Race for Space: Upper Peninsula Edition

Sugar Loaf Mountain by David Marvin

The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association has announced that findings from a site-selection process for a vertical space launch site identified a location just north of Marquette:

Conducted by spaceport consultants BRPH and Kimley-Horn, the site-selection process has been a yearlong effort. Sites were ranked based on several factors, including existing commercial and public infrastructure, geographic and terrestrial mapping, living standards and workforce development. Operations are expected to begin by early 2025.

…The announcement for the vertical space launch comes just months after MAMA identified the Oscoda/Wurtsmith Airport outside of Oscoda as the top candidate for a horizontal spaceport. Licensing through the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has begun for that site with operations projected to begin in late 2023 or early 2024. The two launch sites in Marquette and Oscoda, along with a yet-to-be-identified command and control center, will create more than 2,000 jobs. These sites will be instrumental in creating a space ecosystem in the state that is projected to top 40,000 new jobs by 2025.

“Michigan has a real opportunity to support a space-based ecosystem,” said Gavin Brown, executive director of MAMA. “The Marquette location will be a critical component, bringing low-earth orbit vertical launch capabilities to the state to meet the domestic and global demand. By integrating sophisticated infrastructure with first-rate human talent, Michigan can be one of the leaders in the space industry.

Could Michigan become a space leader? Read lots more at the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association website including renderings of the site!

David took this two summers ago, looking over Lake Superior from Sugar Loaf Mountain towards the area of the proposed site. Head over to his Flickr for the latest!

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Rendering of the proposed launch site by MAMA

See Comet Neowise in Michigan this month!

Comet Neowise by Lake Superior Photo

Comet Neowise by Lake Superior Photo

Shawn of Lake Superior Photo took this photo of Comet Neowise peeking through the clouds and fog yesterday morning. She shares that it’s visible to the naked eye & you can catch it the next few days in the northeast before sunrise!! EarthSky explains how to see Comet Neowise:

We still have to wait for another very bright comet, what astronomers call a great comet. There’s no strict definition for great comet, but most agree that Hale-Bopp – widely seen by people in 1997 – was one. Lesser comets are moderately frequent, though, and, right now, there’s a nice binocular comet in the dawn sky. Some skilled observers have reported that – once you spot it with binoculars – you can remove them and see the comet with the unaided eye. Using binoculars or other optical aid is a must, though, if you want to see this comet’s split tail. The comet is called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is up at dawn now; it will be highest in the dawn sky around July 11. Then it will gradually approach the horizon each day. By mid July (around July 12-15), the comet will become visible at dusk (just after sunset), low in the northwest horizon.

If the comet remains relatively bright, it might be easier to see in the second half of July during evening dusk, because, at that time, it will appear somewhat higher in the sky.

You can view the photo on the Lake Superior Photo Facebook, view & purchase work at LakeSuperiorPhoto.com & also check out this awesome video from Shawn’s YouTube!

Summer Solstice Saturday in 2020

Buttercups and Barn by Jamie MacDonald

Buttercups and Barn by Jamie MacDonald

Space.com reminds us that summer will officially arrive today (Saturday, June 20) with the summer solstice at 5:43:32 PM:

At the moment of the solstice, the sun will appear to be shining directly overhead for a point on the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23.5 degrees north) in the central Pacific Ocean, 817 miles (1,314 kilometers) east-northeast from Honolulu. With the prime exception of Hawaii, we can never see the sun directly overhead from the other 49 U.S. states, but on Saturday, at around 1 p.m. local daylight time, the sun will attain its highest point in the sky for this entire year.

Since the sun will appear to describe such a high arc across the sky, the duration of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere is now at its most extreme, in most cases lasting over 15 hours. However, contrary to popular belief, the earliest sunrise and latest sunset do not coincide with the summer solstice. The earliest sunrise actually occurred back on June 14, while the latest sunset is not due until June 27. Dawn breaks early; dusk lingers late.

More from Space.com!

Jamie took this near Eaton Rapids three years ago on the summer solstice. See more shots of this great old barn in his The Barn album on Flickr.

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Mapping the Moon

Moon Beam & LIghthouse by RJE

Moon Beam & Lighthouse by RJE

Earthsky reports that for the first time, the entire lunar surface has been completely mapped and uniformly classified by scientists from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. There’s a video below too. They write:

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced the new Unified Geologic Map of the Moon on April 20, 2020. They said it shows the moon’s surface geology, with rock layers and craters charted “in great detail.” The map is a synthesis of six Apollo-era regional geologic maps, updated with data from more recent moon missions.

USGS said it’s designed to serve as “the definitive blueprint” for lunar science and future human missions to the moon, and to be used by the international scientific community, educators and the public at large.

To create the new digital map, scientists used information from six Apollo-era regional maps along with updated information from recent satellite missions to the moon.

The existing historical maps were redrawn to align them with the modern data sets, thus preserving previous observations and interpretations. Along with merging new and old data, USGS researchers also developed a unified description of the stratigraphy, or rock layers, of the moon. This resolved issues from previous maps where rock names, descriptions and ages were sometimes inconsistent.

Head over to Earthsky for more, and if you like astronomy, I really recommend subscribing to their newsletter!

Check out more stunning shots from RJE on Flickr.

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#TBT A Blue Like No Other: Why are robin eggs blue?

A Blue Like No Other by Jamie MacDonald

A Blue Like No Other by Jamie MacDonald

Here’s a Throwback Thursday from April of 2009 in honor of Spring, which I hear is still happening. The resource on the initial post is no longer online, so I dug up this post from The Spruce explaining why robin eggs are blue:

The color of an eggshell is determined by pigments deposited as the shell is formed in the shell gland. The shell gland is the avian equivalent of a mammal’s uterus and is near the end of the oviduct, just before the cloaca. The shell is formed just before the egg is laid.

The bile pigment biliverdin is responsible for blue tones in bird eggs. Depending on the concentration of the pigment, the coloration can range from bright, bold blue or blue-green to pale ice blue and every shade in between. Smaller eggs and those laid first in a brood are usually more intensely colored than larger eggs or those laid later in the nesting cycle.

In addition to coloring eggshells, biliverdin is also responsible for blue tones in moth and butterfly wings, and is the same pigment that makes bruises turn bluish-green.

Read on for more and see a bunch more awesome shots in Jamie’s Nature photo album.

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Great Lakes on the Rise in 2020

Precarious by Mark Swanson

Precarious by Mark Swanson

mLive reports that the six-month water level forecasts show a high-end forecast that could surpass all other modern water levels for some of the Great Lakes:

For the last three months, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron (which shares the same lake water level because they are linked) have set monthly record water levels. The monthly record water levels are expected to continue into summer. If we get significantly higher than usual precipitation, the water levels could slosh over the highest level ever recorded since good water level measurements began back in 1918.

…The upper end of the possible outcomes would take Lake Michigan and Lake Huron 5 inches higher than October 1986, the highest water level recorded since records began in 1918. July or August of this coming summer would be the months that could happen.

That would be a devastating high-water level for cities and beaches along the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron shoreline.

Remember one inch of water on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is 800 billion gallons of water. If this summer’s water level reaches that upper end, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron would have 4 trillion gallons more water than the highest water level recorded by in the fall of 1986.

Read on for more about Lakes Superior (probably not dangerously high) and Erie & Ontario (also likely to be dangerously high).

Mark took this in February near Stevensville on Lake Michigan. See more in his Final 60 album.

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Out of this world shot from Astronaut Christina Koch!

On Wednesday, NASA astronaut & Grand Rapids native Christina Koch tweeted the photo above that perfectly captures Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula with the caption “Waving to the mitten! Greetings to my friends and family in Michigan. The Great Lakes are as stunning from space as they are in person.”

Indeed!! While Ms. Koch calls North Carolina home now, we appreciate her appreciation for the state she was born in. Even more appreciated is the work she’s doing in space & the contributions to science she’ll make as the new champion in the “longest single spaceflight by a woman” category. The Verge explains:

Koch launched to the ISS on March 14th, along with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. But rather than stay for six months, as most of NASA’s astronauts do, Koch is now slated to remain on the station through February 2020. That means she’ll spend 328 days, or nearly a full year, in orbit, which is one of the longest consecutive stays in space by any NASA astronaut. She’ll just miss beating Scott Kelly’s record of 340 straight days in orbit, the all-time record for a NASA astronaut. But she’ll beat Whitson’s time of 288 consecutive days in space … She’ll just miss beating Scott Kelly’s record of 340 straight days in orbit, the all-time record for a NASA astronaut. But she’ll beat Whitson’s time of 288 consecutive days in space.

The lengthy stay could be helpful for NASA to better understand how long-duration spaceflight affects the human body. While Kelly was in space for his year-long mission, he gave samples of his own blood and did other health analyses so that NASA could see how his body changed while in orbit. The space agency then compared Kelly’s health data to that of his twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth throughout the full year. The experiment revealed a few surprising ways that space messes with the body, like damaging DNA and affecting cognition. NASA noted that Koch’s flight will also add to this growing area of research.

Read on for more at The Verge including plans for NASA’s first all-female space walk & DEFINITELY check out NASA’s photo gallery for Ms. Koch at work (wowzas) and/or all the photos from Expedition 59.

Wildfire in the Sky

Sleeping Bear Bay Northern Lights, photo by Kenneth Snyder

Here’s a feature via Leelanau.com

A Conflagration of Storms from his online book The 23rd Cycle, Dr. Sten Odenwald tells of the evening of March 13, 1989 when a massive wave of solar energy struck our atmosphere, creating one of the most impressive northern lights displays of the modern era.

Alaskan and Scandinavian observers were treated to a spectacular auroral display that night. Intense colors from the rare Great Aurora painted the skies around the world in vivid shapes that moved like legendary dragons. Ghostly celestial armies battled from sunset to midnight. Newspapers that reported this event considered the aurora, itself, to be the most newsworthy aspect of the storm. Seen as far south as Florida and Cuba, the vast majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere had never seen such a spectacle. Some even worried that a nuclear first-strike might be in progress.

Luke Pontin, a charter boat operator in the Florida Keys, described the colors in reddish hues as they reflected from the warm Caribbean waters. In Salt Lake City, Raymond Niesporek nearly lost his fish while starring transfixed at the northern display. He had no idea what it was until he returned home and heard about the rare aurora over Utah from the evening news. Although most of the Midwest was clouded over, in Austin Texas, Meteorologist Rich Knight at KXAN had to deal with hundreds of callers asking about what they were seeing. The first thing on many people’s mind was the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS29) which had been launched on March 13 at 9:57 AM. Had it exploded? Was it coming apart and raining down over the Earth? Millions marveled at the beautiful celestial spectacle, and solar physicists delighted in the new data it brought to them, but many more were not so happy about it.

Silently, the storm had impacted the magnetic field of the Earth and caused a powerful jet stream of current to flow 1000 miles above the ground. Like a drunken serpent, its coils gyrated and swooped downwards in latitude, deep into North America. As midnight came and went, invisible electromagnetic forces were staging their own pitched battle in a vast arena bounded by the sky above and the rocky subterranean reaches of the Earth. A river of charged particles and electrons in the ionosphere flowed from west to east, inducing powerful electrical currents in the ground that surged into many natural nooks and crannies. There, beneath the surface, natural rock resistance murdered them quietly in the night. Nature has its own effective defenses for these currents, but human technology was not so fortunate on this particular night. The currents eventually found harbor in the electrical systems of Great Britain, the United States and Canada.

Read on for much more about how our electrical grid can be brought to its knees by the power behind the beauty of the northern lights and get much more in the 23rd Cycle.

Kenneth took this photo back in July of 2012. See more great pics in his Sleeping Bear Dunes album & also check out many more northern lights photos in the Leelanau.com group on Flickr!

The Colors of Cold

Green Blue Ice, photo by Charles Bonham

Apparently Charles is my go-to photographer for ice colors as his picture was used for my post about what makes ice blue or green a couple years ago on Michigan in Pictures. Then as now, I went to The Causes of Color to answer the question: What causes the blue color that sometimes appears in snow and ice?

As with water, this color is caused by the absorption of both red and yellow light (leaving light at the blue end of the visible light spectrum). The absorption spectrum of ice is similar to that of water, except that hydrogen bonding causes all peaks to shift to lower energy – making the color greener. This effect is augmented by scattering within snow, which causes the light to travel an indirect path, providing more opportunity for absorption. From the surface, snow and ice present a uniformly white face. This is because almost all of the visible light striking the snow or ice surface is reflected back, without any preference for a single color within the visible spectrum.

The situation is different for light that is not reflected, but penetrates or is transmitted into the snow. As this light travels into the snow or ice, the ice grains scatter a large amount of light. If the light is to travel over any distance it must survive many such scattering events. In other words, it must keep scattering and not be absorbed. We usually see the light coming back from the near surface layers (less than 1 cm) after it has been scattered or bounced off other snow grains only a few times, and it still appears white.

In simplest of terms, think of the ice or snow layer as a filter. If it is only a centimeter thick, all the light makes it through; if it is a meter thick, mostly blue light makes it through. This is similar to the way coffee often appears light when poured, but much darker when it is in a cup.

Click through for lots more about light & color!

Charles took this photo last week on Sand Point near Munising. Check it out bigger and head over to his Flickr page for a bunch more great shots of winter in the Upper Peninsula!

More winter wallpaper and more amazing ice on Michigan in Pictures.

Walking on the Moon: The Apollo Capsule in Grand Rapids

Now That Was Just Weird by Daniel E Johnson

July 20th is 49th anniversary of our first steps on the moon. The Mix 95.7 Grand Rapids tells the story of the Apollo capsule in front of the Grand Rapids Public Museum:

It turns out that the capsule is an actual Apollo Capsule, but it wasn’t a capsule that sat atop an Apollo Rocket. The capsule was made for training astronauts. But don’t let that news get you down, the capsule still has quite the history to it!

This type of capsule is known as a “Boilerplate” … built, along with dozens of other capsules, in the 1960s to test various systems on the Apollo Rockets. 

BP-1227 was lost at sea in early 1970 during a routine training drill to recover the Apollo boilerplate capsule by UK-based naval units. Later that same year, the capsule that was lost was miraculously recovered by a Russian “fishing vessel.” Many believe that the fishing vessel was actually a spy boat that was tracking the capsule as part of an intelligence operation.

The capsule was taken back to Russia and in late 1970 the Russians invited the Americans to recover their capsule. On September 8th, 1970 the US Navy Icebreaker, Southwind, made a stop in Murmansk to recover BP-1227. This was the first visit to a Soviet port by a US military vessel since World War II.

After the capsule was returned, the Smithsonian Institution spent the next several years restoring BP-1227 before it was eventually given on loan to the City of Grand Rapids in 1976. The boilerplate capsule was dedicated to the people of Grand Rapids on December 31, 1976. Students from local high schools filled BP-1227 with everyday items from their lives to form a time capsule. The time capsule was sealed on the last day of our nation’s Bicentennial year and it is to be opened on July 4th, 2076, as our nation celebrates its Tricentennial.

Read on for more. About the photo, Daniel wrote: We had a huge, odd cloud float over Grand Rapids today. Wednesday October 1st, 2008. HDR from one exposure shot in raw and split out three times , re-compiled in Photomatix.

See more in his HDR gallery.