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Help Map the World’s Auroras With the Aurorasaurus

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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]

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National Low Income Housing Coalition
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Live Smarter
How Many Hours You Need to Work to Pay Rent in Each State
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National Low Income Housing Coalition

According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a full-time worker in the U.S. must earn, on average, $17.14 per hour to comfortably afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent [PDF]. That said, even the nation’s highest minimum wage—which, starting in 2020, is slated to be pegged at $15 in Washington D.C.—isn’t enough to meet these numbers.

This raises the question: How many hours would the average minimum wage worker in each state need to work per week to afford their one-bedroom abodes, without paying more than 30 percent of their overall income? (Spoiler: Those earning the bare federal minimum of $7.25 per hour would need to work 94.5 hours per week—the equivalent of 2.4 full time jobs—to achieve this feat.)

The NLIHC broke down their comprehensive nationwide findings in the map above:

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Prof Kenneth Myers
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geography
Most of the World’s Population Lives Within This 2500-Mile Radius
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Prof Kenneth Myers

The Earth gets more crowded each year. In just the past decade, the planet has welcomed about 1 billion new residents. The biggest contributors to the booming population are a handful of countries, and most of them fall within a 2500-mile radius.

As friend of Mental Floss Ken Jennings writes for Condé Nast Traveler, the Valeriepieris circle covers more than half the world’s population. China and India, the world’s two most populous nations, plus Indonesia (the fourth) and Pakistan (the sixth), are all part of a section of Earth that stretches 2500 miles in all directions from a central point near Hainan, China's southernmost area. Bangladesh, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, which all place in the top 15 most populous countries, are also included.

Not only are the populations of these places high, they’re also dense. In Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka, for instance, every square mile holds about 115,000 citizens. (For comparison, New York City, America's most densely populated city, counts roughly 27,000 per square mile.) That explains how this circle can house billions of humans while also containing a lot of open ocean and empty desert.

The Valeriepieris circle is named after the American Reddit user who first shared the map in 2013. His real name is Ken Myers, and he was inspired to create the graphic after visiting Manila in the Philippines for a teaching fellowship and seeing firsthand how many people were crammed into the tight area. The math was checked by Singapore economics professor Danny Quah years later, and he found that Myers had actually been generous with his calculations. Narrow down the circle to a 2050 mile radius, with Mong Khet in Myanmar as the center point, and it still fits close to half the world’s people.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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