Environment

The mysterious aurora known as 'Steve,' explained

Apr 28, 2018

Thanks to collaboration between citizen scientists and astronomers, a strange phenomenon in the night sky, dubbed “Steve,” has finally been explained.

In 2017, a glowing purple-and-green ribbon across the heavens mystified sky-watchers because it showed up much further south than the famous northern lights, or aurora borealis. These observers decided to call it “Steve,” echoing the woodland creatures in the children’s movie "Over the Hedge."

Vacant lots dot lower-income neighborhoods across the country. In many cities, urban growers have planted in those lots, repurposing abandoned city land into gardens with farmers markets and healthy food.

But cities often still register such plots as "vacant," which allows them to be snatched up by housing developers. In communities where both housing and fresh food are needed, the fight over valuable vacant land is prompting policy reform — and tense collaboration — between developers and gardeners.

Citing concerns for food production, the environment and biodiversity, the European Union is set to "completely ban" the outdoor use of neonicotinoid insecticides that have been blamed for killing bees, and for keeping other bees from laying eggs.

"All outdoor use of the three substances will be banned and the neonicotinoids in question will only be allowed in permanent greenhouses where no contact with bees is expected," the EU announced on Friday.

Safety officials have lifted an evacuation order for miles around an oil refinery in Superior, Wis., after an explosion and a large fire erupted Thursday at the Canadian-owned facility. Police officers went door to door to enforce the evacuation, which extended for miles around the refinery.

Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faced withering criticism from congressional Democrats on Thursday, with one lawmaker calling him "unfit to hold public office." But Republican members of Congress — especially those representing states with large fossil fuel industries — rallied to Pruitt's defense.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies on Capitol Hill tomorrow, and it could be a make-or-break appearance. It'll be his first time in front of lawmakers since a string of allegations of ethical misconduct.

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Scientists now think they understand why so many viruses seem able to exist in widely varying ecosystems on Earth.

There are an enormous number of viruses that get sucked up into the outer atmosphere and then fall out of the sky and scatter across the globe, according to new research published in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal.

The Philippine island of Boracay is a tourist magnet, with its beaches regularly appearing on lists of the world's best. It's easy to see why.

"I think this is an amazing beach," says Frida Roemer from Copenhagen, lounging on the island's White Beach. "The clear water, the white sand ... I extended my ticket because I just liked it so much."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

From San Francisco to Washington, D.C., e-scooters and dockless bikes have become the latest transportation trend to grip urban spaces — and local governments are struggling to keep up.

The concept is simple: Riders download an app, find and unlock a scooter or bike, and leave it when they're done. Many cost as little as $1, and fans of the services tout them as faster, easier, and greener ways to get where they're going.

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