STEVE: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement

Five Minutes with STEVE by Shelbydiamondstar Photography

Five Minutes with STEVE by Shelbydiamondstar Photography

This spring has been big for fans of the aurora borealis. Shelby took created this photo of five, 1-min tracked shots blended with an untracked foreground shot the night of March 13/14th in Copper Harbor. It shows a phenomenon I’d never heard of, a Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement aka STEVE about which Space.com says (in part):

A typical aurora — sometimes called the northern lights or the southern lights, depending on the hemisphere in which it’s located — occurs when charged particles from the sun interact with Earth’s oxygen and nitrogen molecules. This interaction excites the molecules and causes them to glow.

But STEVE, formally known as Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, is different. In the Northern Hemisphere, the phenomenon is visible from areas farther south than a typical aurora, and it looks like a ribbon of pink or mauve light. Sometimes, STEVE even has a “picket fence” appearance, with green columns of light passing through the ribbon. Auroras, by contrast, usually are shimmering green ribbons.

…The new study examined satellite data gathered above STEVE events in April 2008 and May 2016. The measurements included information about Earth’s magnetic and electrical fields in the magnetosphere, the region of Earth’s atmosphere where the planet’s magnetic field is stronger than any influence coming from the sun. Then, scientists compared the satellites’ findings with amateur photos of STEVE taken from the ground at the same time.

When STEVE was on display, the study authors realized, energetic electrons were pouring into Earth’s ionosphere, the layer of the planet’s atmosphere where atoms lose electrons due to solar and cosmic radiation. The friction that flood creates heats particles, which creates the pinkish glow, almost like an incandescent light bulb.

Satellite information further revealed how the “picket fence” aspect of STEVE develops. The data revealed waves moving from Earth’s magnetosphere to the ionosphere. In this region, the waves can both energize electrons and move them out of the magnetosphere, creating the picket-fence appearance, which happens simultaneously in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Lots more at Space.com.

You can comment on Shelby’s photo right here. For sure follow her on Facebook and view & purchase her work at shelbydiamondstar.com.

Lots more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures!

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Banded Iron Formation of Jasper Knob

Banded Iron Formation by Linda Grashoff

Banded Iron Formation by Linda Grashoff

Back in August of 2007, Linda & her husband took one of their many trips to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula & visiting Grand Marais, Ishpeming and Copper Harbor. She visited the Jasper Knob just outside of Ishpeming & writes:

It is a banded iron formation. The layers consist of jasper (the red rock) and hematite (the silvery rock). I’m delighted to tell you that some biogeologists believe that banded iron formations were formed by my old pals, the iron bacteria.

Head over to her photo blog for a lot more pictures and for sure check out her book They Breathe Iron for more about iron bacteria.

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Blue Ice at the Mackinac Bridge

Blue Ice by Julie

Julie shares:

Rode up to Mackinaw yesterday and checked out the blue ice. Huge chunks and most phenomenal. The ice, however, is not actually turning blue. The color is a result of the way sunlight is bouncing off this particular ice.

Sometimes, weather conditions — such as a lack of high winds — allow water to freeze slowly and evenly, resulting in ice composed of large crystals (unlike snow, which is formed quickly and made up of small crystals).

When light hits these big ice crystals, it can travel deep into the structures (compare this to snow, wherein light hits a sharp edge and reflects off of it right away, resulting in blinding white). When the light travels deeper into slowly formed ice, some of the red wavelengths of sunlight — which is the longest wavelength of visible light — get absorbed into the ice structure.

The blue, which is the shortest wavelength of visible light, bounces back out, meet our eyes, and results in a deep aqua color.

See more in her Winter gallery on Flickr!

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Pancake Ice

Pancake Ice by Julie

Pancake Ice by Julie

This is one of the best shots I’ve seen showing how the structure of pancake ice is basically “round iceberg”. The Weather Channel explains the science behind pancake ice:

The circular slabs you see can range anywhere from one to 10 feet in diameter and up to four inches thick, typically forming in areas with at least some wave action and air temperatures just below freezing.

Pancake ice can begin as a thin ice layer (known as grease ice) or slush on the water surface, which accumulates into quasi-circular disks. The “lily pad,” or raised-edge appearance of pancake ice, can form when each disk bumps up against one another, or when slush splashes onto and then freezes on the slab’s edge.

Julie caught this picture last week in Charlevoix’s channel to Lake Michigan. See more in her Coronavirus Times 2021 gallery on Flickr.

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Under the Same (Shooting) Stars

Under the Same Stars by Fire Fighter's Wife

Under the Same Stars by Fire Fighter’s Wife

“When you fall asleep tonight just remember that we lay under the same stars.”
~Shawn Mendes

C-Net’s report on how to see the annual Orionid Meteor Shower says that:

The Orionids are considered a major meteor shower based on the amount of visible meteors that can be seen racing toward inevitable doom during its active period, which runs roughly from the first week of October to the first week of November.

The show is already active and the American Meteor Society forecasts that a handful of meteors per hour may be visible over the next several days, leading up to the peak on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, when the number could increase to 20 per hour.

The Orionids are really just bits of dust and debris left behind from famed Comet Halley on its previous trips through the inner solar system. As our planet drifts through the cloud of comet detritus each year around this time, all that cosmic gravel and grime slams into our upper atmosphere and burns up in a display we see on the ground as shooting stars and even the occasional fireball.

Here’s another gorgeous photo & thought from Beth. See more in her Explore gallery on Flickr!

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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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