Michigan is lucky to have designated areas that host spectacular nighttime viewing. Dark sky parks and preserves have a limited amount of artificial light, making it easier to stargaze in those locations. Dark sky preserves are designated by Michigan legislature and dark sky parks are designated by the International Dark Sky Association. The six state parks that have dark sky preserves are:
And if that’s not enough, there is also plenty of excellent night-sky viewing opportunities across more than 15,000 square miles in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For more details, visit Michigan.gov/DarkSky.
In addition to being the season of cider, changing leaves, and Halloween, October also brings a pair of meteor showers. Our friends at EarthSky give you all you need to know to see the Draconid & Orionid meteor showers:
The Draconids, October 8th
In 2021, watch the Draconid meteors at nightfall and early evening on October 8. You might catch some on the nights before and after, as well. Fortunately, the thin waxing crescent moon sets before nightfall. It won’t hinder this year’s Draconid shower … This shower is usually a sleeper, producing only a handful of languid meteors per hour in most years. But watch out if the Dragon awakes! In rare instances, fiery Draco has been known to spew forth many hundreds of meteors in a single hour.
The Orionids, October 21st
Unfortunately a full moon accompanies 2021’s Orionid shower. Try watching for these meteors in the wee hours before dawn on October 21. You won’t escape the moon, though. On a dark, moonless night, the Orionids exhibit a maximum of about 10 to 20 meteors per hour. More meteors tend to fly after midnight, and the Orionids are typically at their best in the wee hours before dawn. The Orionids sometimes produce bright fireballs, which might be able to overcome a moonlit glare. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to radiate from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter.
Gary took this shot last summer. Head over to his Flickr for the latest!
GoWaterfalling says that Agate Falls is an impressive waterfall that’s relatively easy to get to:
Agate Falls is a Michigan State Scenic Site 6.5 miles east of Bruce Crossing on MI-28. There is a roadside park (Joseph F. Oravec roadside park) just past the bridge over the Ontonagon River. This is one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in Michigan. Unfortunately the provided trails and overlooks are somewhat limited. With some effort you can scramble down to the river to get some very good views of the falls, which seems to be popular with local fishermen, or scramble up the river banks to get to the old railroad bridge over the falls. The bridge is now part of a snowmobile trail.
Michigan is lucky to play host to both dark sky preserves and parks that offer stellar celestial landscapes. These locations are specially designated because they have qualities that complement nighttime viewing, such as the ability to limit the amount of artificial light. There are also plenty of excellent night-sky viewing opportunities across more than 15,000 square miles in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion, and our nation’s capability, to take on and overcome challenges. It will collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth, search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.
Perseverance is also ferrying several cutting-edge technologies to the surface of Mars – including a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.
Daniel took this photo back of Mars in July of 2018 on the UP’s Garden Peninsula. See more great night photography on his Flickr & for sure check out his website – he looks like a very interesting guy!
Here’s NASA’s YouTube stream which goes live around 2 PM today.
Neil captured this stunning shot of the galactic core of our Milky Way stretching across the night sky over Silver Lake Sand Dunes during a recent visit. Head over to neilweaverphotography.com or follow him on Facebook for more great pics!
The Orionids are considered a major meteor shower based on the amount of visible meteors that can be seen racing toward inevitable doom during its active period, which runs roughly from the first week of October to the first week of November.
The show is already active and the American Meteor Society forecasts that a handful of meteors per hour may be visible over the next several days, leading up to the peak on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, when the number could increase to 20 per hour.
The Orionids are really just bits of dust and debris left behind from famed Comet Halley on its previous trips through the inner solar system. As our planet drifts through the cloud of comet detritus each year around this time, all that cosmic gravel and grime slams into our upper atmosphere and burns up in a display we see on the ground as shooting stars and even the occasional fireball.
Here’s another gorgeous photo & thought from Beth. See more in her Explore gallery on Flickr!
No matter where you live worldwide, the 2020 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. On the peak mornings in 2020, the moon will be at or slightly past its last quarter phase, so moonlight will somewhat mar this year’s production. Still, there are some ways you can minimize the moon and optimize your chances for a good display of Perseids this year. Here are some thoughts:
The Perseids tend to be bright, and a good percentage of them should be able to overcome the moonlight. Who knows? You still might see up to 40 to 50 meteors per hour at the shower’s peak, even in the light of a bright moon. Will you see over 100 per hour, as in some years? Not likely. Still …
Try to watch after midnight but before moonrise. If fortune smiles upon you, the evening hours might offer you an earthgrazer – a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but memorable. Perseid earthgrazers appear before midnight, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.
Watch in moonlight, but place yourself in the moon’s shadow.
Consider watching after the peak. People tend to focus on the peak mornings of meteor showers, and that’s entirely appropriate. But meteors in annual showers – which come from streams of debris left behind in space by comets – typically last weeks, not days. Perseid meteors have been streaking across our skies since around July 17. We’ll see Perseids for 10 days or so after the peak mornings on August 11, 12 and 13, though at considerably reduced numbers. Yet, each day as the moon wanes in the morning sky, less moonlight will obtrude on the show. Starting on or around August 17, moon-free skies reign all night long.