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October 14, 2021

Red aurora rare enough to be special

Green auroras occur at about 60 miles above Earth. Pure red auroras are much higher, from about 200 to 300 miles up, which allows people closer to the equator to see them. An important gas remaining at that altitude is oxygen, and electrons that excite the oxygen atoms there produce a red light as pure as a laser.

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October 1, 2021

Fluorescent bill may be seabird’s neon sign

The crested auklet looks like a smiling clown that never blinks. It is probably the only seabird that smells like a tangerine. Its beak — the color of a tangerine — is so bright a scientist thinks it may be fluorescent.

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September 17, 2021

Setting traps to catch an Alaska virus

On this crisp, cool fall day in 2021, this trapper — who lives in Atlanta and works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — hunts for a virus that was unknown to humans until 2015. That’s when a Fairbanks doctor examined a lesion on a woman’s shoulder.

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August 12, 2021

Pine grove near Yakutat is farthest north

We were on the Yakutat Forelands — a sweep of forested lowlands left behind after glaciers retreated from the landscape hundreds of years ago. Taking steps that felt like walking on a trampoline, we moved through a pine grove in a few-acre spread of open green muskeg.

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The closest people to an 8.2 earthquake

What if the country’s largest earthquake in the last half century happened as you were getting ready for bed in the only cabin on a tiny island in the North Pacific. What if the epicenter was just 50 miles away?

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July 15, 2021

Visit to glacier begins with wildlife encounter

We heard a loud buzz. A hummingbird hovered in front of my cracker. As I held still, the hummingbird probed the peanut butter, twice, with its needle beak. The cracker transferred the vibration to my left hand, tickling my fingers. As the bird zoomed off, I looked over at Ben to confirm the experience.
“I think you have superpowers now,” he said.

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July 13, 2021

The peak of summer warmth is near

Rainbow in beautiful valley.

By Ned Rozell You may not notice it as you scooped fish out of the Copper River or rode your bike through the tawny light of 10 p.m., but Alaska is about to make a left turn toward winter. Much of the state will soon reach the average yearly date when the air won’t get any warmer. In Fairbanks, on July 19 the average daily temperature based on about a …

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July 1, 2021

The muskox’s odyssey: From Greenland to Alaska

By Ned Rozell Leaving cloven hoof prints from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more than 3,500 muskoxen live in Alaska. All of those shaggy, curly-horned beasts came from one group of muskoxen that survived a most remarkable journey in the 1930s. In 1900, no muskoxen existed in Alaska. Though the stocky, weatherproof creatures have survived in the Arctic since the last ice age, the last reports …

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June 22, 2021

Low-displacement landslides explain unusual West Virginia landscape features visible in lidar imagery

Like so many older landslides in the Appalachians, the significance and cause of these features is unknown. Because they are so numerous and are only visible using lidar data acquired in 2016, they may represent an untapped resource of useful information about the recent history of Appalachian landscapes.

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June 17, 2021

Visit to an exotic tree plantation in Alaska

In 1964, just after Lyndon Johnson swore the oath to follow John F. Kennedy, Alaska forester Les Viereck and others planted tree seedlings at the north end of this old farm field.

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