The North Atlantic is currently bursting with color as blooms of microscopic plants erupt on the surface of the chilly sea. But these expanses of plankton, which provide the basis for the area's food chain and help take in enormous quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, wouldn't be possible without swirling currents on the surface to keep them afloat, new research finds.
These eddies, or whirlpools of water, created by wind and ocean currents, actually prompt the growth of these colorful plankton blooms, according to a study published in the July 6 issue of the journal Science.
[Full Story: Swirling Currents Fuel Huge Ocean Blooms]
In 1964, the British physicist Peter Higgs wrote a landmark paper hypothesizing why elementary particles have mass. He predicted the existence of a three-dimensional "field" that permeates space and drags on everything that trudges through it. Some particles have more trouble traversing the field than others, and this corresponds to them being heavier. If the field — later dubbed the Higgs field — really exists, then Higgs said it must have a particle associated with it: the Higgs boson.
[Full Story: What Is the Higgs Boson? ('God Particle' Explained)]
A spectacular new picture from the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a cosmic fireworks display in deep space: a geyser of gas fired off from a baby star.
The celestial display is the result of Herbig-Haro 110, a gas jet erupting from a distant star and bouncing off of a nearby dust cloud. NASA scientists likened the impressive celestial jet to the skyrockets launched each year in the United States to mark the Independence Day holiday on July 4.
[Full Story: Hubble Telescope Sees Celestial Fireworks for Fourth of July]
Squid-like cuttlefish are known for their amazing camouflage abilities, thanks to specialized skin cells that allow them to change color in the blink of an eye. Now research finds that these clever mollusks use their color-changing abilities in creative ways: by pretending to be the other gender.
Well, half-pretending, that is.
When a male cuttlefish is wooing a lady, he often "cheats" by painting typical female patterns on one side of his body, while the other side — the one facing the female — shows off typical male patterns. This gender-bending disguise fools rival males into thinking they're seeing just a couple of ladies hanging out. That means more of an opportunity for the cheater cuttlefish to mate.
[Full Story: Tricky Cuttlefish Put on Gender-Bending Disguise]
Even when Earth is swathed in clouds, astronauts aboard the International Space Station get amazing views. Here, atmospheric forces create vortexes, punching holes in the cloud cover near the Aleutian Islands. The islands force the wind into eddies, creating these odd cloud formations photographed by an Expedition 15 crewmember. See more strange clouds in our gallery.
A dusty disk around a distant star has faded surprisingly fast, leaving scientists few clues to how it disappeared.
Only a few years ago, the space around the star TYC 8241 2652 1 was filled with dust and gas, but recent observations show the region — an ideal spot for alien planets to form — has all but vanished.
[Full Story: Vanishing Dust Belt Around Star Baffles Scientists]
The sun is unleashing some powerful solar flares today (July 4) in an impressive celestial fireworks display just in time for the U.S. Independence Day holiday.
The latest solar flare erupted at 5:47 a.m. EDT (0947 GMT) and hit its peak strength eight minutes later. The flare fired off from the active sunspot AR1515 and registered as a class M5.3 solar storm on the scale used by astronomers to measure space weather, according to the Space Weather Prediction Group operated by NOAA.
[Full Story: Sun Fires Off Fourth of July Solar Flares]
Alien or sea creature? This delicate blue organism is a nudibranch, a type of marine mollusk. Nudibranches are often confused for sea slugs, but the two groups are separate.
The blue nudibranch seen here is just an inch (2.5 cm) long. It was found clinging to sargassum seaweed during a NOAA Life on the Edge mission in 2003. Scientists explored the continental slope and shelf edge off the coast of the southern U.S., from North Carolina to Florida. The team observed everything from sea urchins to flying fish on the 11 day mission.
An ominous line of clouds portends the approaching derecho in La Porte, Ind., on the afternoon of June 29.
The July full moon will rise like a bright night sky beacon tonight (July 3) in a sort of celestial preview to the traditional Fourth of July fireworks that will light up U.S. skies on Wednesday.
July's full moon has many names, but is often known as the Buck Moon because it occurs at a time of year when new antlers began to emerge from the foreheads of buck deer. Another common name is the Thunder Moon since thunderstorms can be common this time of year (just ask the thousands of East Coast residents still without power this week after recent storms).
[Full Story: Full Moon Rises Tonight on Eve of Fourth of July]
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a step closer to adding four macaw species to the "endangered" list, the agency announced Friday (July 6).
The birds — the great green macaw, the hyacinth macaw, the scarlet macaw and the military macaw — warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, a Service analysis has found.
[Full Story: Eye-Catching Parrot Species May Make Endangered Species List]