Last night I got a couple of texts that the northern lights were out. By the time I got to the beach here in northern lower Michigan, they had died back to a soft arc on the horizon. Up on the Keweenaw however, they were pretty spectacular!
In addition to being spectacular, Eric’s photos introduced me to a new northern lights term, the mysterious proton arc or proton aurora. which NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day explains in this link filled post (picture is below):
What are auroras made out of? Triggered by solar activity, normal auroras are caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons and the oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s upper atmosphere. The electrons come from the magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. As the excited oxygen and nitrogen molecules return to their low energy state, they emit light, seen as the auroral glow.
Sometimes, however, auroras can be caused by collisions with heavier protons, causing a more energetic display with strong ultraviolet emission. In addition, protons can temporarily capture an electron and emit light for themselves. Such a proton aurora is seen above, recorded by the IMAGE satellite. A special feature is the bright spot near picture center, embedded in a ring of auroral emission around the north magnetic pole of planet Earth.
Most solar wind protons never reach the Earth to cause auroras because they are completely deflected away at a great distance by the Earth’s magnetic field. The bright spot in the auroral ring indicates a particularly deep crack in the Earth’s magnetic field where protons were able to flow along a temporarily connected region between the Sun and the Earth, relatively undeflected, until they impacted the Earth’s ionosphere.
Read on for lots more. The good news? It looks like the wide coronal hole that was responsible for last night’s aurora will continue to kick out the celestial jams for a couple of days, meaning this weekend offers a great chance to see the northern lights in Michigan!
Much more about the northern lights / aurora borealis on Michigan in Pictures!
Photo courtesy NASA:
This wonderful photo made me want to know more about Houghton, Michigan, so here’s an edited profile of Houghton via Wikipedia:
Houghton is located on the south shore of Portage Lake, across from Hancock. (see map) Native Americans mined copper in and around what would later be Houghton thousands of years before European settlement. French explorers had noted its existence in the area as early as the seventeenth century, and in 1772 Alexander Henry had prospected for copper on the Ontonagon River near Victoria. When Horace Greeley said, “Go West, young man” he wasn’t referring to gold, but rather the copper rush in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula.
The city is named after Douglass Houghton, physician-naturalist on Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s Lake Superior expedition whose 1841 report on the quantity and superior qualities of UP copper earned him the title of “father of copper mining in the United States.” The news brought many Cornish and Finnish immigrants to the area, along with smaller numbers of French-Canadian immigrants arrived in Houghton (or Copper Island as they called it) to work in the copper mines. These groups have had and continue to have a great influence on the area’s culture and cuisine.
In Houghton’s first days it was said that “only thieves, crooks, murderers and Indians” lived there. The post Civil War boom and increasing demand for copper wiring fueled the development of Houghton in the 1860s and 1870s. The Keweenaw Waterway, a dredging and extension of the Portage Lake, the Portage Shipping Canal and Lily Pond that turned the northern part of the Keweenaw Peninsula into “Copper Island” was completed in 1873. By 1880 Houghton had become “a burgeoning city” and in 1883, the railroad was extended from Marquette.
The last nearby mines closed in the late 1960s, but in 1885 the Michigan State Legislature foundedthe Michigan College of Mines to teach metallurgy and mining engineering. The school continues today as Michigan Technological University – the primary employer in the city.
Houghton has the distinction of being the birthplace of professional ice hockey in the United States when the Portage Lakers were formed in 1903, and Houghton’s Dee Stadium (formerly the Amphidrome) is the home of the Portage Lake Pioneers Senior Hockey Team.
Click for more from Wikipedia and please feel free to share tidbits in the comments.
More Houghton on Michigan in Pictures.
What can you say about an astonishing photo like this? Heather writes:
I went to Frankfort a couple nights ago to shoot the Milky Way at the lighthouse. As I walked out the long pier in the darkness, I passed two groups of swimmers heading home (at 11:30), and then had the entire thing to myself for over an hour. Just enough haze hung in the air to create the light rays from the lighthouse, and the waves splashed just high enough to douse the outside edge of the wall. The setting crescent moon balancing out the south breakwall light was a nice bonus.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to purchase this photo!
More about the Frankfort North Breakwater Light including another nighttime shot by Heather on Michigan in Pictures.
Definitely watch Ken’s Perseid video at the end!
I’ve shared this before, but Space.com has an interesting story about how the upcoming Perseid Meteor shower (peak August 11-13) came to be known as “The Tears of St. Lawrence” and also some of the science behind this annual August sky show:
Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”
The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”
…We know today that these meteors are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Discovered back in 1862, this comet takes approximately 130 years to circle the Sun. With each pass, it leaves fresh debris — mostly the size of sand grains with a few peas and marbles tossed in.
Every year during mid-August, when the Earth passes close to the orbit of Swift-Tuttle, the bits and pieces ram into our atmosphere at approximately 37 miles per second (60 kps) and create bright streaks of light.
Read on for more including diagrams and viewing tips.
Ken Scott captured these Perseid meteors last August over a 2 1/2 hour period at the D.H. Day Farm in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He says that the barn is lit by rogue lightning and that this is a composite of many meteor images, where each photo is rotated around the north star so that the ‘point of origin’ of the shower can be seen better. He understands it visually but not scientifically – anyone have a simple explanation for him?
When mLive writer Emily Bingham realized that Michigan didn’t have an official state food, she set out to determine what their readers thought. The winner was the coney island hot dog which squeaked by my personal favorite, the pasty. Share what you think Michigan’s signature food is in the comments!
Many people think that the Coney dog, also called the Coney Island hot dog, got its start on Coney Island, NY where the hot dog was created. In actuality, this popular food got its start in Michigan, although the exact location is still disputed. Three locations in Michigan all claim to be the birthplace of Coney dogs: American Coney Island in Detroit, Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit and Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson.
In 1917, Gust Keros opened American Coney Island. A few years later Keros’s brother opened Lafayette Coney Island next door. Both of these Detroit Coney Islands are incredibly popular to this day, where there is an on-going argument over which establishment serves the best Coney dog. The dispute has been featured on several food television shows, including Food Wars and Man v. Food.
A Coney dog is a beef hotdog, topped with an all meat, beanless chili, diced white onions, and yellow mustard. A true Coney dog uses made-in-Michigan products.
Lots more about the coney dog on Absolute Michigan.
Michigan food on Michigan in Pictures!
While it’s virtually impossible to predict when the aurora borealis will make an appearance, it’s tied to what’s happening on the sun. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center keeps tabs on what our local star is doing and is my go-to for Northern Lights forecasting. They are reporting strong geo-magnetic storms likely tonight and tomorrow so keep an eye on the skies.
Also, do yourself a favor and sign up for their Aurora Alerts!