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!

Lunar Eclipse coming January 20th!

October 8, 2014 Lunar Eclipse, photo by David Marvin

On Sunday night we have a chance to see the last total lunar eclipse until May 26, 2021! EarthSky shares information about viewing the lunar eclipse:

On January 20-21, we’ll have the first full moon of 2019, and the first lunar eclipse of 2019 (and this is an eclipse-heavy year, with three solar and two lunar eclipses). It can be viewed from North and South America, Greenland, Iceland, Europe, northern and western Africa, plus the Arctic region of the globe. More details – and eclipse times for North America, plus links for those elsewhere – below.

The eclipse will happen on the night of the year’s first of three straight full supermoons, meaning the moon will be nearly at its closest to Earth for this January, as the eclipse takes place.

The January 20-21 total eclipse of the moon lasts for somewhat more than one hour. It’s preceded and followed by a partial umbral eclipse, each time persisting for over an hour. The whole umbral eclipse from start to finish has a duration of nearly 3 1/3 hours.

Additionally, a penumbral lunar eclipse takes place before and after the umbral lunar eclipse. However, a penumbral lunar eclipse is so faint that many people won’t even notice it while it is happening. In our post, we only give the times of the moon passing through the Earth’s umbra – dark, cone-shaped shadow.

The lunar disk often exhibits a coppery color during a total lunar eclipse. Although the moon is completely immersed in the Earth’s dark shadow, the Earth’s atmosphere refracts (or bends) sunlight and the longer wavelengths of light (red and orange) pass onward to fall on the moon’s face. The dispersed light from all of the world’s sunrises and sunsets softly illuminates the totally eclipsed moon. Actually, if you were on the moon, looking back on Earth, you’d see a total eclipse of the sun.

They note that the partial umbral eclipse begins at (roughly) 10:34 PM with the total eclipse starting at 11:41 PM. The greatest eclipse is at 12:12 AM with the total eclipse ending at 12:43 AM.

David took this photo in October of 2014. Check it out background bigilicious on Flickr and head over to his Marvin’s Gardens blog for more pics from the eclipse & David!

Hoar frost on the Lake Leelanau Narrows

The Narrows, photo by Mark Smith

“The Narrows” refers to the narrow section between North & South Lake Leelanau between these two joined lakes. The bridge that Mark was standing on yesterday morning to take this stunning photo of the hoarfrost before it burned off was originally constructed in 1864, shortly after the founding of the village of Provemont (now Lake Leelanau) by French Canadian farmers.

We’re looking toward North Lake Leelanau in Mark’s photo. Check it out background bigtacular and follow him on Flickr for more!

PS: This post about hoar frost on Michigan in Pictures has an incredible shot of some willows. The photographer explained:

Hoar Frost (also called radiation frost or hoarfrost or pruina) refers to the white ice crystals, loosely deposited on the ground or exposed objects, that form on cold clear nights when heat is lost into the open sky causing objects to become colder than the surrounding air. A related effect is flood frost or frost pocket which occurs when air cooled by ground-level radiation losses travels downhill to form pockets of very cold air in depressions, valleys, and hollows. Hoar Frost can form in these areas even when the air temperature a few feet above ground is well above freezing. Nonetheless the frost itself will be at or below the freezing temperature of water.

Hoar Frost may have different names depending on where it forms. For example, air hoar is a deposit of hoar frost on objects above the surface, such as tree branches, plant stems, wires; surface hoar is formed by fern-like ice crystals directly deposited on snow, ice or already frozen surfaces; crevasse hoar consists of crystals that form in glacial crevasses where water vapor can accumulate under calm weather conditions; depth hoar refers to cup shaped, faceted crystals formed within dry snow, beneath the surface.

A Long Way Down … and Happy Birthday Mark!

A Long Way Down, photo by Mark Smith

This stunning shot from the Leelanau Conservancy​’s Clay Cliffs Natural Area was taken by Mark Smith.

He’s been a big contributor of photos to Michigan in Pictures​ and we’re wishing him a very happy birthday today and hoping Santa brings him all the photography gear his heart desires!!

See some of Mark’s best on Michigan in Pictures.

Check this out background bigtacular and see tons more shots by Mark on Flickr!

On a Clear Day on the Manitou Passage


On a Clear Day, photo by Mark Smith

…You can see forever, right out to the Manitou Islands and beyond.

This photo by Mark Smith from yesterday afternoon shows just how incredible fall color on the Leelanau Peninsula. It shows South Manitou Island (left) and North Manitou Island on Lake Michigan off the western shore of the Leelanau Peninsula.

The islands were among the first European settlements in the area in 1847 due to ample timber and a deep water harbor. The stretch of water between the islands and the mainland was known as the Manitou Passage and well used by ships seeking respite from high winds and storms. More about North & South Manitou Islands on Leelanau.com’s Manitou Islands page.

View Mark’s photo background bigtacular and see photos from this area by Mark and others on the Flickr photomap!

More fall wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Last Blast of Summer!

Last Blast of Summer, photo by paula liimatta

Did you get all your summertime fun in? If not, get on that before it’s gone!

Paula took this a year ago at Blackrocks in Marquette’s Presque Isle Park. View it background bigtacular and see more in her Summer 2017 album on Flickr.

More Summer Wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

The Firefly Boom of 2018

Faerie by Brian Laskowski

The Great Lakes Echo shared a feature from Great Lakes Today entitled Ideal Conditions for Firefly Boom. It says (in part):

Whether you call it a lightning bug or a firefly or perhaps by its scientific name, Lampyridae, chances are you’ve had some experience with the tiny flying insect that flashes and blinks its way through summer evenings.

And if you’ve been noticing more fireflies in your backyard this summer, you’re not alone.

“A lot of people are enjoying it and I’m thrilled that people are enjoying it,” says Sara Lewis, an evolutionary biologist at Tufts University in Boston, and writer of the book “Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies.”

“As firefly scientists, we’re just trying to understand it.”

Lewis says the first thing you have to know about fireflies is that they live underground for two years before they hatch into the blinking bugs we associate with this season. And, she says, they love wet conditions, like those in the spring of 2017.

“Those were great conditions for baby fireflies, called larvae, because they live underground and they feed on earthworms and snails and slugs so those wet conditions mean that more are surviving.”

That wet soil also makes it easier for eggs to hatch, larva to metamorphose, and adults to lay eggs for future generations — which could explain why the population seems to be booming.

Read on for more including the fact that fireflies remain threatened and how you can help reduce the threat!

Brian took this in the Maple River State Game Area. Check it out background bigtacular and see more in his Michiganscape album on Flickr!

Lots more summer wallpaper for your computer background!