Above: The southern night sky above Ofu Island in American Samoa is a sight to behold.
Folks in the Southern Hemisphere get a brighter, richer view of the Milky Way due to their location on the globe. If you want to see such a sight from American soil, head to the National Park of American Samoa, where Ofu Island is located. This park is the only U.S. national park found in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our solar system. The name "milky" comes from its appearance as a dim but glowing band across the night sky. Individual stars make up the band, but they are indistinguishable to the naked eye.
Ofu is one of three islands of American territory in American Samoa. Ofu and its twin Olosega are parts of a volcanic doublet of the Samoan Islands formed from shield volcanoes. The two islands have a combined length of 3.7 miles (6 kilometers).
There are other reasons to look up when visiting Ofu Island. The forests here are home to a unique species of megabat — yes, a megabat — known as the Samoa Flying-fox. It looks just like it sounds.
This lush photo is an appropriate way to mark a week that began with the autumn equinox on Sept. 22, signaling the beginning of fall in the Northern…Read More »
Hemisphere. The Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of fields in eastern Kazakhstan on Sept. 9, where the fall harvest begins early because of the region's harsh climate.
Several fields appear to be already harvested and bare, while others are visibly darker green, which suggests crops and grasses are still ripening. Along the mountain valleys, the fields are long and narrow, but elsewhere, the tracts of land sprawl across the plains.
Agriculture in Kazakhstan thrives on rainfall, and farmers in this region have designed their fields to take advantage of rain flowing down the hills, which creates natural channels that feed water to the crops. This creates the interesting green and tan mosaic visible in the photo. [Related: 5 Odd Facts About Fall] Less «
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Credit: Julie Larsen Maher, WCS
A pair of acrobatic ring-tailed lemurs plays around in their forested home in this cute photo. Ring-tailed lemurs are commonly found in Madagascar, typically…Read More »
inhabiting forests in the southern regions of the island.
Portal." The endeavor is being led by researchers at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation, and the developers of Zooniverse.org.
Plankton Portal invites volunteers to classify millions of underwater images to study the diversity, distribution and behavior of plankton, which are an important source of food for larger marine animals, including whales and fish. [Related image gallery: Jellyfish Rule!] Less «
was taken in Bozeman, Montana, while Kvackay was shooting a series of time-lapse images on a small pond.
"I heard some thunder in the distance and was about to stop shooting when I saw that lightning bolt," Kvackay told LiveScience. "I didn't think much of it, but wanted to get my slider and two tripods back in my car before it started to storm. I checked my camera in the car and found that I caught that shot."
Kvackay caught a lucky break, he said, as he had stopped the time-lapse only a few seconds after the lightning bolt struck.
In Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, gone are the shockingly bright pinks, yellows and purples of summer. They've been replaced by deeper and darker reds, yellows, greens and the beginnings of brown. The days are a crisp 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). With daylight slowly diminishing, visitors to this Alaskan wilderness must enjoy the color while they can, because soon a blanket of white will fall upon the landscape.
The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is one of the most remote U.S. national parks. It is a wilderness dotted with hot springs, ancient lava flows and the largest maar lakes (caused by a kind of volcanic eruption) in the world.
Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS
This massive knot of interstellar gas and dust looks like a caterpillar slinking across the cosmos. The structure is actually a …Read More »
protostar in a very early stage of evolution. This "wanna-be" star, located approximately 4,500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is in the process of gathering materials from its surrounding envelope of gas, in an attempt to bulk up its mass.
But, the protostar, officially known as IRAS 20324+4057, is facing adversity in the form of harsh winds from a group of extremely bright, relatively nearby stars. These luminous stars are blasting ultraviolet radiation at the protostar, sculpting the gas and dust into its long, caterpillar-like shape and eroding the very materials needed to transform IRAS 20324+4057 in to a star.
Only time will tell how IRAS 20324+4057 fares in fulfilling its stellar destiny, but if radiation from nearby bright stars destroys the envelope of gas surrounding the protostar before it finishes collecting mass, the resulting star may end up being a "lightweight." [Related: 101 Astronomy Images That Will Blow Your Mind] Less «
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Reading the clouds
These weird-looking cloud formations are created by a series of atmospheric vortexes, called eddies. Guadalupe Island, a …Read More »
At the top right of the image, a series of parallel cloud lines is also visible. These cloud formations are known colloquially as "gravity waves." These ripples are at the boundary between atmospheric layers of slightly different density. [Related: Gallery of the Craziest Clouds] Less «
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It came from the ocean
Credit: Bob Cowen / University of Miami & Oregon State University
This spindly, web-like creature is a tiny, ocean-dwelling organism. These microscopic organisms, known as …Read More »
plankton, are an important source of food for larger marine animals, including whales and fish.
A new online citizen science project, called "Plankton Portal," was created by researchers at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation, and the developers of Zooniverse.org.
Plankton Portal enlists volunteers to classify millions of underwater images to study plankton diversity, distribution and their behavior and survival in the open ocean. The plankton photos were taken by the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS), an underwater robot equipped with an ocean-scanning digital sensor.
"A computer will probably be able to tell the difference between major classes of organisms, such as a shrimp versus a jellyfish, but to distinguish different species within an order or family, that is still best done by the human eye," Jessica Luo, a graduate student involved with the project, said in a statement. [Related Gallery: Creatures from the Census of Marine Life] Less «
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Meet the public
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
A snow leopard cub made his big debut at the Bronx Zoo in New York City last month. The precocious male cub also has a rather famous father: Leo, the orphaned…Read More »
Leo arrived in New York City in 2006, after a groundbreaking agreement was brokered between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the United States, according to zoo officials. Since then, Leo has been serving an important role as an ambassador for Pakistan at the Bronx Zoo.
This is Leo's first cub, and the birth was welcomed as a symbol of the positive influence wildlife and conservation can have on diplomacy between nations. Leo's cub was born on April 9, but has not yet been named. [Related: Rare Photos of Snow Leopard Babies in Dens] Less «
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Northern Lights Shine Bright over Denali
Credit: Daniel A. Leifheit/US Department of the Interior
Visitors to Denali National Park saw quite the light show this week as the northern lights glowed in the night.
northern lights form when charged particles flow from the sun in a kind of "solar wind" and enter Earth's magnetic field, revving up electrically charged particles trapped there.
By the second week of August, the night sky above Denali is dark enough to see the northern lights. As Denali turns farther and farther away from the sun, the amount of darkness increases each night. Denali loses daylight rapidly in late August and September, so that by late September you don't have to burn the midnight oil to enjoy the night sky.
The light show in the above photo was seen over Denali's Toklat River. Denali spans 6 million acres of land in the Alaskan wilderness. The park is home to the tallest peak in North America, Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, which has a height of 20,237 feet (6,168 meters). "Denali," or "High One," was given its name by Athabascan native people. The mountain is part of the Alaskan Range, which covers some 600 miles (966 kilometers).
An unsuspecting frog went for a bit of a wild ride last Friday (Sept. 6) when the launch of NASA's moon-bound LADEE spacecraft…Read More »
sent it skyward amidst a plume of smoke. Look closely: The frog can be seen to the left of the rocket, against a background of reddish-orange smoke released from the Minotaur V rocket.
A sound-triggered still camera set up near the launch pad captured this incredible photo of the airborne frog during the launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The agency's photo team confirmed the image is real, and was captured in a single frame by one of the remote cameras. But as for the poor frog? "The condition of the frog, however, is uncertain," NASA officials said in a statement. [Related: Spectacular LADEE Night Launch Photos] Less «
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Credit: Pete Bucktrout, British Antarctic Survey
This pristine glacier, called Sheldon Glacier, flows into Ryder Bay on the southeast coast of Adelaide Island in Antarctica.…Read More »
The calm, glassy waters reflect the immense glacier's image, creating a striking and dramatic effect.
In 1977, the glacier was named for Ernest B. Sheldon, a meteorological researcher for the British Antarctic Survey. Prior to that, the glacier was known as "Crumbles Glacier." [Related: Stunning Photos of Antarctic Ice] Less «
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A time for reflection
Credit: NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
World Trade Center towers, bringing the twin structures crumbling to the ground. That same day, a third plane slammed into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a fourth crashed near Shanksville, Pa.
In New York City today, a memorial service is being held at the site of Ground Zero, the National September 11 Memorial plaza, to honor the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks.
is a concrete arch dam on the Colorado River in northern Arizona that churns out hydroelectric power around the clock.
Construction began in 1956 for the purpose of providing power and water flow regulation from the upper Colorado River Basin to the lower. The dam is a 710-foot-tall (216 meter) structure with a crest length of 1,560 feet (475 m). (The crest length is the length across the dam from one abutment to another, with the abutment being the part of the dam that sits against the riverbank.) The dam is 25 feet (7.6 m) thick at the crest and up to 300 feet (91 m) thick at the base.
The Glen Canyon Dam reservoir is Lake Powell, the second largest artificial lake in the country, which stretches upriver into Utah. The lake is one of the most popular houseboating and water-skiing areas in the United States. Surrounding the reservoir is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which draws more than 1.9 million visitors annually.
Glen Canyon Dam's namesake is a colorful series of gorges, most of which are now under Lake Powell.
The zoo held a naming campaign following the baby gorilla's arrival. More than 600 votes were cast, and the name Baako, which means "first born child," emerged as the winner. Zoo officials are excited about their newest gorilla addition, which is the first child for father, Gugas, and mother, Kwanza.
"Due to Gugas' background, he is genetically very important to the European breeding programme as he is not represented in the zoo population," zoo manager Mark Challis said in a statement. "[A]fter fertility tests last year, it was believed that Gugas would never father any young so we are delighted with Baako's arrival but we also have high hopes that he will be the first of many more!" [Related: Gallery – Monkey Mug Shots] Less «
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Auroras in the night
Credit: Mario Hoppman, Alfred-Wegener-Institut
The ethereal glow of the southern lights creates a spectacular show in the night sky over Antarctica in this photo. The southern lights (also known as…Read More »
aurora australis) are the southern hemisphere's counterparts to the northern lights. Both are triggered by charged particles from the solar wind interacting with the Earth's atmosphere. As these particles pass through Earth's magnetic shield and travel to the polar regions, they emit brief flashes of light as they mingle with the atoms and molecules in the atmosphere.
Credit: UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
This grainy, black-and-white photo is one of the first pictures of Earth taken from lunar orbit. The poignant image was captured by the unmanned Lunar…Read More »
Orbiter 1 in 1966, as it swung around the moon on a mission to map the lunar surface from space.
The Lunar Orbiter missions, which spanned from 1966 to 1967, laid the foundations for the manned Apollo moon missions, which reached a frenzied height with the successful Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. The Lunar Orbiter program was designed to map the surface of the moon in order to narrow down potential landing sites for the Apollo missions.
This photo taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1 is part of a collection of historic space pictures that have never been published online before (or only previously published in low resolution). The photos, part of the NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility, are hosted by the University College London in the United Kingdom. The images were released as part of the Festival of the Planets, which is being held from Sept. 8 to Sept. 13 in London. [Related: Top 5 Mysteries of the Moon] Less «
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Back to school
Credit: J. R. Shute, Conservation Fisheries, Inc/U.S. Geological Survey
A school of Blackside Dace swim by in this crowded photo. Blackside Dace are a type of minnow found only in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and western Virginia.…Read More »
These small, olive green-colored fish typically have red underbellies and a black stripe that runs down their sides.
Blackside Dace populations are very small, and these fish are a federally listed threatened species, due to the loss and degradation of their natural habitat. The riverbeds where Blackside Dace spawn are being eroded by human developments, such as runoff pipes from septic tanks and spilled fracturing fluids from hydraulic fracturing in the region. [Related: Photos – The Freakiest-Looking Fish] Less «
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Yellowstone Hot Spring's Colorful Beauty
Credit: Curtis Akin/US Department of the Interior.
and the majority of the world's geysers are here, at America's first national park, established in 1872.
Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest of all the hot springs in both Yellowstone and in the United States. The spring is also one of Yellowstone's most colorful. It earned its name because its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green and blue.
The colors tend to form rings around the spring and are due to the pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The color varies with the seasons, but in the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, as the above image shows. The blue center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.
The spring is about 300 feet (90 meters) across and about 160 feet (50 m) deep. The water is up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius).
Yellowstone is home to more than hot springs, of course. This true wilderness is home to grizzly bears, wolves and herds of bison and elk.
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