plating with two of their relatives, the Gar Pike and the Sturgeon, still existing in Great Lakes today. Primitive plants, such as the seed fern, developed from marine algae. On land the Tiktaalik, the link between finned fish and early amphibians, started to use its muscular fins to drag itself around land.

…At the end of the Carboniferous Period, known as the Pennsylvanian subperiod, Michigan was a semi-tropical jungle featuring primitive vegetation. Ferns without bark, some of which bloomed scentless unattractive flowers, grew to almost 100 feet. Millions of generations of trees grew and died in the jungle. The trees that fell in the swampy parts of the jungle were covered up by water and soil that became rock over time. The forces of time and pressure on these trees would eventually see this prehistoric jungle become the coal basin that sits underneath a large area of the U.S. including the upper northeast part of Kent county.

In the sky above one foot long dragon flies swarmed in droves on the ground and cockroaches the size of a man’s palm crawled around. Reptiles started to appear, evolving from amphibians, not dependent on water to lay their amniotic eggs. Towards the end of this period the rain forests gave way to deserts which decreased the amphibian populations and caused an evolutionary shift in reptiles.

Definitely click through for more – there are some cool links as well!

I’m pretty sure Matt took this photo at ArtPrize in 2013. View it background bigilicious and see more in his slideshow.

Of winter & spring

Winters, photo by Waseem Akbar

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
-Anne Bradstreet

Am I the only one who feels like Winter really mailed it in this year? Still, I am not going to stand in the way of the cycle of the seasons – bring on the Spring!

View Waseem’s photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

22-Degree Radius Halo

22 degrees at Van’s Beach, photo by Andrew McFarlane

Atmospheric Optics is an excellent resource for rainbows and similar phenomena. Their page on 22-degree halos says:

22º radius halos are visible all over the world and throughout the year. Look out for them (eye care!) whenever the sky is wisped or hazed with thin cirrus clouds. These clouds are cold and contain ice crystals in even the hottest climes.

The halo is large. Stretch out the fingers of your hand at arms length. The tips of the thumb and little finger then subtend roughly 20°. Place your thumb over the the sun and the halo will be near the little finger tip. The halo is always the same diameter regardless of its position in the sky. Sometimes only parts of the complete circle are visible.

Much smaller coloured rings around the sun or moon are a corona produced by water droplets rather than ice crystals.

Lots more at Atmospheric Optics!

See the photo bigger and view more on my Instagram.

More rainbows, sundogs, etc. on Michigan in Pictures – seriously cool stuff in here folks!

A Little Light Changes Everything

A Little Light Changes Everything, photo by John Gessner

I hope that you get a chance to get out there this weekend and let the sunlight in!

View John’s photo bigger and see more in his Michigan Water slideshow.

May you find your pot of gold on St Patrick’s Day

Rainbow and fog bank over the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Ann Fisher

May you have all the happiness
And luck that life can hold
And at the end of your rainbows
May you find a pot of gold.
~ Old Irish Blessing

A very happy St. Patrick’s Day and health & good fortune to you all!

View Ann’s photo background bigtacular and see more in her 2016 UP slideshow.

Lots more St. Patrick’s Day on Michigan in Pictures!

Michigan Tough: Daffodil Edition

Hopefully the daffodils are tougher than I am, photo by Bill Dolak

Bill took this shot yesterday at Celery Flats Park in Portage where it got down into the teens the night before.

View the photo background bigilicious and see more in his Portage, Michigan slideshow.

More spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.