Summer Solstice and a Strawberry Moon

Summer Solstice 2013 by Ken Scott

Summer Solstice … 2013, photo by Ken Scott

Today at 6:34 PM EDT, the summer solstice officially ushers in summer. EarthSky shares that the full Strawberry moon tonight for the solstice is the first full moon to fall on the summer solstice since June of 1967 and the Summer of Love.

Back in 2001, NASA’s Earth Science Picture of the Day (<–my favorite photo blog – subscribe!) shared the tale of Eratosthenes, the Solstice and the Size of the Earth:

Calculating the SolsticeIt was near the summer solstice of 240 BC that Eratosthenes, curator of the famed Library of Alexandria and renowned mathematician and geographer, performed his famous experiment in Egypt to calculate the diameter of the Earth. The bottom of a deep well in the city of Syene, Egypt (near the present day Aswan Dam and very near the Tropic of Cancer) was known to be illuminated by the sun directly at mid-day on the longest day of the year (the solstice). But on the same day, a vertical pole in Alexandria, some 800 km to the north, cast a distinct shadow. By measuring the shadow and applying the geometry of a sphere, Eratosthenes calculated the Earth’s diameter with remarkable accuracy. Sadly, the concept of a spherical Earth was lost from common thought for over a thousand years until Christopher Columbus and others proved the fact by sailing west to go east. The background reference image of Egypt and the Nile River is provided by the NASA MODIS instrument.

Sep 5, 2006 – Donald Etz notes: “From reading Jeffrey Burton Russell’s book, Inventing the Flat Earth (1991), I was persuaded that most educated Europeans of Columbus’ time believed the earth is round. The main debate seems to have been over its dimensions. Columbus ventured on his voyage because he believed the earth was much smaller than it is.” -ed

View Ken’s photo of the sunrise on the 2013 summer solstice bigger, see more in his Boat(s) slideshow, and definitely check out kenscottphotography.com to view and purchase his work.

More science on Michigan in Pictures.

 

 

Up close with Michigan’s state stone: Hexagonaria percarinata, the Petoskey stone

Michigan State Stone Petoskey Stone

Untitled, photo by Anna Lysa

The Michigan Tech Geology Department explains that Michigan’s state stone is the Hexagonaria percarinata, the Petoskey stone. It is a fossil colonial coral that lived in the warm Michigan seas during the Devonian time around 350 million years ago. They can be found from Traverse City area across the state to Alpena in gravel pits, road beds, and of course beaches, with the largest concentration found on and around Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay near the town of Petoskey. In June of 1965 the Petoskey Stone was named Michigan’s official State Stone and Miss Ella Jane Petoskey, the only living grandchild of Chief Petoskey, attended the formal signing.

Several years ago I shared the story behind the name as told by a young woman I know, Rose Petoskey:

My name is Noozeen (Rose) Nimkiins (Little Thunder) Petoskey (Rising Sun) and I am Anishinaabek.

Many people would associate the word Petoskey with the souvenir stone found on the northern Lake Michigan shorelines. However, to my family, the word Petoskey represents much more than a souvenir.

In the Odawa language, the word Petoskey (Bii-daa-si-ga) means the rising sun, the day’s first light, or the sun’s first rays moving across the water. The Petoskey stone is a fossilized coral created by impressions made in limestone during the last Michigan ice age. These stones were named “Petoskey” because the impressions resembled the rising sun coming up over the water. Just as the image of the rising sun is implanted within the Petoskey stone, the archaeology of a person’s names is implanted within. All names within our Anishinaabek culture reflect an individual’s personal history. Rocks go deep, but names go much deeper to reveal the stories of the past.

View Anna Lysa’s photo bigger and see more in her Michigan slideshow.

Sunset rainbow over Lake Michigan

Frankfort Rainbow

The best rainbow I’ve ever seen last night over Frankfort, photo by Noah Sorensen

Atmospheric Optics from the UK is far and away the best website for rainbow science as well as other atmospheric optical phenomena. Regarding primary rainbows as seen in Noah’s photo from Frankfort, they say:

To see a rainbow we need sunshine and falling rain. Rainbows are rarer than might be thought … Halos occur much more frequently.

Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to see them because the sun must not be too high. Rainbows are always opposite the sun and their centres are below the horizon at the the antisolar point. The lower the sun the higher is the bow.

Red is always outermost in the primary bow with orange, yellow, green and blue within. Occasionally, when the raindrops are small, fainter supernumerary arcs of electric greens, pinks and purples lie just inside the main bow.

A rainbow is not just a set of coloured rings. The sky inside is bright because raindrops direct light there too. The primary bow is a shining disk brightening very strongly towards its rim.

View Noah’s photo background bigilicious, see more in his slideshow, and be sure to follow him on Instagram!

Lots more rainbow information and more summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

May’s Eta Aquariad Meteor Shower

Milky Way over Au Sable Point Lighthouse

Milky Way over Au Sable Point Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Nut

EarthSky shares details on this week’s Eta Aquarid meteor shower:

In 2016, the forecast calls for the greatest number of Eta Aquarid meteors to light up the predawn darkness on May 5 and 6. It should be a good year for this shower, with the May 6 new moon guaranteeing deliciously dark skies for the 2016 Eta Aquarids. This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, ranking as one of the finest showers of the year. At mid-northern latitudes, these meteors don’t fall so abundantly, though mid-northern meteor watchers will catch some, too, and might be lucky enough to catch an earthgrazer – a bright, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky – before dawn.

Halley’s Comet is the source of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Every year, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Halley’s Comet in late April and May, so bits and pieces from this comet light up the nighttime as Eta Aquarid meteors. This shower is said to be active from April 19 to May 20, although Earth plows most deeply into this stream of comet debris around May 5 or 6.

The comet dust smashes into Earth’s upper atmosphere at nearly 240,000 kilometers (150,000 miles) per hour. Roughly half of these swift-moving meteors leave persistent trains – ionized gas trails that glow for a few seconds after the meteor has passed.

They add that early morning is the best time to see them and that the broad peak of the Eta Aquarids may present a decent showing of meteors during the predawn hours on May 4 and May 7 as well! Read on for more.

View John’s photo bigger, see more in his Starry Nights slideshow and definitely follow Michigan Nut Photography on Facebook!

More about the Au Sable Lighthouse in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 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.

Without a doubt warmer

Fancy Anvil

Fancy Anvil, photo by Liz Glass

Every time I talk about things that some find political, there are readers who get uncomfortable/upset. I’m OK with that, especially in regards to today’s subject which I personally feel has moved beyond the realm of opinion and into fact. Your mileage may vary. 

One thing that struck me is that it doesn’t really matter what is causing the warming temperatures – we know that dumping carbon into the atmosphere increases the temperature, so we know how to combat it.

NASA’s Earth Observatory reported that February 2016 was the warmest month in 136 years of modern temperature records in that it deviated more from normal than any month on record since reliable, global records began in 1880. For what this means, let’s turn to Mashable for the implications of this fiery February:

The 1.35-degree Celsius temperature anomaly in February beat the anomaly recorded in January, which itself was a record high departure from average for any month. This means that temperatures in February 2016 had the largest departure from average of any month in NASA’s records since 1880. To put it more plainly, February stands out for its unusual heat more than any other month in the modern climate record.

…As Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann has pointed out via social media, the NASA February temperature findings are especially significant when compared to preindustrial temperatures. Before humans began pumping carbon dioxide into the air from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, global average surface temperatures were far cooler.

When compared to those conditions, Mann says, February was probably about 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the preindustrial average for the globe.

You can read on for lots more … or not.

View Liz’s photo bigger and see more in her 500+ Views slideshow.

PS: Apologies to Liz for once again using her photo in a possibly controversial post. She’s the owner of Lake Street Market in Boyne City and (as far as I know) not at all controversial! ;)

March Comet Closeups: Comets 252P/LINEAR 12 & Pan-STAARS

Comet Pan-Starrs ... iridium flares

Comet Pan-Starrs … iridium flares, photo by Ken Scott

EarthSky says that later this month we’ll see a pair of comets, including the closet comet approach in two-and-a-half centuries:

A pair of comets showing very similar orbits are approaching Earth, and astronomers will use radio-telescopes to obtain radar images, while advanced amateurs may capture images of each of the twin comets. While both will pass at a safe distance, one of them will have a record-breakingly close flyby. Comet s was already known to be passing by Earth on March 21, 2016 at a distance of 3,290,000 miles (5.3 million km). This is about 14 times the Earth-Moon distance, and, taken by itself, sets no record.

Comet P/2016 BA14 (Pan-STARRS) will safely pass Earth on March 22,2016, passing even closer than comet 252P. Comet P/2016 BA14 flyby will be at just 2,199,933 miles (3.5 million km) or about 9 lunar distances, which is very close for a comet. In fact, this comet – P/2016 BA14 – will set a record as the third-closest known comet to pass our planet in recorded history.

…First place goes to Comet D/1770 L1 (Lexell). Comet Lexell went at just 5.9 lunar distances on July, 1770. That was about 1,410,100 miles (2.3 million km), so close that Charles Messier noted the comet’s coma looked about the size of four times the apparent size of a full moon.

Read on for lots more and do yourself a favor and subscribe to their email newsletter!

Ken took these stitched photos of Comet Pan-STAARS along with two Iridium satellite flares back in April of 2013. View his photo bigger, see more in his Skies Above slideshow and definitely follow him at Ken Scott Photography on Facebook for photos as these comets make their passes.