Image of the Day Archives
Above: Photographer Steve Lenz captured this incredible lightning photo in northeast Oregon, outside the city of Milton-Freewater. The region is characterized by rolling hills, and treeless agriculture, he said. Lenz snapped this electrifying shot during a storm on July 20, 2012.
"I was out in the middle of this storm with lightning crashing all around (a few miles away) and excitedly taking photos," Lenz told LiveScience in an email. "This photo is the last one I got when my shutter broke. My heart sank. I put my equipment away and got in my car and then realized the lightning had gotten dangerously close. So I was somehow relieved my shutter had broken or I might have been in trouble."
Lenz used a Canon 5D mark1 camera and a Sigma 150-500 lens to capture the magnificent scene.
"I set the camera on a tripod and aimed it towards the windmills where there was a high concentration of lightning strikes," he said. "I set it at F5, ISO 100 and left the shutter open for about 30 seconds at a time hoping to catch strikes." [See More Stunning Images of Lightning]
What's that smell?
The flower’s scientific name is Amorophallus titanium (or Titan Arum), but it is more commonly called the "corpse flower," because of its signature smell of rotting flesh. UCSB’s specimen is named Chanel, as a nod to the "perfume" it releases when it blooms, school officials said in a statement. [In Images: A Corpse Flower Blooms]
The corpse flower is native to the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia, and was first discovered by an Italian botanist in 1878. The flower blooms infrequently, but since 1889, more than 100 corpse flowers have blossomed in cultivation. Before Chanel caused a stink at UCSB, another corpse flower bloomed at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory in Washington, D.C.
"This is a rare occurrence under cultivation and even rarer in its native Sumatra, where the deforestation of equatorial rainforests has wreaked havoc on its habitat," UCSB biology greenhouse manager Danica Taber said in a statement. [Related: Hold Your Nose: 7 Foul Flowers]
Wide Open Spaces in Big Bend National Park
Covering more than 800,000 acres, Big Bend National Park is larger than Rhode Island. Despite being so big, the park's remote location on the U.S.-Mexico border makes it one of the least visited national parks in America. The visitors that do come are often avid hikers or birders. The park has more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) of hiking trails and some 450 bird species.
The giant park is home to some prickly permanent residents. More species of cactus are found in Big Bend — some 70 species — than at any other national park in the country.
A proposed man-made feature could have transformed Big Bend into a tourist attraction years ago. The park came close to becoming home to another Mount Rushmore. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who carved the presidents into Mount Rushmore, once considered a similar project on the walls of Big Bend's Santa Elena Canyon, formed by the Rio Grande. But the idea didn't take, and the project was abandoned.
- Brett Israel, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor
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Eyes in the Sky
Over the next 250 days, the satellite will undergo final launch preparations, including its installation atop an Atlas 5 rocket. The weather satellite is slated to launch into orbit in March 2014.
The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) monitors oceanographic and weather systems. The satellites provide global atmospheric and terrestrial information to the U.S. Department of Defense. Military personnel also use the satellites to find, track and forecast weather patterns over remote and hostile areas for deployed troops. The program is managed by the Air Force Space Command and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [Related: Satellites Gallery: Science from Above]
Here comes the sun!
Nyberg launched to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on May 28. Nyberg's Soyuz crewmates included Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency. Upon their arrival at the orbiting outpost, the trio rounded out the space station's Expedition 36 mission. [Space Photos by Astronaut Karen Nyberg]
Nyberg has been actively sharing her spaceflight experience with the public via Twitter. You can follow Nyberg @AstroKarenN to see more of her photos and videos. Nyberg, Yurchikhin and Parmitano are scheduled to return to Earth in November. [Related: 101 Stunning Pictures from Orbit]
Tentacles in space
The Jellyfish nebula can be found near the star Eta Geminorum, which lies near Castor, one of the twins in the constellation Gemini. This image of the stunning nebula was captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, space telescope. The different colors in the photo represent specific wavelengths of infrared emission. [Related: 101 Stunning Images from Orbit]
A hippo-size celebration!
From Aug. 16 to Aug. 21 visitors will be able to watch daily hippo demonstrations, experience an historic display about Bertie, and sign a hippo-size birthday card. Bertie's official birthday is Aug. 21.
Bertie arrived at the Denver Zoo on Dec. 16, 1958 from the Central Park Zoo. This crowd favorite has lived at the Denver Zoo longer than any other animal on display, and has fathered a total of 29 hippopotamuses at the zoo. [Related: 101 Animal Shots You'll Go Wild Over]
Toad-ally Cute: Radio-Tracking Tiny Toads
The Wyoming toad is now the most endangered amphibian in North America. These toads once filled wetlands and rivers in southeastern Wyoming, but by the 1970s the population here was in decline. Insecticides, climate changes, disease and predators are all culprits. In 1993, The Nature Conservancy helped establish the Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming to protect the remaining toads.
Radio tracking is common on larger species, such as sharks and turtles. But toad tracking requires adorably small transmitters due to the amphibians' small size. Wyoming toads average just 2 inches (5 centimeters) in length, and they are covered in warts.
- Brett Israel, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor
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Untangling nerve cell connections
Some neural networks, like those responsible for the knee-jerk reflex, are relatively simple and involve few connections. Others, such as the networks in the human brain, are far more complex.
Scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson are studying how neurons are "wired," in order to develop cures for nerve damage from spinal cord injuries or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease. [Related: 10 Things You Didn't Know About the Brain]
Bright lights, big cities
Much of Saudi Arabia is lightly populated desert, where the skies remain relatively dark at night. Several large cities dot the southwestern coast, where the climate is more moderate. At top left in the image, three brightly lit urban centers are visible: Jeddah, Mecca and Taif.
Jeddah is a gateway city for Islamic pilgrims en route to nearby Mecca, on a journey known as the Hajj. The city of Taif is located on the slopes of the Sarawat Mountains, where the Saudi government retreats in the summer to avoid the desert heat of the capital city, Riyadh. [Related: Images of One-of-a-Kind Places on Earth]
Great balls of fire
The annual Perseid meteor shower, which is often touted as the most dazzling meteor shower of the year, peaked overnight on Aug. 12. Meteor showers occur when Earth and its atmosphere pass through regions of the sky littered with debris from a comet. The Perseids, in particular, are remnants of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which swings past the sun once ever 130 years.
NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office aims to observe fireballs in the night sky, and collect data to build models of the meteoroid environment around our planet, which will help engineers build more effective and robust spacecraft. [Related: Fallen Stars: A Gallery of Famous Meteorites]
Seven-year-old Andazi gave birth to the healthy calf over the weekend, but zoo officials will continue to closely monitor the pair. The newborn rhino will have the opportunity to bond with its mother behind closed doors before it is debuted to visitors at the zoo, according to Zoo Atlanta's animal management and veterinary officials.
Eastern black rhinos have experienced near-catastrophic population declines in recent decades, largely due to poaching. The rhinos' horns, skin and other body parts are believed by some cultures to have medicinal value. [Black Market Horns: Images from a Rhino Bust]
Anti-poaching efforts and conservation programs have helped bolster the population of eastern black rhinos in the wild, to around 4,800, but the species remains critically endangered. The eastern black rhino's relative, the western black rhino, was declared extinct in 2011. [Related: Up and Away! Photos of Rhinos in Flight]
Damsel in distress
A team of researchers studied young Ambon damselfish (Pomacentrus amboinensis) on the Great Barrier Reef, where they are highly vulnerable to predation. The scientists found that a damselfish can increase the size of the eyespot on its tail, in an effort to confuse predators into thinking the fish is swimming in the opposite direction, or to protect its head region from predator strikes and fatal attacks.
A juvenile damselfish has a lightly colored body and a conspicuous eyespot on its upper rear fins. This photo of a young Ambon damselfish shows a very pronounced false eyespot. The research, published in late July in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests these false eyespots may represent a short-term adaptation tactic to environmental conditions. [Related: Images of the Great Barrier Reef Through Time]
Not all fun and games
The Cupola is a popular skywatching spot aboard the space station, and astronauts often snap gorgeous photos of Earth from space through the room's wraparound windows. The 360-degree views are also ideal for robotics work on the orbiting outpost, since the windows enable spaceflyers to closely monitor the motion of the station's robotic arm.
There are currently six spaceflyers living and working aboard the International Space Station: Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov and Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency. [Related: 101 Stunning Images from Orbit]
A thousand selfies
NASA and Cassini mission scientists organized the Wave at Saturn event on July 19, 2013. The agency encouraged everyone on the planet to go outside and wave as Cassini turned its camera toward Earth to snap a series of pictures for a large mosaic of the Saturn system.
This newly released collage is made up of images of people around the world who submitted pictures of themselves waving at Saturn last month. Individuals from more than 40 countries and 30 U.S. states shared more than 1,400 images of themselves waving at the Cassini spacecraft. NASA stitched together the submitted photos and assembled them against a base image of the planet to create this tribute to all Earthlings, agency officials said in a statement. [Related Quiz: How Well Do You Know Our Solar System?]
Gone Fishing off Sanibel Island
The above image was snapped at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is located on the barrier island of Sanibel in southwestern Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. This 5,200-acre refuge was established in 1976 to protect the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. J. N. "Ding" Darling is one of over 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The "Ding" refuge is also world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations. Lucky visitors might catch one of them plucking a bite to eat from the Gulf, like the photographer of the above photo did. Approximately 272 bird species have been identified utilizing "Ding" refuge habitats, as have 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, 33 species of mammals and 102 species of fish.
A bit of trivia: J.N. Darling, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial columnist for whom the refuge is named, also designed the national symbol of the refuge system, the Blue Goose logo.
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Antarctic minke whales, which typically inhabit all oceans in the Southern Hemisphere, spend most of the time below the surface, and only emerge for breathing in rare holes in the Antarctic sea-ice.
The photo was taken during the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research's Antarctic-Winter experiment. The expedition included 49 scientists and 44 crew members, who lived in Antarctica during the region's winter months, from June to August. [Related: Life at Antarctica's Concordia Station]
I have a dream
This satellite photo of Washington, D.C. was taken on March 23, 2013 by the GeoEye-1 satellite. The massive obelisk of the Washington Monument can be seen in the center of the image, along with the open-area National Mall, where hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered 50 years ago. [Related: 10 Historically Significant Political Protests]
Scientists recently discovered evidence of water on the moon's surface that likely originated from deep inside the lunar interior. The researchers detected this so-called magmatic water after a moon probe beamed back images of the Bullialdus impact crater. Detailed analyses uncovered more hydroxyl — a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom — in the crater's center compared to its surroundings.
The findings, which suggest the moon is not as dry as scientists previously thought, were published in the Aug. 25 edition of the journal Nature Geoscience. [Related: Top 5 Mysteries of the Moon]
Over the rainbow
From July 17, 2013 to Aug. 2, 2013, SOFIA took to the air to study the Magellanic Clouds, which neighbor our Milky Way galaxy, and the circumnuclear disk, which orbits the black hole at the center of our galaxy.
SOFIA, the world's largest airborne observatory, is a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The modified Boeing 747SP aircraft carries a 17-ton reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 8.3 feet (2.5 meters). The research plane reaches altitudes as high as 45,000 feet (13,700 meters), which enables it to fly above majority of the atmosphere's infrared-blocking water vapor. [Related Video: SOFIA – NASA's Boeing 747 Flying Observatory]