Image of the Day Archive
Above: Happy New Year from Cassiopeia A, a supernova remnant that gives Time Square's New Year's ball a run for its money in the beauty department. This colorful image, taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in 2009, shows an exploded star 11,000 light-years away. The green ring surrounding the supernova is from the initial shock wave generated by the explosion; it measures 10 light years in diameter. The bright blue areas are nearly pure iron gas from the hottest part of the star.
Here the glory graces a peaceful scene of stratocumulus clouds — those low, puffy masses that form below 6,500 feet (2,000 m) — off the Pacific coast of Peru. [In Photos: Reading the Clouds]
NASA's Earth-observing Terra satellite was launched on Dec. 18, 1999, with the aim of collecting information about the planet's changing climate. Since it's launch, the satellite's instruments have captured plenty of data and stunning views of planet Earth, including brewing tropical storms, blizzards, Antarctic ice, deep-sea eddies and swirling marine phytoplankton.
A New Year Dawns at Canyonlands National Park
The above photo captured a recent sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The famous Washer Woman arch can be seen in the background.
Canyonlands is a wilderness of countless canyons and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts, with names that beckon outdoor enthusiasts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.
People have visited what is now Canyonlands National Park for over 10,000 years. Today's visitors enjoy hiking, biking, boating, four-wheel driving — or enjoying a beautiful sunrise.
There is more to Canyonlands than meets the high. This high desert is home to a hidden world of microscopic life. A living crust called "Biological Soil Crust" covers much of Canyonlands. The crust is composed of algae, lichens and bacteria, and provides a secure foundation for desert plants.
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The polar vortex is an area of low pressure that circulates from west to east in the Arctic during winter. A high-pressure system over Greenland and Canada is pushing the frigid air into the United States. The polar vortex is expected to move northward back over Canada near the end of the week, according to NASA. [Related Photos: The 8 Coldest Places on Earth]
Cosmic Dust Factory
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope captured new views of the supernova brimming with freshly formed dust. If large amounts of this dust drift into interstellar space, it could explain how many galaxies in the universe acquire their dusty appearance, according to ALMA officials.
This artist's illustration of supernova 1987A shows the cold, inner regions of the exploded star (in red), where ALMA detected tremendous amounts of dust. The findings were reported Monday (Jan. 6) at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. [Related: Amazing Images of Star Explosions]
Rodeo Beach, located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is known for its dark, pebbly sand, and the cliffs surrounding the picturesque lagoon. [Related: Scenic Shores – Gallery of the Top Beaches]
Spirals in the Southern Hemisphere
Phytoplankton blooms require sunlight, water and nutrients to grow. Unlike in coastal waters, nutrients in the open ocean can be sparse. In the case of this bloom, however, nutrients are being churned up by the motion of the ocean currents, according to NASA officials. [Related: 50 Interesting Facts About The Earth]
Trippy View at Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon has towering walls streaked with desert varnish, huge red rock amphitheaters, sandstone arches, wooded terraces and hanging gardens. The 112,500-acre Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness sprawls from northern Arizona into southern Utah.
The 3,000-foot (914 meters) escarpment known as the Vermilion Cliffs dominates the remainder of the wilderness with its thick Navajo sandstone face, steep, boulder-strewn slopes, rugged arroyos (creeks) and stark overall appearance.
The wilderness provides opportunities for backpacking, photography and solitude in the mind-boggling landscape. Some of the best slot canyon hiking in the Colorado Plateau is found here. Deer and desert bighorn sheep are often seen in the area.
No two trips to the wilderness are the same. The colors and textures in the rock formations within the wilderness constantly change with variations in the light and weather, creating a magical landscape that is just as cool as it looks in pictures.
Pu'u O'o has been erupting continuously since Jan. 3, 1983, making it the longest-lived rift-zone eruption in the past 200 years. In this photo, Pu'u O'o is located in the distance just left of the center, but is partially obscured by the smoke. [Related: Amazing Images from Kilauea's Lava Lake]
Here Comes the Sun
X-class flares are the most powerful type of solar flares that can erupt from the sun. There are also two weaker categories: M-class flares, which are considered medium strength but still powerful, and C-class flares, which are the weakest types of sun storms.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of the Jan. 2 flares. The spacecraft constantly gazes at the sun, snapping a new high-resolution image every second and collecting uninterrupted measurements of solar activity. [Related: Anatomy of Sun Storms & Solar Flares (Infographic)]
MAXI discovered the binary system on Nov. 11, 2011, when it captured X-ray data from the explosion of the white dwarf star within that system. A white dwarf is a star that has burned up all of its hydrogen, meaning it no longer powers itself. However, the dwarf's gravity lets it grab mass from nearby sources, such as other stars like the Be star in the pictured binary system. This additional mass can ignite a thermonuclear explosion to create a nova, or an outburst the likes of the one picked up by MAXI in November 2011.
"The association of a Be star in a nova is very rare. In fact, MAXI J1058-744 is the first of this kind known so far, and there are only a few known binary systems consisting of a white dwarf and a Be star, and no nova has been seen from them," said lead study researcher Mikio Morii of RIKEN (the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) in Japan. "We believe that the large luminosity is related to the fact that the white dwarf is small and heavy, meaning that the surface gravity is strong. Because of the strong gravity, only a small amount of accreted matter from the companion is required to make it sufficiently dense and hot to ignite a thermonuclear runaway. Since the accumulated matter is sufficiently small, the hot fireball was directly visible."
Research like this could help astronomers understand how the sun will evolve when it becomes a white dwarf 5 billion years from now.
Happy Birthday, Panya!
Panya weighs a whopping 9,500 pounds (4,300 kilograms). The female elephant and her longtime sidekick, 41-year-old Jean, are star attractions at the Audubon Zoo. Panya arrived at the zoo in 1980, and Jean, who tips the scales at 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms), was brought to the zoo in 1978. [Related Gallery: Mystery of the Pygmy Elephants of Borneo]
Let it Snow
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to a variety of large mammals, including elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, moose and mountain lions. [Related: Top 10 Most Visited National Parks]
Colorful Rock Layers
The red layers near the top are sandstones formed during the Paleozoic Era — which lasted from about 542 million years ago to 251 million years ago — by ancient rivers, while the green layers are sandstones from the Silurian Period formed in a moderately-deep ocean. The cream-colored layers are limestone from the Cambrian and Ordovician Periods formed in a shallow ocean.
The Landsat 8 satellite, operated jointly by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, captured this view on July 30, 2013. [Related: World's Most Famous Rocks]
The park lies along the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. Shenandoah's Skyline Drive, a 105-mile (169-kilometer) road that runs the length of the park and meanders along the ridge of the mountains, is one of the area's biggest draws. [Related: 8 Amazing National Park Structures]
A Striped Affair
Tanu memorizes his mother's stripe pattern in order to recognize her from other zebras in the herd. While every zebra has a unique stripe pattern, Grevy's zebras have the skinniest stripes of any zebra species, and their natural streaks run all the way down their back to a white belly. [Related: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]
Snow Blankets Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is named after Crater Lake, a caldera lake in south-central Oregon. The lake is famous for its deep blue color and the clearness of its water. The lake partly fills the nearly 2,148-foot-deep (655 meter) caldera, which was formed nearly 8,000 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama.
You won't find any rivers flowing into or out of Crater Lake. Rainfall and snowfall are needed to keep the caldera full. At 1,943 feet (592 m), the lake is the deepest in the United States, and one of the top 20 deepest lakes in the world.
While the snowfall numbers so far this year have been low, there should be plenty more powder on the way. Crater Lake National Park gets an average of 533 inches (1,353 cm) of snow per year — that’s more than 44 feet (13.4 m) of snow.
Thar She Blows!
NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite collected this photo, which was part of a series of post-eruption images taken on Jan. 15, 2014.
San Miguel is one of El Salvador's most active volcanoes. Its distinctive symmetrical cone rises to an elevation of 6,990 feet (2,130 meters), and features a large, deep crater at its summit. The volcano last erupted in 2002, according to NASA officials. [Related: Amazing Images of Volcanoes from Space]
Face of a Glacier
By the Seashore
Located along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi, the region features salt marshes, natural beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, nature trails and historic sites, according to the National Park Service (NPS). The protected regions, established by the NPS on Jan. 8, 1971, include mainland areas and parts of seven islands. [Related Gallery: Stunning Sands – A Rainbow of Beaches]
This weekend, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will square off at the Super Bowl, which is taking place this year at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. But before the players take the field, viewers will be treated to the cutest sporting event of the season.
Animal Planet will air the 10th annual Puppy Bowl before the Big Game on Sunday (Feb. 2), from 3pm to 5pm (ET/PT). The adorable event will also feature penguin cheerleaders, a "Fantasy Puppy League," and a half-time show with 30 kittens. At the end of the game, fans will crown the MVP, Most Valuable Puppy. Check local listings for more details. [Related Quiz: Puppy Love – Test Your Dog Breed Knowledge]