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Best Earth Images of the Week June 29, 2012

Etna erupts

Volcano Mount Etna photographed by satellite.

(Image credit: NASA.)

Italy's Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, is spewing out plumes of bluish volcanic gas, as revealed in a recent satellite image.

The restive peak, located on the island of Sicily, has been erupting in spectacular fashion on and off since it ramped up activity in January 2011.

The mountain last spewed out fountains of glowing lava on April 24, and has been relatively quiet ever since.

[Full Story: Mount Etna Volcano Snapped from Space]

Wild video from space

(Image credit: NASA)

The vast scale of wildfires raging across parts of Colorado and the western U.S. has been captured on camera by astronauts on the International Space Station.

A video released by NASA today (June 28) shows huge plumes of smoke billowing up into an otherwise clear sky above the Rocky Mountains. Several fires have been burning nonstop in the region, including the out-of-control Waldo Canyon Fire that has consumed 15,517 acres (6,280 hectares) so far.

[Full story: Colorado Wildfires Seen From Space in Astronaut Video]

A rebirth

Tree lobster nymph

(Image credit: Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo)

Three critically endangered insects called Lord Howe Island stick insects, also known as tree lobsters, have been hatched at the San Diego Zoo for the first time.

The species was thought to be extinct after 1920, when the last known wild tree lobsters were devoured by rats on their native Lord Howe Island, off the coast of Australia. However, in 2001, a small group of the stick insects was discovered on Ball's Pyramid, a remnant volcano in the Pacific Ocean near the island. After discovering the rare insect, four were taken to the Melbourne Zoo, where zookeepers have successfully hatched a number of the insects in an effort to bring them back from extinction.

[Full Story: Critically Endangered 'Tree Lobsters' Hatched at Zoo]

Family time

endangered species, cute baby animals

(Image credit: Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park's two Sumatran tiger cubs took a catnap after a morning spent exploring their exhibit. Conrad claimed the top spot, while brother Thomas chose to be near, rather than on their mother, Delta.

[Full Story: Momma's Boys Make Debut at San Diego Zoo Safari Park]

A moment of glory

Glory from space

(Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response)

Glory be.

NASA's Aqua satellite caught an arresting image of a rainbow-like optical phenomenon called a glory over the Pacific Ocean on June 20.

Glories can be seen on Earth with the naked eye when looking down upon fog or water vapor, as when climbing a mountain or looking down upon clouds from an airplane.

The phenomenon is caused by light scattered backward toward the viewer by individual water droplets, producing an oscillating pattern of colors ranging from blue to green to red to purple and back to blue again.

[Full Story: Glory! Double Rainbow Seen from Space]

Better than a Van Gogh

Emissions from volcano creates shapes in clouds over ocean

(Image credit: NASA)

These clouds may look like they belong in a Van Gogh, but they were "painted" by Mother Nature.

This natural-color image taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite on April 27, shows how low-level volcanic emissions, clouds, islands, and winds interacting in the atmosphere to make a stunning tableau.

Research has shown that has shown that low-level volcanic emissions (as opposed to explosive eruptions) can affect the atmosphere, which is what appears to be happening here, a NASA statement said.

[Full Story: Earth as Art: Swirling Clouds]

Get me!

endangered species, cute baby animals

(Image credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.)

A jaguar cub bats at his full grown mother playfully while she stands protectively over him.

[Full Story: Jaguar Cub Tempts Mom to Play]

Live Science Staff
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