6 spectacular photos of the northern lights like they would have been seen 200 years ago.

Hundreds of years ago, views like this were a dime a dozen.

These days, thanks to the ubiquity of artificial light (Good for many reasons! Love being able to read things after 8 p.m.! Thanks, Thomas Edison!), it's hard to get a clear view of the night sky unless you're lucky enough to be camping on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere on a cloudless night.


Or unless you live in Iceland.

Last night, with an especially powerful aurora in the forecast, the Reykjavik City Council did something that, on a normal day, might have led to a flood of angry letters or, at the very least, some serious side-eye: They turned off the lights.

Between 10 p.m. and midnight, all the streetlights in town went dark to give residents the best possible view of the northern lights.

And ... well.

View from my house tonight! #northernlights #clearsky #reykjavik #iceland #aurora #auroreboreale

A photo posted by Jonathan Guisset (@jonathanguisset) on

"[I'd] never before seen anything like it," said Rodrigo Alfaro, an Argentinian photojournalist traveling in Iceland.

"Intense northern lights in the middle of the city, with clear sky and many people in the streets despite the cold watching."

#reykjavik #northernlights #nightphoto #churches #igers #igersiceland #sky

A photo posted by rodrigo alfaro (@rodrigo.alfaro.jpg) on

The city encouraged private homeowners and businesses to do the same.

While not all did, the effect gave residents an as-close-as-possible-in-a-major-city-in-2016 approximation of a world before ubiquitous electric light.

Crazy shit #auroraborealis #northernlights #hallgrimskirkja

A photo posted by Freyja Melsted (@freytschi) on

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, excessive light pollution can create problems beyond obscuring the sublime majesty of solar light gently screwing up Earth's magnetosphere.

For many animal species, which depend on natural light cycles to determine when it's day and when it's night, too much rogue brightness can disrupt sleep, breeding, migration, and hunting patterns.

Spectacular #northernlights tonight in #Reykjavik #Iceland 🙌🙌🙌

A photo posted by Daði Guðjónsson (@dadigud) on

But there's good news! It doesn't require the city-wide initiative of a forward-thinking Nordic local government to fix the problems caused by light pollution.

Things like shielding exterior home lights, tinting them red or yellow, and facing them down instead of up can help minimize bleed and reduce their impact on local wildlife.

#iceland #reykjavik #aurora #northenlights #極光#冰島#白日夢冒險王#travelwithmavissu

A photo posted by Mavis (@m__mavis_su) on

The best part? Dimming the lights every so often might even help clarify what the people of Iceland discovered on a clear September night not too long ago.

Aurora Borealis @eduardomestieri #iceland #reykjavik #aurora #northernlights #night

A photo posted by Arthur Svendsen (@artsvendsen) on

The universe is really pretty sweet.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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