Above: Yosemite National Park is rich with stunning views, but one of the best might occur when evening sunlight strikes the top of El Capitan.
El Capitán ("the captain" or "the chief") was taken to be a loose Spanish translation of the local Native American name for the cliff, variously transcribed as "To-to-kon oo-lah" or "To-tock-ah-noo-lah." Less «
Credit: Christina Castiglione, Smithsonian's National Zoo
This adorable female gray seal pup was born last month, on Jan. 21, at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Shortly after her birth, Zoo keepers noticed the…Read More »
newborn pup was not gaining weight while nursing from her mother, so veterinarians have been hand-feeding the baby seal.
"In the first days of this pup's life we did not see her gain as much weight as we would have expected," Ed Bronikowski, senior curator at the National Zoo, said in a statement. "It is still a tenuous time, but the pup's weight is now heading in the right direction. We celebrate every pound that she gains."
Last week, animal keepers announced the pup now weighs 44 pounds, which is up from her birth weight of about 35 pounds. In the wild, gray seals typically nurse from their mothers for about 15 to 21 days, and gain a significant amount of weight in the process. [Related Gallery: Seals of the World] Less «
Lenticular clouds form when waves of moist, fast-moving air are pushed upward over high mountains by strong winds. At this higher altitude, water droplets in the moist air cool and expand, and the water vapor condenses. As the air passes over the mountaintop and descends to more uniformly humid conditions, pancake-type lenticular clouds form.
Snow is a great insulator. So is fur — something this red fox certainly must appreciate!
The fox was photographed in the Alaska Peninsula and Becharof…Read More »
National Wildlife Refuges, which were established to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity, including brown bears, the Alaska Peninsula caribou herds, moose, sea otters and other marine mammals, salmon, shore birds and other migratory birds, and raptors, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
The fox in the above photo might have been stalking prey, or it might have been building a cache of excess food, which foxes are known to bury under snow for later consumption. Red foxes are adapted to snow, and are stronger than many other foxes that compete for the same prey.
How do foxes know where to hunker down in the snow? A 2008-2010 study of 84 red foxes found that successful hunting under snow appeared to involve an alignment of the fox with the Earth's magnetic field.
The Landsat 8 satellite launched into orbit on Feb. 11, 2013, and mission scientists are celebrating the earth-watching observatory's one-year anniversary…Read More »
This map was one of Landsat 8's first views of the United States, and researchers created the image using observations taken by the satellite's Operational Land Imager in August 2013, according to NASA. Landsat 8 collects data in 115-mile-wide (185 kilometers) swaths, which is why the map looks like it was created from a bunch of strips.
The satellite's orbit follows a predetermined track, and it takes 233 passes and 16 days for the observatory to cover all the land on Earth. This means every land surface on the planet has the potential to be imaged once every 16 days, according to NASA officials. [Related Gallery: 101 Stunning Images from Orbit] Less «
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Credit: Hans-Jürgen Heyen
If you're starting to feel the wintertime blues, perhaps this neat shot of a cup of hot cocoa will brighten your day. Amateur photographer…Read More »
Hans-Jürgen Heyen snapped this photo of colorful bubbles in his cocoa on a spring day in Meerbusch, Germany.
Heven noticed the shimmery bubbles while enjoying the midday sun in his garden on April 28, 2013. The thin film over the surface of the bubbles diffracts or bends sunlight, causing the iridescent colors to appear. [Related: Photos of Amazing Rainbows] Less «
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Happy Valentine's Day!
Credit: Addison Hill/Georgia Aquarium
Love is in the air at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta! To celebrate Valentine's Day, animal keepers spoiled the aquarium's beluga whales, bottlenose…Read More »
Some of the sweet treats included red, heart-shaped Jello molds for the beluga whales, heart-shaped ice sculpture displays consisting of clams, scallops and krill for the sea otters, and special Valentine's Day gift boxes full of tasty clams for the Asian small-clawed otters, according to officials from the Georgia Aquarium.
Cute Camouflage: Eastern Screech Owl of Shenandoah
Credit: National Park Service
This adorable little owl blends in perfectly with its wooded habitat. If not for the one open eye, this Eastern Screech Owl would disappear into the trees.…Read More »
Eastern Screech Owls (Megascops asio) are the smallest resident birds of prey in Shenandoah National Park, weighing only about 5-8 ounces (140 to 230 grams). That’s about the size of a couple of candy bars. These birds are active all winter, leaving their cozy tree-cavity nests at night in search of food. In winter, there is usually an abundance of mice and shrews, but other popular dinners — frogs, salamanders, small snakes, lizards, moths, caterpillars and other insects — are hiding out until spring. Wiley Screech Owls in Shenandoah have been observed on frosty autumn mornings walking around farm fields, picking off inert grasshoppers like grapes.
Just 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a popular place for urbanites to escape. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas and quiet wooded hollows await adventurous hikers or leisurely family picnickers. The park encompasses 200,000 acres of protected lands.
Look closely and you just might see an Eastern Screech Owl staring back at you.
Miguel Claro captured the stunning scene in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve on June 15, 2013. Alqueva has been designated a "Starlight Tourism Destination" by the Starlight Foundation, which means the region is characterized by the excellent quality of its starry skies.
This is a section of a chrondrite meteorite photographed under a microscope. The vibrant crystals will change color depending on how the microscope's filters are rotated, which is why these specimens are so beautiful and intriguing to explore.
Chondrite, or stony, meteorites are the most common type of meteorite, making up more than 80 percent of the space rocks that fall to Earth. Chondrites are formed from dust and small grains of material that were present in the early solar system. [Related: Fallen Stars – A Gallery of Famous Meteorites] Less «
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Two (Large) Peas in a Pod
Credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo
Two elephants at the San Diego Zoo, in California, share a special moment over their breakfast. Mila, an African elephant, and Mary, an Asian elephant…Read More »
shared the same yard for the first time on Feb. 18.
Animal keepers have slowly been familiarizing the elephants with one another, first letting them smell each other and then interact through a protective barrier, zoo officials said. Since the elephants seem to get along, zookeepers will continue to let Mila and Mary interact before beginning introductions with other members of the herd, according to officials from the San Diego Zoo. [Related: The 5 Smartest Non-Primates on the Planet] Less «
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See the Spectacular Sea Caves of Apostle Islands
Credit: National Park Service
A couple of weeks ago was the first time in five years that the ice on Lake Superior was thick enough to visit the spectacular sea caves of …Read More »
Some of the best sea caves of the Great Lakes are located on the shorelines of the Apostle Islands. Inside the caves visitors will find an icicle fantasyland. The chambers are filled with millions of delicate icicles, and the needlelike formations change from chamber to chamber and from day to day. Visitors can also see stunning frozen waterfalls inside the sea caves.
At the windswept beaches and cliffs of this National Lakeshore, there are 21 islands and 12 miles (19 kilometers) of mainland that host a unique blend of cultural and natural resources.
Visitors have been flocking to the sea caves in droves, but before heading to the caves, call the Ice Line at (715) 779-3397 - extension 3, for the most current ice condition information.
Qori Kalis, the largest glacier of the largest ice mass in the tropics, peaks out of its valley, with boulders left behind from glacial retreat in the…Read More »
foreground. Qori Kalis is part of Peru's Quelccaya Ice Cap, which has been shrinking rapidly. A new study published in the journal Geology finds that the ice loss is due directly to warmer temperatures, not to some other factor such as changes in snowfall or humidity. Tropical glaciers are very vulnerable to climate change and are vanishing around the globe. A study published in 2013 found that the lowest altitude glaciers of the Andes may be gone within years or decades. [Ice World: Gallery of Awe-Inspiring Glaciers] Less «
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Credit: Jack Green, National Science Foundation
A stunning sunrise at McMurdo Station in Antarctica is made more dramatic by waves of nacreous, or polar stratospheric, clouds. These formations are polar…Read More »
clouds in the second layer of Earth's atmosphere, at altitudes between 49,000 feet and 82,000 feet (15,000 meters to 25,000 meters). Less «