It's something no one alive today will likely ever see again: The planet Venus crossing the sun — a small, black dot moving across the fiery face of our nearest star.
The transit of Venus across the sun is one of the rarest celestial sights visible from Earth, one that wowed scientists and amateur observers around the world Tuesday (June 5). The event, arguably the most anticipated skywatching display of the year, marked the last time Venus will cross the sun (as seen from Earth) for 105 years.
[Full Story: Venus Crosses the Sun for Last Time Until 2117, Skywatchers Rejoice]
The transit of Venus on June 5, 2012, as seen from Langdon, N.D.
[Full Story: In Photos: Venus Transit 2012]
For the first time, cameras have documented wild jaguars with cubs in an oil palm plantation in Colombia, a conservation organization announced today (June 6). This is significant for conservationists who hope to protect the wild cats' populations because it indicates jaguars are willing to enter the plantations, which can break up their natural habitat.
The wild cat conservation organization Panthera set up hidden cameras, called camera traps, in an oil palm plantation in Colombia's Magdalena River valley. They ended up capturing photos of two male jaguars and a female jaguar with cubs, as well as a video of a male jaguar.
[Full Story: Rare Photos Reveal Elusive Jaguar Cubs on Oil Plantation]
It's ring around the high-pressure center in this image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite on June 5, 2012. High pressure near the surface caused this hole in the clouds off the coast of Tasmania, bringing sunny skies to an area 620 miles (1,000 km) across.
If sea creatures were Marvel comic book characters, the peacock mantis shrimp would be Thor. These colorful crustaceans have a hammerlike claw that can smash prey with the acceleration of a 0.22-caliber bullet — not unlike the superhero's mythological weapon.
Now, a new study reveals the secrets behind the strength of the mantis shrimp's claw at the molecular level. It turns out this appendage is ideally adapted to deliver punishing blow after punishing blow without breaking. These adaptations are already inspiring researchers to engineer biology-mimicking materials that could inspire everything from better boat propellers to safer body armor.
[Full Story: Take That Thor! Secret of Hard-Hitting Crustacean Claw Found]
Last week's announcement of the inevitable collision of the Andromeda galaxy with the Milky Way is one of only two apocalyptic astronomical predictions that we can be absolutely certain of. The other is the death of our sun. Purely deterministic processes drive both.
The eventual galaxy smashup is the result of the inexorable pull of gravity between two heavyweight "island universes" each weighing over 1 trillion times the mass of our sun.
[Full Story: Only Two Cosmic Doomsdays Are Certain]
New observations from a NASA space telescope have spotted what may be the very first objects created in the universe in unprecedented detail, scientists say.
The faint objects, imaged in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer space telescope, might be hugely massive stars or black holes, but are too distant to see individually.
The Big Bang is thought to have kick-started the universe about 13.7 billion years ago. At first, the universe was too hot and dense for particles to be stable, but then the first quarks formed, which then grouped together to make protons and neutrons, and eventually the first atoms were created. After about 500 million years, the first stars, galaxies and black holes began to take shape.
[Full Story: Universe's 1st Objects After Big Bang Possibly Seen by NASA Telescope]
Two populations of great white sharks frolicking in Australian waters may look alike, but researchers have found they are distinct genetically, a finding that has conservation implications.
"The genetic makeup of white sharks west of Bass Strait was different from those on the eastern seaboard of Australia, despite the lack of any physical barrier between these regions," said John Pandolfi, a chief investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The University of Queensland.
[Full Story: Australia's Great White Sharks Always Go Home to Breed]
A new video from a NASA spacecraft shows the huge asteroid Vesta's complex surface in dazzling and colorful detail.
The video drapes high-resolution false color images snapped by NASA's Dawn probe over a 3-D model of Vesta constructed from the spacecraft's observations. Dawn has been orbiting Vesta — at 330 miles (530 kilometers) wide the second-largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — since last July.
[Full Story: NASA Video Reveals Huge Asteroid Vesta's Complex Surface]
For scientist Neil Hammerschlag, it was just another Sunday. He was out cruising the reefs near the Florida Keys, hunting for sharks — not as trophies, but for research aimed at keeping them out of display cases and in the water. In many places, these iconic predators are disappearing.
A research assistant professor at the University of Miami, and the director of its R. J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, Hammerschlag spends every other weekend in southern Florida dragging baited, shark-safe lines behind a boat, hoping one of his research subjects will take a bite.
[Full Story: Photo: Giant Bull Shark Surprises Researchers ]
An ominous cloud formation that developed in the Texas panhandle last week looks like a CGI effect straight out of a summer blockbuster. This tornadic thunderstorm, which formed near the town of Adrian during the evening of May 21 and gave rise to at least one twister, offered passersby with video cameras an exceptional view of nature's might.
Experts say the saucer-shaped cloud was the most severe type of thunderstorm: a supercell. "What you are seeing here is a well-developed rotating supercell thunderstorm, and the condensation pattern at cloud base forms a 'belt' or 'wall' appearance as air is lifted and sucked into the swirling storm," said Chris Walcek, a meteorologist at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York, Albany.
[Full Story: Spectacular Texas Thundercloud Caught on Video]