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. Less «
2 of 21
Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.
NASA's the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite captured this gorgeous image on Dec. 21, 2013, the winter solstice…Read More »
in the Northern Hemisphere. The rainbow effect is the result of a phenomenon called glory, in which light is diffracted as it passes through airborne water droplets to create colorful rings centered around a point or shadow, according to NASA Earth Observatory.
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. Less «
3 of 21
A New Year Dawns at Canyonlands National Park
Credit: Sarah Chah/US Department of the Interior.
As a new year dawns across America's national parks, adventure awaits in Utah's high desert.
The above photo captured a recent sunrise at Mesa Arch in…Read More »
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.
polar vortex, is pushing across the northern United States, causing air temperatures across the country to plummet.
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] Less «
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] Less «
6 of 21
Credit: K. Scott Jackson, USGS
This ghostly photo, taken in January 2010, captures an exquisite sunset following a storm at Rodeo Beach in Marin County, Calif.
Credit: Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, LANCE/NASA Earth Observatory
A NASA satellite captured these dreamlike swirls of plankton blooms on Dec. 30, 2013, roughly 370 miles (600 kilometers) off the coast of Australia, in…Read More »
the southeastern Indian Ocean. The agency's Earth-watching Aqua satellite snapped this image of the colorful blooms, which provide food for a diverse array of sea creatures, ranging from tiny zooplankton to large whales.
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] Less «
8 of 21
Trippy View at Paria Canyon
Credit: Adam Marland/ U.S. Department of the Interior
There's no digital trickery to the above photo. Paria Canyon is just that stunning. The above photo is uncropped and unenhanced.
Paria Canyon has towering…Read More »
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.
The new year started off active for our nearest star, with the sun shooting off two solar flares (seen here in a…Read More »
wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light) on Jan. 2. The following week, on Jan. 7, the sun unleashed the first major solar flare of 2014, an intense X1.2-class outburst, according to NASA.
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.
This artist rendering shows the binary system dubbed MAXI J0158-744, a dancing duo of sorts consisting of a white dwarf (left) and a Be star (right). The…Read More »
image was snapped by the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument, which is mounted on the exterior of the International Space Station Kibo module.
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. Less «
12 of 21
Happy Birthday, Panya!
Credit: Audubon Nature Institute
The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans celebrated a special milestone yesterday (Jan. 16): The 50th birthday of Panya, a female Asian…Read More »
elephant. A party was held at the zoo, and Panya was presented with a cake, gifts and a giant birthday card signed by guests.
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] Less «
13 of 21
Let it Snow
Credit: Rocky Mountain National Park
Snow and low clouds blanket the mountains and trees in this wintry scene of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The park contains 150 lakes,…Read More »
359 miles (578 kilometers) of trails and 72 peaks higher than 12,000 feet (3,700 meters).
In the northwestern Xinjiang province of China, a series of ridges dominate the landscape, with distinctive red, green and cream-colored …Read More »
sedimentary rock layers visible on some of the highest hills. The colorful layers are created by rocks that formed at different times and in different environments.
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] Less «
15 of 21
Credit: Cynthia L. Cunningham, U.S. Geological Survey
Normally, photographing nature shouldn't require any special effects, but this dramatic scene, shot using a fish-eye lens, captures the incredible beauty…Read More »
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] Less «
16 of 21
A Striped Affair
Credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park
A Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) and her baby explore their habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The male zebra foal, named Tanu, was born earlier this…Read More »
year, on Jan. 3.
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] Less «
17 of 21
Snow Blankets Crater Lake National Park
Credit: National Park Service
As of last week, Crater Lake National Park had seen just 32 inches (81 centimeters) of snow this year. That's a far cry from the 78 inches (198 cm) of…Read More »
snow that should be on the ground by this time of year, but recent mild temperatures and sunny skies has made it the perfect location for some good outdoor activity and great photography, as seen above.
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.
El Salvador's San Miguel volcano erupted on Dec. 29, 2013, leaving the summit with a coating of light gray ash. The December eruption unleashed a …Read More »
plume of ash that reached about 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) into the atmosphere, according to NASA officials. The ash settled on the slope of the volcano and fell on nearby towns, forcing 5,000 evacuations.
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.
If you want to stroll along white sandy beaches, dip your feet into aquamarine waters, or set up camp on a barrier island, then a visit to the Gulf Islands…Read More »
National Seashore in may be in store.
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] Less «
21 of 21
Credit: Damian Strohmeyer/Animal Planet
The Puppy Bowl is back!
This weekend, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will square off at the …Read More »
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] Less «