Scents of Science

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Natural Phenomena

HDR: Earth’s Circular Shadow on the Moon

What could create such a large circular shadow on the Moon? The Earth. Last week's full Moon -- the Buck Moon -- was so full that it fell almost exactly in a line with the Sun and the Earth. When that happens the Earth casts its shadow onto... Continue Reading →

What is a derecho?

It’s a violent storm system that can produce widespread wind damage, usually associated with a rapidly moving band of showers and thunderstorms. The strong-to-violent winds typically move ahead of the main system, as the outflow from the storms becomes more concentrated. Wind... Continue Reading →

Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra

What are those red filaments in the sky? It is a rarely seen form of lightning confirmed only about 30 years ago: red sprites. Recent research has shown that following a powerful positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike, red sprites may start as 100-meter balls of ionized air that... Continue Reading →

Aerosol Earth

Aerosols are all around us. From the smoke from a fire, to the dust in the wind to the salt in sea spray — these solid particles and liquid droplets are always swirling in our atmosphere, oftentimes unseen. The Goddard Earth Observing... Continue Reading →

Polar Vortices Every year or two, the Northern Hemisphere gets treated to a bout of intensely cold temperatures thanks to the polar vortex. What you may not realize, though, is that it’s not the polar vortex that causes this cold weather –... Continue Reading →


This ethereal image was taken by Daniel Michalik, currently a research fellow at ESA. It was shortlisted as a finalist in the Royal Society photography competition in 2017, and went on to become the overall winner in the ‘Astronomy’ category – and it’s... Continue Reading →

A Colorful Solar Corona over the Himalayas

What are those colorful rings around the Sun? A corona visible only to Earth observers in the right place at the right time. Rings like this will sometimes appear when the Sun or Moon is seen through thin clouds. The effect is created by the quantum mechanical diffraction of... Continue Reading →


These ice spikes, called penitentes, form in high altitudes, where sunlight turns ice directly into water vapor, rather than melting it to water. Sun beams vaporize small dimples in the snow's surface. Then, the uneven surface directs sun into the... Continue Reading →

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