Leonids + Lunar Eclipse = TONIGHT!

Lunar Eclipse by the Lighthouse by Sathya

Lunar Eclipse by the Lighthouse by Sathya

If the weather cooperates, tonight & early tomorrow morning hold a whole lot of skywatching potential for Michiganders! In addition to the peak of the Leonid meteor shower, NPR shares the details on tonight’s lunar eclipse:

West Coast night owls and East Coast early risers will have the best view of the upcoming lunar eclipse this Friday. Overnight, the moon will pass into the shadow of Earth cast by the sun, illuminating the gray orb with a red hue.

It will be the second and final eclipse of the year. NASA predicts the eclipse will last over 3 hours and 28 minutes. That would make it the longest partial lunar eclipse in 580 years, according to the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University.

…For U.S. viewers the peak of the eclipse — when the moon is the most covered by Earth’s shadow — will be at 4:03 a.m. ET.

But the moon will begin to pass into the Earth’s shadow much earlier, around 1:00 am ET. At 2:19 a.m. ET the moon will move into the umbra, the inner part of Earth’s shadow, and begin to look like a chunk is missing from it. It will turn red around 3:45 a.m. ET

Sathya shares the story behind this photo from April 2015, saying in part, “Witnessing the lunar eclipse was magical. Planning and shooting the same was a lot of fun. Out here, in the north east of US, the lunar eclipse was not total, so missed out on the blood moon, but it was still a scintillating experience. As the moon was getting into total eclipse, it set over the horizon … This shot is a mix of landscape and time slice – in an attempt to highlight the lunar eclipse in the context of the surrounding landscape. This was a panorama made out of a composite. Though it does not look like a wide view, that is what helped capture the moon and the lighthouse in context.”

See more in his Showcase gallery on Flickr & on his website Like the Ocean.

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Michigan State Parks announce Covid-19 policy changes

Dune Climbers by Bill Dolak

Dune Climbers by Bill Dolak

The Michigan DNR has announced that although state parks and recreation areas remain open to provide residents with local opportunities to get outdoors, extensive travel should be minimal & effective social distancing is required so that unsafe conditions do not develop and state-managed lands can remain open.

“We are doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff at state parks and recreation areas,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “No matter how people are choosing to get outdoors, it is critical that everyone follows the social distancing guidelines. If they don’t, we will be forced to close public access to all state-managed lands.”

Closures and reduction in services include

Many park amenities have been closed in order to minimize the chance of people gathering in groups and/or maximize the environment for effective social distancing. Current closures include, but are not limited to, concessions, playgrounds and play equipment, viewing platforms, fishing piers, GaGa ball bits, volleyball and basketball courts, designated dog areas, disc golf courses, radio-controlled flying fields, pump tracks, and picnic tables and shelters.

All bathroom buildings and vault toilets will be closed in all state parks and recreation areas, including those at campgrounds, boating access sites, trailheads at state-designated trails, etc. People are encouraged to plan accordingly to avoid needing a restroom during a visit. Note: Over the next few days, vault toilets will be closing. Many locations, where available, will be transitioning to portable toilets that will be cleaned by local vendors.

There will be minimal trash service available. Visitors are encouraged to bring trash bags, if needed, to carry trash home and minimize litter.

No hand washing stations will be provided. Please carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes containing at least 60% alcohol, as well as trash bags to carry out used wipes.

Additionally, grooming of snowmobile trails (the season closes March 31) and grooming, brushing, grading and clearing of all nonmotorized trails and ORV trails are suspended until at least the end of the order. When out on any trail, be aware of surroundings, including the potential for washouts or debris. To report anything that could be a risk to other trail users, call 517-331-0111.

Follow the DNR’s COVID-19 response webpage for the latest closure information related to events, meetings and facilities, including campgrounds, harbors and other sites.

Bill took this photo last October at Van Buren State Park near South Haven. See many more incredible shots in his Drone the Sixth – DJI Phantom 4 Advanced album on Flickr!

See photos and read about many of Michigan’s state & national parks on Michigan in Pictures!

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Summer Memories


Summer Memories, photo by Paladin27

Baby, it’s cold outside. I hope you enjoy the July sunset from South Haven which seems more than half a world away from the teens and single digits that are out there this morning.

Stay warm and safe.

View Paladin27’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Weekends in South Haven slideshow.

A Pair of Predictions for Winter 2016

The ice, with some people thrown in for scale

The ice, with some people thrown in for scale., photo by Bill Dolak

It was nice to read NOAA’s forecast for Winter 2016 predicting that El Niño will give us a warmer than normal winter in Michigan:

One of the stronger effects of El Niño is warmer than normal winter temperatures from the Pacific Northwest through the northern Plains into the Great Lakes. NOAA places most of Lower Michigan in an area with a greater than 50 percent chance of warmer than normal temperatures. That also means there is a 33 percent chance of normal temperatures and a 17 percent chance of below normal temperatures.

So, it’s not a sure bet that it will be a warmer-than-normal winter, but indications are strongly leaning in the warmer direction.

The farther north you are in Michigan, the higher the chance of warmer-than-normal temperatures. The Upper Peninsula has at least a 60 percent chance of warmer-than-normal winter temperatures.

If you read on at mLive, meteorologist Mark Torregrossa has some caveats that temper this a bit. You can also just throw big buckets of frozen water on the whole idea of a warmer winter if you believe in the Farmers’ Almanac 2016 Winter Forecast where they predict that:

…the winter of 2015–2016 is looking like a repeat of last winter, at least in terms of temperatures with unseasonably cold conditions over the Atlantic Seaboard, eastern portions of the Great Lakes, and the lower peninsula of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, most of the Tennessee and Mississippi Valley, as well as much of the Gulf Coast.

Gack. For the record, the Almanac has nailed the last two winters for Michigan…

Bill took this shot in March of 2015 on the heels of the most brutal winter that Michigan had seen since … well … 2014. View it background bigtacular and see more in his South Haven slideshow.

More winter and more weather on Michigan in Pictures.

Surf’s Up in Michigan!

Surfs Up

Surf’s up, photo by Bill Dolak

Fall is surf season in Michigan, so I thought I’d share this photo and a link to a slideshow of nearly 500 photos from the Absolute Michigan photo group on Flickr.

View Bill’s photo from South Beach in South Haven background bigtacular and see more in his South Haven slideshow.

More surfing on Michigan in Pictures!

PS: I feel like I should tell you that if you aren’t a very good surfer, you should stay away from the Great Lakes in high winds and waves, particularly when the water is cold!

Peaches in Michigan


Peaches, photo by Alissa Holland

Peaches (like everything else) are ripening earlier this year and South Haven peaches are starting to show up at farm markets across the state. This nice Michigan Peach Industry History article from the Michigan Peach Sponsors begins:

The first peach tree in western Michigan was probably planted by William Burnett, who established a trading post on the west bank of the St. Joseph River a mile upstream from Lake Michigan in the 1780s. Burnett planted an orchard near his post and was credited with having taken great pains in caring for it. When the first permanent settlers reached the area in the late 1820s they found Burnett’s orchard healthy and still bearing fruit. Besides a few peach trees, the settlers also found a few seedling peach trees growing along the east bank of Hickory Creek and at the future site of the community of St. Joseph.

The next peach trees planted in Berrien County were at the Carey Mission in present-day Niles Township. In 1826 the Reverend Isaac McCoy, founder of the mission, had a peach orchard of “two or three hundred” trees.

Berrien’s earliest permanent settlers brought seedling fruit trees with them and planted enough trees to provide for their personal needs. Because trees took a long time to mature, some of the more resourceful pioneers budded their fruits on the roots of wild plum trees to acquire crops more quickly. Most early settlers planted apple and pear trees that were hardy and relatively disease resistant. They also planted a considerable number of the more delicate peach trees. Nearly every pioneer family had at least one. The growing of peaches was slow to catch on, but when settlers realized the region was suited for successful cultivation of the climate-sensitive fruit, peaches quickly gained popularity.

Read on for more and also see Ready to Pick: Peaches on Absolute Michigan.

Check Alissa’s photo out bigger and see more in her slideshow.

More great Michigan foods on Michigan in Pictures!

May is Blossom Time in Michigan!

Traverse MI 1950s East Grand Travese Bay Cherry Blossoms Photo by Phil Balyeat Avery Card 58253 S1155661 National Cherry Festival Postmark 1961

Traverse MI 1950s East Grand Travese Bay Cherry Blossoms Photo by Phil Balyeat Avery Card 58253 S1155661 National Cherry Festival Postmark 1961, photo by UpNorth Memories – Donald (Don) Harrison.

The annual National Cherry Festival got its start around 1910, as cherry growers in the Grand Traverse area began to hold informal “blessing of the blossoms” ceremonies each year at blossom time in May. Businesses jumped on the bandwagon (cherry truck?) in 1925 for the formalized “Blessing of the Blossoms Festival” which was such a big deal that in 1930 they expanded to 3 days and in 1930 President Herbert Hoover attended the opening. The next year the Cherry Festival was declared a national affair and in 1933 they moved it to summer.

Although it’s now a summertime affair (July 2-9, 2011), the wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula hold an annual Blossom Days celebration (May 14 & 15 this year). My informal read of the cherry blossoms here says that tart cherry blossoms will be in full swing with sweets kicking off.

Apparently in 1906 there was some sort of spiritual attraction of orchards, because to the south in Benton Harbor, the Reverend W. J. Cady of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor was the first to urge his parishioners to drive through the orchards and view the fruit blossoms. Cady termed them “symbols of life renewed” and his sermon is credited with the birth of the Blossomtime Festival. Now the Blossomtime Festival in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor is shared between the oldest and largest multi-community festival in the state of Michigan. Join them this Saturday (May 7) for the Grand Floral Parade and more!

Check this photo out big as a cherry orchard, in Don’s slideshow and see another cool old orchard photo right here.

1830s Sloop Discovered off Saugatuck

Stern of Mystery Ship, photo by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates

Through Absolute Michigan we found out about a cool discovery off South Haven by Holland-based Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates in collaboration with nationally acclaimed author Clive Cussler and his sonar operator Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA).

MSRA’s historians have verified that the vessel’s construction and design is consistent with ships built in the 1820s and 1830s, making it perhaps one of the oldest vessels discovered in the southern basin of Lake Michigan. The vessel sits upright and is in surprisingly good condition considering it was built nearly 200 years ago. Exact identification will be difficult as these small, early sloops were rarely documented and most had wrecked or been scrapped before photography became available. MSRA will continue to research and explore the wreck during the 2011 season.

Underwater video of this new discovery will be shown at the annual “Mysteries and Histories Beneath the Inland Seas” evening event on Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm at Holland’s historic Knickerbocker Theatre.

We have all the details (including a video and sonar showing the ship) on Absolute Michigan and you can learn about and register for the conference at the MSRA web site!

Check this photo out bigger and see it and a couple more in their slideshow.

100 years of Lake Michigan at South Haven Pier Lighthouse

Late October on Lake Michigan

Late October on Lake Michigan, photo by micstolz.

Michael notes that even 100 years of Lake Michigan waves can’t put out the South Haven Light. He has several more in his South Haven Oct 26 2008 set (slideshow) – all uploaded “background big”. You might also want to check out the South Haven Light slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool.

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light relates the history (with photos) of the South Haven Pier Lighthouse. He writes that a Fifth Order Fresnel lens from Parisian glass makers Barbier and Fenestre was installed in the lantern in 1902:

While the light was new, the old wooden beacon had withstood thirty years of Lake Michigan’s worst, and as a result of increasing deterioration, Eleventh District engineer James G. Warren laid-out plans to replace the venerable structure with a new cylindrical metal tower.

Contracts for the metalwork and required materials were awarded and delivered to the lighthouse depot in St. Joseph. On October 6, 1903, the tender Hyacinth delivered the prefabricated steel tower and a work crew on the pier, and erection of the new structure continued through the remainder of the month. The thirty-five foot structure was given a gleaming coat of white paint, and the district lampist carefully removed the Fifth-order lens from the old beacon and installed it in the new octagonal lantern. Captain Donahue proudly climbed the spiral stairs within the new tower to exhibit the South Haven light from atop the new tower for the first time on the evening of November 13.

Light and tower remain an active aid to navigation maintained by the Coast Guard and while you’re in South Haven, be sure to visit the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Holding the sun

Holding the sun

Holding the sun, photo by krowla.

…for just a little bit longer.