Two weeks ago, we published a photo by Paul Smith of an awesome red sprite over Oklahoma. Red sprites are a type of transient luminous event (TLE), different from the more familiar lightning that takes place in the troposphere, or lowest part of Earth’s atmosphere. A related phenomena are the blue jets, which pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up toward the edge of space. In 2015, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen photograped blue jets from the International Space Station. A subsequent analysis of the video footage by researchers at Denmark’s National Space Institute – published in early 2017 – revealed some amazing results!
In the 18th century, Europe's scientific community was torn between two opposing theories: Descartes' argument that the Earth was spherical, and Newton's contention that it was flattened at the poles. Recognizing that the answer was the key to securely navigating the earth's oceans, France and Spain organized a joint expedition to colonial Peru. Their goal was to measure a degree of latitude at the Equator; by comparing this measurement to one taken back in Europe, they would be able to determine the planet's shape and put an end to the debate. But what seemed a straightforward scientific exercise was almost immediately marred by a series of unforeseen catastrophes: treacherous terrain, deeply suspicious locals, and the voyagers' own hubris. A thrilling tale of adventure, political history, and scientific discovery, Larrie D. Ferreiro's Measure of the Earth recounts the greatest scientific exhibition of the Enlightenment through the eyes of the men who completed it—pioneers who overcame tremendous adversity to traverse the towering Andes Mountains and discern the Earth's true shape. - Amazon
Ice sheets such as those on Greenland and Antarctica today not only respond to changing climate but also can cause climate to change. Their sizes have fluctuated substantially in the past. In particular, Antarctica was effectively ice-free until its ice cover began to expand rapidly at the Eocene-Oligocene boundary around 34 million years ago. Recent research helps to identify the mechanisms that led to this rapid ice sheet growth. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6281/34