Seven spectacular photos of last night’s stormy sky
Last night’s heavy storm produced a truly breathtaking evening sky. Here are seven spectacular photos from around the region.
M street, Georgetown.
According to Capital Weather Gang, the storm washed pollutants from the air at exactly the right moment. The clear air combined with dramatic clouds and red light from the sunset to produce the memorable view.
The northern lights, aurora borealis, are usually only visible near the Arctic Circle. But every once in a while, when conditions are perfect, they make an appearance as far south as DC. I caught a glimpse early Wednesday morning.
Aurora over Chesapeake Bay on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday news spread that a heavy solar storm was hitting Earth, and producing some of the strongest aurora in years. Maybe strong enough to see from DC.
Since the sky was clear, the moon below the horizon, and conditions perfect, my wife and I booked a Zipcar to the clearest northerly view I could think of: The northern tip of Kent Island, across the Bay Bridge, in the middle of the Chesapeake.
And there was the aurora. Barely visible, but there. Dim green flashes floated low against the horizon, flowing in great fast waves from east to west. It was nothing like the huge curtains of light you see in the famous pictures (we’re too far south for that), but it was unmistakable nonetheless.
How you can see them next time
Aurora are sometimes visible from DC’s latitude. But they may never be visible from inside the District of Columbia, because this far south they appear very dim, and only close to the northern horizon. To see them, find an extremely dark north-facing vantage point, with a clear sight of the horizon.
If there are street lights turned on or trees blocking the horizon, you probably won’t see them even if conditions are otherwise right.
Since we live in Northeast, we decided Kent Island would be ideal. It’s about an hour drive east of DC, assuming no traffic—usually a safe assumption after midnight.
Route to Kent Island. Map from Google.
You will need a car to get there. And since news of likely aurora this far south typically only comes the day of the event, you won’t have much time to plan ahead. But in the age of car-sharing, even a car-free urbanite can get it done.
Check out DC’s charming but incomprehensible 1975 bus map
Washingtonians hoping to catch a bus in 1975 consulted this friendly-looking hand-drawn map. Charming as it may be, the map has no lines. Rather, designers wrote the name of each bus route over and over along its path through the city.
Transit riders and cartography experts can’t fault the map designers too much. It was more challenging to illustrate detailed networks before the days of computers, and even in recent years some WMATA maps have been just as hard to follow.
Legibility aside, the map actually includes some very progressive elements considering its vintage. According to the legend, it only shows “all-day routes with frequent service,” an incredibly useful idea that’s picked up a lot of steam in the past five years.
Other progressive elements shown on the map include bike paths, although the Mount Vernon and Rock Creek trails appear to be the only ones, and much of its text is translated into Spanish.
The map also includes a fun vignette of the Metrorail system, which had yet to open but was less than a year away.
The Dutch government is trolling DC over marijuana, bike lanes, and streetcars
As marijuana legalization took effect in the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser said DC would “not become like Amsterdam.” We talked about the differences yesterday, including on bicycling and transit, but the Embassy of the Netherlands has playfully responded with this infographic comparing our two capital cities.
Image from the Dutch government. Really.
The embassy also created a Q&A comparing marijuana laws in the two cities. But bicycling and transit supporters might focus more on the bike lane and streetcar disparities.
Accounting for population, the world map looks totally different
This is a world population cartogram, a false-geography map that resizes countries according to their population. It’s an interesting way to view the world, and compared to common projections perhaps more accurate, in its own way.
The United States is the world’s fourth largest country by land area, and third largest by population, so it’s not particularly distorted compared to geographic projections. But many other countries are.
China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion) visually dominate, being by far the world’s two most populous countries. Others that stand out with seemingly oversized populations are Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan, and the Philippines.
On the other end of the spectrum, the world’s two largest countries by land area are much reduced. Russia’s population of 146 million is still good enough for 9th highest globally, but that appears unimpressive against its normally huge area. And Canada, the world’s second largest country but only its 37th most populous, is nothing but a tiny sliver.
Washington’s I-495 beltway is a 64 mile long loop. London’s M-25 orbital motorway is 117 miles. They seem big, but they’re practically microscopic next to the greatest ring road on Earth, Australia’s 9,000-mile Highway 1.
Map from the Commonwealth of Australia.
In fact, Highway 1 is the longest single highway in the world. It’s 32% longer than Russia’s Trans-Siberian Highway, and almost three times longer than the longest US Interstate, I-90.
The Australian government created Highway 1 in 1955, by compiling a network of existing local and regional highways under a single banner.
Unlike American Interstates, Highway 1 isn’t fully limited access for its entire length. Near big cities like Sydney or Melbourne it looks like an Interstate, but many sections in rural areas are simple two-lane roads, and some extremely isolated sections are even more basic.