Yum … ice cake! Western lowland gorilla Monroe gets a cool birthday treat at the San Diego Zoo on June 17. The adorable ape turned two that day, enjoying a party complete with fruit-and-veggie ice cake (decorated with yam and banana frosting, ginger leaves and hibiscus flowers, of course) and cardboard party favors made by zoo staff. Check out more adorable baby animals in this gallery of cuteness.
Is that a kiss on the cheek? This image, voted Fan Favorite in the 2013 University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science Underwater Photography Contest, captures two Mandarin dragonets (Synchiropus splendidus) in the process of mating. Amateur photographer Pietro Cremone caught the fish in the act in Puerto Galera, Philippines.
To see the other stunning winners of this year's contest, visit the gallery of ethereal seals, sunlit sharks and more.
Ever wonder how those gorgeous astronaut shots from above Earth get taken? NASA pulls back the curtain in this image, which shows Expedition 36 astronaut Chris Cassidy in the cupola of the International Space Station. From his perch 250 miles (400 kilometers) up, Cassidy uses a 400mm lens to capture the goings-on down below.
Yaaaaaawn … Peanut the North American tree porcupine settles in for a snooze at the Edinburgh Zoo. Born in 2009, Peanut is part of a species that ranges from the southern boundary of the United States all the way into Canada and Alaska. At about 30 pounds (14 kg) full-grown, North American tree porcupines are the largest North American rodents after beavers.
Boneyard Beach on South Carolina's Bulls Island might sound like a scary place, but it's a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.
The beach is not as morbid as its name suggests. Boneyard Beach is named after all the downed trees that have been bleached by the sun and salt water. This so-called boneyard is why the beach has the reputation as the most photographed place on Bulls Island.
Part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, the beach is 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Charleston, S.C. The refuge was established in 1932 as a safe haven for migratory birds. Here you'll also find the largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles outside of Florida. Visitors also flock to a viewing area for endangered red wolves. A pair of four-year-old red wolf siblings haa recently made the refuge their home.
Visitors looking to sweat a little more can surf fish, hike and bike. Bulls Island lies nearly 3 miles (4.8 km) off the mainland. Like most of the refuge, it is accessible only by boat.
- Brett Israel, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor
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The "wingspan" of the butterfly nebula stretches over 3 light-years. The butterfly nebula is a planetary nebula, a misleading term — in fact, this gorgeous cloud of gas and dust is the remnants of a dying star about 4,000 light-years away from Earth. Hubble captured this image of the dusty butterfly in 2009.
The track of a deadly tornado streaks across the Oklahoma landscape in this satellite image of Oklahoma City. On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado roared through Newcastle and Moore, suburbs of the city, killing at least 24 people and damaging or destroying about 13,000 homes and other buildings. NASA's Terra satellite observed the aftermath on June 2. In this false-color image, vegetation is red and buildings and pavement are blue-gray. The beige scar running through the image shows the tornado's path, now stripped of vegetation.
A 17-day-old female okapi tests out her land legs at the San Diego Zoo on Tuesday (June 4, 2013). This is the public debut for this little girl, who was born May 19 to mother Safarani. Okapis are giraffe relatives native to Central Africa; their shy tendencies kept early European explorers in the dark about their true existence for decades. It wasn't until 1901 that the species was formally classified and scientifically named.
The human gut isn't the most glamorous of systems, but it's got an important job to do. This computer-generated 3-D model shows the small intestine (blue) and its generous blood supply (yellow). Using CT (computed tomography) scans, NIH researchers were able to map out this vasculature.
Summer can be seen at the end of winter's long tunnel at Glacier National Park in Montana.
Love to hike? Glacier is your place for summer backcountry adventures. With over 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) of trails, hikers will find a wilderness of forests, alpine meadows, mountains and beautiful lakes.
For those not ready to leave winter behind, there's the solitude of snow caves. Caves such as the one shown in the above image often form when meltwater runs under the ice of a glacier.
Glacier National Park is named for the glacier-scoured landscape. A few small glaciers remain throughout the park today, some of which can be seen from the roads. Just look for the tell-tale blue ice and crevasses that distinguishes them from the snowfields above timberline. [Top 10 Most Visited National Parks]
Visitors to the park in the summer should check the local road conditions before their trip. A heavy snowpack and budget cuts have hampered efforts to plow popular roads to the park in recent years. This month, plow crews have made progress removing snow from the park's famed Going-to-the-Sun Road, clearing up to half a mile on a good day. Happy summer!
- Brett Israel
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Comet ISON streaks across space in this series of images from Feb. 4, March 4, April 3 and May 4, 2013. ISON is currently about 455 million to 360 million miles (730-580 million kilometers) from the sun, but it's headed toward Earth's star at a fast clip. On Nov. 28, 2013, the comet will graze the sun in one of the closest passes ever recorded for any comet, moving within 800,000 miles (1.3 million km) of the star. Before the close encounter (and after, should ISON survive), the comet should be visible from Earth, possibly even in daylight. [Read More About Comet ISON]
This NASA graphic places a neutron star — the densest object astronomers can observe directly — next to Manhattan Island. While a neutron star is about as long across as Manhattan (12 miles, or 19 kilometers), it contains half a million times the Earth's mass in that small space.
For more amazing science images, see Image of the Day: May 2013.