Two circular maps of the Earth with polar regions in the centers.

Astrophysicists design ‘radically different’ world map

You know the old problem of how to portray the round globe of Earth on a flat map? Now a trio of map experts has worked together to solve this problem. Their new map is 2-sided and round.

Planet with neon-colored clouds and city-like on the surface, with barbell-shaped orbiting objects nearby.

Can air pollution help us find alien life?

To find alien life in our universe, scientists have considered searches for optical lasers or even giant energy-harvesting structures known as Dyson spheres. Now they’re suggesting a more mundane sort of search, a hunt for air pollution in exoplanet atmospheres.

Green curtains of an aurora in a deep blue starry sky over a rocky hilltop.

Upheaval and extinctions linked to magnetic reversal 42,000 years ago

A magnetic reversal 42,000 years ago helped bring about earthly extinctions, scientists said, accompanied by changes in the sky including electrical storms and widespread auroras. “It would have been scary,” they commented.

Sharks swim below and upside down white plastic bag floating in green water.

Hundreds of fish species, including many we eat, are consuming plastic

As more and more plastic trash permeates the oceans, microplastics are making their way into fish and shellfish, and potentially into humans.

Two galaxies swirling together in a heart shape.

We heart the Earth and sky

This Valentine’s Day, we find so much to love in the many heart-shaped objects created by Mother Nature that can be found right here on Earth or all the way to the deepest reaches of the sky.

A map showing a large earthquake off the east coast of Japan.

Strong earthquake in Japan called ‘aftershock’ of deadly 2011 quake

No fatalities were reported in the February 13, 2021, strong earthquake in Japan, which occurred off Japan’s east coast, near the epicenter of the 2011 9.0-magnitude Tohoku earthquake.

Mountain slope with snow broken off ridge and tops of trees sticking up through the snow.

A record deadly week for US avalanches in early February

2021 has brought a deadly avalanche season. “We’re only halfway through the season and we’re 3/4 of the way to the number of fatalities we’d see in a typical year. The dangerous, record-breaking year keeps avalanche forecasters up at night,” one expert said.

A person scraping snow off a car and a person pushing a snowblower.

Has the polar vortex arrived? What is it?

The polar vortex is an enormous, 3-dimensional ring of winds that surrounds the North and South poles during each hemisphere’s winter. The polar vortex influences the jet stream, which can bring cold winter weather to the U.S. and Europe.

Today in science: A spacecraft obliterated a sundog

On February 11, 2010, a solar observatory launched into space ripped apart a sundog and created a new ice halo that amazed scientists.

Small bird with yellow on top of its head on a partly-eaten yellow apple.

Great Backyard Bird Count begins February 12

Show your love for birds by joining the 2021 Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s free and easy to participate in this 4-day global event. Find out how here.

Dark gray splotches on a light gray background near a long, thin, rugged island.

Is this the end of the A-68A iceberg?

Satellite images reveal that the once colossal A-68A iceberg has broken into multiple pieces.

Five panels with blue and white Earth nearing the horizon and gone in the last panel.

What does Earth look like from outer space?

If you considered only Earth’s brightness, you could still see our world from as far away as the orbit of the 8th planet, Neptune. In practice, though, from that distance, Earth would be lost in the sun’s glare. How does Earth look from space? Spacecraft photos tell the tale.

Panda sliding down a snowy hill on its back.

Watch giant pandas frolic in the snow

Watch giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian sliding and rolling around in snow in their habitat at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington in this video.

silhouettes of trees and firefights against fiery orange background

Another terrible year for wildfires and smoke in the US in 2020

Wildfires burned more than 10 million acres in the United States during the 2020 season. It was the worst season on record.

Monarch butterflies are in trouble: Here’s how to help in your own yard

The 2020 annual count of monarch butterflies in the western United States found shockingly few, confirming fears that the insect is on the brink of extinction.

A burrow-like structure in rock, with featherlike markings annotated.

A giant undersea sand worm’s fossilized lair

In 20-million-=year-old rock off the coast of Taiwan, researchers have discovered what they think is the fossilized burrow of a giant, predatory sand worm.

minty green water and big ice blocks.

Earth is losing ice at a record rate

The rate at which ice is disappearing across the planet has been speeding up, by 65% since the 1990s, a survey of global ice loss using European Space Agency satellite data reveals.

Opinion: Biden administration must act fast to save migratory birds

On Trump’s way out of the White House, his administration demolished a law that protects migratory birds, putting over 1,000 species at risk. The Biden administration can still salvage it, but only if they act swiftly.

Will an iceberg twice the size of NYC break off Antarctica this year?

A crack on the Antarctic ice shelf grew dramatically in late 2020 into 2021. Scientists are watching to see if the rapidly accelerating crack will cause the shelf to rip apart before Antarctica’s sunlit summer season – going on now – comes to an end.

Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

See photos of rare lenticular clouds, sometimes called UFO clouds, and learn how they form.