Help Map the World’s Auroras With the Aurorasaurus


The spectacular visual phenomenon that is an aurora is hard to predict. Known as aurora borealis in the northern latitudes and aurora australis in the southern, auroras are the light-filled result of an interaction between charged particles from the Sun and the Earth’s magnetic field. But finding them takes some luck. 

Now, scientists are trying to create a real-time map of all the aurora sightings in the world to help track them across the globe. Researchers associated with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Institute set up the Aurorasaurus, a website and app that maps where auroras have been sighted across the world using geotagged tweets. The solar storms that cause auroras can interfere with communication networks and power grids, so scientists have good reason to track and study where they’re happening. (It doesn't hurt that they're awe-inspiringly beautiful, either.)

Here's how they tracked a major geomagnetic storm in March. A lot of the tweets culled by Aurorasaurus mentioned an aurora but weren't referring to the night sky. Instead they referenced Seattle’s Aurora Bridge, the town in Colorado, or a person named Aurora. So the project used crowdsourcing to separate legitimate recent sightings from random references. Users can approve tweets or mark them as unrelated. See the video below.

Aurorasaurus participants catalogued more than 160 aurora sightings during that storm. The data will be used to improve scientific modeling and prediction of the lights. That means you'll have a better chance of catching the amazing sight yourself. 

[h/t: Wired]

Dan Bell
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.


All images by Dan Bell

Leon Neal, Getty Images
The Best and Worst States for Online Dating, Mapped
 Leon Neal, Getty Images
Leon Neal, Getty Images

If your online dating experience is more awkward than romantic, maybe you have geography to blame. An AT&T retailer called All Home Connections recently crunched some data on the online dating landscape, and let's just say we hope you aren’t trying to Tinder in New Mexico.

The southwestern state turns out to be one of the worst for online dating prospects, at least according to this methodology, which looked at dating opportunities, demographics, and safety. It took into account the state’s percentage of singles and gender balance, along with things like unemployment rate and median earnings, percentage of people with smartphones, data on whether or not people there say they are even interested in online dating, and the violent crime rate.

A map of the U.S. with states colored on a gradient from red to white to show online dating prospects
All Home Connections

According to this data, if you want to find love online, you should head to the Northeast: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine topped the list. That may not be surprising considering the data that went into the calculation—those states have some of the highest incomes in the U.S., and fairly high rates of educational attainment.

By contrast, the lowest states on the list, New Mexico and Arkansas, both come out looking pretty bad by those standards. So if you’re not looking for a rich spouse with a bachelor’s degree, you might not necessarily agree with some of rankings. (Although those states also have some of the highest violent crime rates, so you might want to do a little extra online sleuthing to background check your dates before you meet up there.)

Here are the 10 best states for online dating, according to the data:

1. New Hampshire
2. Massachusetts
3. Rhode Island
4. Connecticut
5. Maine
6. North Dakota
7. Washington
8. Minnesota
9. New York
10. New Jersey

And these are the 10 worst:

1. Arkansas
2. New Mexico
3. Mississippi
4. Louisiana
5. South Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Alabama
8. Oklahoma
9. Texas
10. Nevada

For those still struggling to find a Valentine, the map might be a little comforting, in a way. If you’re not finding the love of your life on Tinder in the South, know that you might not be the only one struggling. It’s not you; it’s the state.


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