South Taurid Meteor Shower and Northern Lights!

photo date/id: view larger here: and yes, feel free to share!

FIREBALL!, photo by Ken Scott

Well, my farewell tour to Autumn lasted a whole day. What can you do with things to share like this though?

Yesterday NOAA’s Space Weather tipped us off that there was a chance of strong geomagnetic storms producing northern lights. Now NOAA forecasters are saying there’s a good chance of a strong, G3-class geomagnetic storm during the next 24 hours that could bring auroras as far south as southern Michigan and even into Illinois & Ohio! Top that off with clear skies in the forecast and that means EVERYONE in Michigan should make a point to get out to someplace dark tonight for better than average chance of seeing some killer aurora action!

It gets better though! EarthSky shares information about the South Taurid meteor shower that peaks on November 4th & 5th and is underway right now.

The meteoroid streams that feed the South (and North) Taurids are very spread out and diffuse. That means the Taurids are extremely long-lasting (September 25 to November 25) but usually don’t offer more than about 7 meteors per hour. That is true even on the South Taurids’ expected peak night. The Taurids are, however, well known for having a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. Plus, the other Taurid shower – the North Taurids – always adds a few more meteors to the mix during the South Taurids’ peak night. In 2015, the slim waning crescent moon coming up before dawn will not seriously obtrude on this year’s South Taurid meteor shower. The South Taurids should produce their greatest number of meteors in the wee hours – between midnight and dawn – on November 5. Remember, it’ll be possible to catch a fireball or two!

Late night November 12 until dawn November 13, 2015, the North Taurids

Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour. The North and South Taurids combine, however, to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky.

Read on for info about where to look for the best chance – short answer is to the east between midnight and dawn!

Ken writes:

My friend Annette came up for a visit from Detroit and I wanted to show her some Perseid Meteors, so I got permission to work in the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Park after dark (thank you folks!) and well, we got more than we bargained for … a 4+ second fireball and unknown to us because they were hid by the trees and very dim … Aurora Borealis!!
and did I mention 2 ISS flybys!!
She paraphrased ‘we don’t see this in Detroit’ . . .
It was a good eve

View his photo bigger, see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow and enjoy this timelapse!

More northern lights and more meteors & meteor showers on Michigan in Pictures!

Heavenly curtain at the Phoenix Church

A special Sunday “I changed the cover of the Michigan in Pictures Facebook” edition of Michigan in Pictures.

God is Light

God is light, photo by Jiqing Fan

The Keweenaw County Historical Society page about their Phoenix Church in Houghton explains:

St. Mary’s Church was built in 1858 to serve the Catholic residents in the nearby mining community of Cliff, scene of the area’s first major copper discovery in 1844. Services continued until 1899 when the church was dismantled and reassembled in Phoenix, where it was renamed The Church of the Assumption. Masses were held until 1957, when the last service marked a century of providing spiritual guidance to mining families and their descendants.

In 1985 the Keweenaw County Historical Society took over the property and began extensive repair and restoration work. The church now appears much as it did when folks from another century knelt in prayer, a fitting memorial to one chapter of Keweenaw’s proud heritage. Although now deconsecrated, the church is still used for weddings and memorial services.

More on Pheonix Church from the Keweenaw County Historical Society.

View his photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his Houghton & UP Mich slideshow.

More northern lights and more churches on Michigan in Pictures.

Northern Lights: Ancient Aliens Edition

Northern Lights Ancient Aliens Edition

Northern Lights over Lake Lake Superior, photo by Paul Arno Rose

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is THE place to go for forecasting of likely northern lights activity. Yesterday they held a press conference regarding the G4 storm (on a scale of 1-5) that was caused by two magnetic eruptions on March 15 that combined to form a single wave producing the biggest storm so far of Cycle 24.

Their page on Geomagnetic Storms explains:

A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere. The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere.

The largest storms that result from these conditions are associated with solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) where a billion tons or so of plasma from the sun, with its embedded magnetic field, arrives at Earth. CMEs typically take several days to arrive at Earth, but have been observed, for some of the most intense storms, to arrive in as short as 18 hours. Another solar wind disturbance that creates conditions favorable to geomagnetic storms is a high-speed solar wind stream (HSS). HSSs plow into the slower solar wind in front and create co-rotating interaction regions, or CIRs. These regions are often related to geomagnetic storms that while less intense than CME storms, often can deposit more energy in Earth’s magnetosphere over a longer interval.

Storms also result in intense currents in the magnetosphere, changes in the radiation belts, and changes in the ionosphere, including heating the ionosphere and upper atmosphere region called the thermosphere. In space, a ring of westward current around Earth produces magnetic disturbances on the ground. A measure of this current, the disturbance storm time (Dst) index, has been used historically to characterize the size of a geomagnetic storm. In addition, there are currents produced in the magnetosphere that follow the magnetic field, called field-aligned currents, and these connect to intense currents in the auroral ionosphere. These auroral currents, called the auroral electrojets, also produce large magnetic disturbances. Together, all of these currents, and the magnetic deviations they produce on the ground, are used to generate a planetary geomagnetic disturbance index called Kp. This index is the basis for one of the three NOAA Space Weather Scales, the Geomagnetic Storm, or G-Scale, that is used to describe space weather that can disrupt systems on Earth.

During storms, the currents in the ionosphere, as well as the energetic particles that precipitate into the ionosphere add energy in the form of heat that can increase the density and distribution of density in the upper atmosphere, causing extra drag on satellites in low-earth orbit. The local heating also creates strong horizontal variations in the in the ionospheric density that can modify the path of radio signals and create errors in the positioning information provided by GPS. While the storms create beautiful aurora, they also can disrupt navigation systems such as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the power grid and pipelines.

Lots more including the ability to sign up for space weather alerts at www.swpc.noaa.gov. Also head over to the NOAA Auroras group on Flickr to share your photos.

View Paul’s photo background bigtacular and check out more of his photography on his Facebook page.

More northern lights photos & info on Michigan in Pictures.