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What causes volcanos to produce lightning?

Volcanic lightning under the starry sky at Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland during a 2010 eruption. Image appears courtesy of Sigurdur Stefnisson.

Volcanic lightning under the starry sky at Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland during a 2010 eruption. Image appears courtesy of Sigurdur Stefnisson.

Lightning during a thunderstorm can be dramatic, but lightning over an erupting volcano may just be one of nature’s most stunning phenomena. Scientists are only now beginning to understand the intricacies involved in the production of volcanic lightning thanks to the development of new electromagnetic wave technology that can peer inside an ash plume.

Ocean wave currents in the search for Malaysia Air Flight 370

Image of ocean current speeds via Earth.NullSchool.net

View larger. | Image of ocean current speeds via Earth.NullSchool.net

We’ve all seen satellite images of possible floating debris from the missing jet. Why can’t we just fly to that spot and find it? The answer is ocean currents. They both frustrate the search and provide a possible means to finding the plane.

Video: Are we loving manatees to death?

Manatee season is nearly over at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered West Indian Manatee. And, if you watch the video above, you can almost imagine the manatees breathing a sign of relief.

Video: Big Bang breakthrough explained with a towel and an apple

Two-minute explanation of this week’s announcement about gravitational waves and the Big Bag – using a towel, an apple and a ping pong ball.

Before and after images of enormous landslide in Alaska

Satellite image of Mount La Perouse in Alaska after the February 2014 landslide. Image Credit: NASA.

Satellite image of Mount La Perouse in Alaska on February 23, 2014, a few days after the landslide. Image via NASA Earth Observatory.

About a month ago, on February 16, 2014, a near-vertical mountain face on Alaska’s Mount La Perouse collapsed creating an enormous landslide. The landslide is thought to be the largest known natural landslide on Earth since 2010. It left a trail of debris stretched out over 7.4 kilometers (4.6 miles).

Almost snack time for our galaxy’s supermassive black hole

Image via ESO/MPE/M. Schartmann/L. Calçada

Image via ESO/MPE/M. Schartmann/L. Calçada

Astronomers have been watching and waiting since 2011 to see what will happen when an encroaching cloud of gas sweeps near the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers are saying they expect the main encounter to happen soon! When it does, they hope they can figure out what’s going on in the black hole’s immediate vicinity. They might even see some gas disappear down the hole.

What is a pulsar?

Today’s FAQ: What is a pulsar?

A pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is the small, incredibly dense remnant of much more massive star. A teaspoon of matter from a neutron star weighs as much as Mount Everest. This cool video from NASA Astrophysics explains it well.

Look at the March full moon!

Jv Noriega: Full Moon rising tonight March 16 2014 99.84% illumination in Manila.

Jv Noriega: Full Moon rising tonight, March 16 2014 99.84% illumination, in Manila.

I hope you got to see last night’s full moon, wherever you are. But if your skies were cloudy, you can get some awesome looks at the March full moon in these photos. They were taken by EarthSky friends from places all around the world.

Thank you so much to all our friends for sending in your pics, and sharing them on Facebook and Google+!

A Chinese perspective on the spring equinox

Image via The Dragon

Image via The Dragon

In Chinese thought, spring is associated with the color green, the sound of shouting, the liver organ, the wood element, the climate of wind, things sprouting, your eyes, your anger, patience and altruism – and a green dragon. Not surprisingly, spring is also associated with the direction east, the sunrise direction as Earth spins us toward the beginning of each new day.

Video: Bill Nye tells how the Science Guy came to be

Bill Nye uses the unlikely pairing of Steve Martin and Carl Sagan as role models to become “the Science Guy.”