Crepuscular rays over Sunday Lake

Crepuscular rays over Sunday Lake by Michigan Nut Photography

Crepuscular rays over Sunday Lake by Michigan Nut Photography

The Atmospheric Optics page on crepuscular rays says:

Sun rays, also called crepuscular rays, streaming through gaps in clouds are parallel columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud shadowed regions.

The rays appear to diverge because of perspective effects, like the parallel furrows of freshly ploughed fields or a road wide at your feet yet apparently narrowing with distance.

Airborne dust, inorganic salts, organic aerosols, small water droplets and the air molecules themselves scatter the sunlight and make the rays visible.

John took this photo at Sunday Lake in Wakefield. Follow him on Facebook & view and purchase his work at michigannutphotography.com.

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La Chappelle: The incredible Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock by John Gagnon

Chapel Rock by John Gagnon

Atlas Obscura says that although there’s a whole lot to see in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, hikers should keep their eyes peeled for one feature in particular: Chapel Rock, once known as La Chappelle:

Composed of Cambrian age sandstone dating back approximately 500 million years, Chapel Rock is the result of the erosion caused by a proglacial lake somewhat confusingly referred to as “Nipissing Great Lakes.” This giant body of water consisted of separate basins joined by straits, and once occupied present-day Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Georgian Bay. Around 3,800 years ago, the high waters of Nipissing Great Lakes carved through the soft sandstone, resulting in today’s dramatic formation, which juts out into Lake Superior.

Although Chapel Rock’s stone is mostly beige, its base is a warm orange, thanks to mineral concentrations. The sandstone cliffs that comprise Pictured Rocks are full of iron, copper, manganese, and limonite, which impart red, orange, blue, green, brown, black, and white hues. Not long ago, a natural rock bridge spanned the area between Chapel Rock and the mainland. It collapsed in the 1940s, leaving the formation unconnected with the rest of the shore. Thankfully, the rest of the structure has remained intact and is protected from climbers by order of the Lakeshore Superintendent.

The rock isn’t the only thing that has proven to be remarkably durable. Charles Penny, a member of the Douglass Houghton expedition responsible for exploring Lake Superior’s southern shore, admiringly described a single pine tree that grew like a “spire” out of the sparse dirt covering the top of the outcropping. Till this day, the same resilient pine stands sentinel over Chapel Rock, connected to the mainland by its extensive root system.

More at Atlas Obscura & check out more Chapel Rock photos on Michigan in Pictures that include pictures of the pine tree’s astounding root system.

See more in John’s Pictured Rocks gallery on Flickr.

 

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Scientists now know what causes the northern lights!

Thanks by Julie

Thanks by Julie

NPR reports that scientists have finally confirmed the source of the Northern Lights:

An article published in the journal Nature Communications this week suggests that the natural light show starts when disturbances on the sun pull on Earth’s magnetic field. That creates cosmic undulations known as Alfvén waves that launch electrons at high speeds into Earth’s atmosphere where they create the aurora.

“It was sort of theorized that that’s where the energy exchange is occurring,” said Gregory Howes, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. “But no one had ever come up with a definitive demonstration that the Alfvén waves actually accelerate these electrons under the appropriate conditions that you have in space above the aurora.”

The sun is volatile, and violent events there such as geomagnetic storms can echo out into the universe. In some cases, the sun’s disturbances are so strong that they yank on the Earth’s magnetic field like a rubber band, pulling it away from our planet.

But, like a taut rubber band when it’s released, the magnetic field snaps back, and the force of that recoil creates powerful ripples known as Alfvén waves about 80,000 miles from the ground. As those waves get closer to Earth, they move even faster thanks to the planet’s magnetic pull.

…”Think about surfing,” said Jim Schroeder, an assistant physics professor at Wheaton College and the article’s lead author. “In order to surf, you need to paddle up to the right speed for an ocean wave to pick you up and accelerate you, and we found that electrons were surfing. If they were moving with the right speed relative to the wave, they would get picked up and accelerated.”

When the electrons reach Earth’s thin upper atmosphere, they collide with nitrogen and oxygen molecules, sending them into an excited state. The excited electrons eventually calm down and release light, which is what we see as the aurora.

More at NPR.

Julie took this celebratory photo back in March. See more in her massive Michigan gallery on Flickr & keep your eyes on the skies!!

More Northern Lights on Michigan in Pictures.

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Ring of Fire Eclipse on Thursday

Sunset during a partial solar eclipse by Diane

Sunset during a partial solar eclipse by Diane

The naming of astronomical events has certainly gotten cooler in recent years, and Thursday morning’s “Ring of Fire” annular eclipse certainly reflects that trend! WOOD-TV explains that on June 10th Michiganders will be able to view this year’s first solar eclipse:

Unlike a total solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, causing the sun to be completely blocked, next week’s eclipse will be annular, which only occurs when the moon is in its first phase.

The new moon will be farther from Earth in its elliptical orbit and will appear smaller — too small to cover the sun completely. As a result, a bright ring of sunlight will surround the moon’s silhouette at mid-eclipse. That bright outer rim has become known as the “ring of fire.”

“As the pair rises higher in the sky, the silhouette of the Moon will gradually shift off the sun to the lower left, allowing more of the sun to show until the eclipse ends,” NASA said.

The new moon will eclipse the sun at 6:53 a.m. ET. on June 10.

Look east to see it, but remember it’s unsafe to look directly at the sun unless you wear special eclipse glasses to protect your eyes.

More at WOOD-TV.

Diane took this photo way back in 2012. See more in her sunrise~sunset gallery on Flickr!

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The Last Thing You’ll Ever See

The Last Thing You'll Ever See by William Dolak

The Last Thing You’ll Ever See by William Dolak

Bill shared this photo from the West Lake Nature Preserve in Portage in our Michigan in Pictures group on Facebook & writes:

If you were a fly or a mosquito, this grotesque monster might be your conveyance to the afterlife. Michigan has several native carnivorous plants growing in bogs throughout the state; this one is the pitcher plant. It entices its prey by collecting rainwater; when the insect climbs in for a drink it is trapped by barbs and drowned in the pool. The plant then absorbs the nutrients from the decaying bodies…most gruesome, indeed.

You can check out some more pics from West Lake preserve by Bill including these shots of a Pink Lady Slipper on Facebook.  Read more about the pitcher plant (with another pic from Bill) on Michigan in Pictures!

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Double the Rainbow

Another Look at Our Rainbow Last Sunday Evening by Steve Brown

Another Look at Our Rainbow Last Sunday Evening by Steve Brown

One of my favorite websites, Atmospheric Optics, says that secondary rainbows or “double rainbows” feature a secondary bow that is nearly always fainter than the primary, with colors reversed and more widely separated:

Light can be reflected more than once inside a raindrop. Rays escaping after two reflections make a secondary bow.

The secondary has a radius of 51º and lies some 9º outside the primary bow. It is broader, 1.8X the width of the primary, and its colours are reversed so that the reds of the two bows always face one another. The secondary has 43% of the total brightness of the primary but its surface brightness is lower than that because its light is spread over its greater angular extent. The primary and secondary are are concentric, sharing the antisolar point for a center.

Steve took this photo last month & you can see more in his Michigan Skyscapes gallery on Flickr.

Lots more rainbows on Michigan in Pictures!

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Get on the (green) bus, Gus

MTA Flint Hydrogen Bus

Hydrogen Bus at the Capitol by MTA Flint

Kyle Davidson of the Great Lakes Echo has an excellent feature looking at a new, $30 million program to help Michigan’s public companies and private businesses buy low emission freight trucks, buses, tugboats and cargo handling equipment:

Beneficiaries of the program choose electric, alternative fuel or new diesel models, said Nick Assendelft, a public information officer for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The first round of funding will provide $16 million to replace outdated freight trucks and buses with new models. At least half of that is earmarked for electric vehicles.

…Later rounds of funding include opportunities to replace Great Lakes tug and ferry boats, airport ground support equipment, port cargo handling equipment and forklifts.

…Some organizations are already transitioning their fleets to alternative fuels. Over the past 11 years the Mass Transportation Authority of Flint and Genesee County has reduced annual diesel fuel use from 1.4 million gallons to 30,000 gallons. The public transportation agency has done that by converting its fleet to run on compressed natural gas, propane and hydrogen, said Edgar Benning, the authority’s chief executive officer.

Fueling a hydrogen bus costs about twice as much as fueling a diesel bus, Benning said. In return for the extra cost, you get almost double the mileage. Along with the performance and the maintenance of the vehicles, you really pick the cost up on the other side, Benning said.

Alternative fuel vehicles make up 95% of the authority’s fleet. They provide fixed-route busing along with transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities. The authority also has about 200 cars to provide non-emergency medical transportation. 

Lots more in the Echo!

The photo comes from MTA Flint, Genessee County’s transit authority.

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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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