Beauty in Embryos
This dreamy illustration of a zebrafish embryo happens to be attached to some cool research. The compilation photo reflects a centuries-old observation that during a certain point in a vertebrate embryo's development, the embryo will look just like embryos of other vertebrates. The concept is known as the "developmental hourglass." Embryos look alike in the middle of development, but early and late in development, the embryos' appearances diverge, just as an hourglass flares out from its narrow "waist."
'Fairy' Insect Wings
A female Closterocerus coffeellae, a wasp collected in Colombia, looks drab against a white background and shines against black. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered that the insect species – hymenoptera wasps and diptera flies – they've been studying for decades reflect light off their wings in rainbow-like patterns. The effect is a bit like oil on water, but these patterns are permanent, suggesting they may play a role in insect communication. The wings of the flies and wasps are transparent, but they reflect about 20 percent of the light that hits them, the researchers found. It's this light that creates the shining patterns, just like a thin film of soap or oil on water creates a rainbow-colored glare.
Nemopilema nomurai, known as Nomura's jellyfish, can grow up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) in diameter. It is edible, though it hasn't caught on widely. When Nomura's jellyfish bloomed in 2005, some Japanese coped by selling souvenir cookies flavored with jellyfish powder, according to the New York Times.
This hemispheric view of Venus was created using more than a decade of radar investigations culminating in the 1990-1994 Magellan mission, and is centered on the planet's North Pole. The Magellan spacecraft imaged more than 98 percent of Venus and a mosaic of the Magellan images forms the image base. Gaps in the Magellan coverage were filled with images from the Earth-based Arecibo radar in a region centered roughly on 0 degree latitude and longitude, and with a neutral tone elsewhere (primarily near the South Pole). This composite image is color-coded to show elevation.
Love in the Time of Giardia
Is it love or a diarrheal parasite? In this Valentine's-appropriate image, it's the parasite. Caught on scanning electron microscope in the midst of dividing into two separate organisms, this Giardia lamblla parasite forms a heart, flagella untwining as the two new protozoa prepare to go their separate ways. When ingested by humans (usually through drinking contaminated water), Giardia protozoa cause a diarrheal disease called giardiasis.
Ball of Color
This photomicrograph shows the ruby-tailed wasp called Chrysis ignita, which is the most commonly observed of this species. The abdomen's is coloring -- ruby red and bronze – give the wasp its name. The underside of the abdomen is also concave, which allows the wasp to roll itself into a protective ball if threatened. Ruby-tailed wasps are "parasitoids," meaning they eventually kill their hosts. Chrysis ignita parasitizes mason bees: The females lay their eggs in the same nest as mason bees, so when the ruby-tailed wasp larvae hatch, they feed on the mason bee larvae. Ruby-tailed wasps do have a sting but it is not functional and most species have no venom.
The fantastical image snagged a spot on the Wellcome Image Awards 2011, which chooses the most striking and technically excellent images acquired by the Wellcome Images picture library in the prior 18 months.
Nicaragua from Above
As the shuttle and the space station began their post-undocking relative separation, Expedition 23 flight engineer Soichi Noguchi photographed the underside of the shuttle over the south end of Isla de Providencia, about 150 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred on April 17, 2010, ending the shuttle's 10-day stay. The visit included three spacewalks and delivery of more than seven tons of equipment and supplies to the station.
The 8.9-magnitude (which may have been upgraded to a 9.0) earthquake that struck Japan triggered tsunamis across the region. Here, results from a computer model run by the Center for Tsunami Research at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory show the expected wave heights of the tsunami as it travels across the Pacific basin.
The largest wave heights are expected near the earthquake epicenter, off the coast of Sendai, Honshu, Japan. The wave will decrease in height as it travels across the deep Pacific but grow taller as it nears coastal areas. In general, as the energy of the wave decreases with distance, the near-shore heights will also decrease. For example, coastal Hawaii will not expect heights of that encountered in coastal Japan, according to NOAA.
Aurora go Bragh
This 2008 image, taken in Antarctica, capture's Earth's atmosphere in a St. Paddy's Day mood. Aurora australis, the southern lights, are caused by solar wind passing through the upper atmosphere. The southern lights are seen less often than aurora borealis, the northern lights, because few people brave Antarctica's dark, freezing winters. In the summer, when research scientists descend on the continent, almost-constant daylight overpowers the atmospheric display.
The moon over an iceberg in the Weddell sea of Antarctica.
Ceraunius Tholus and Uranius Tholus, two Martian volcanoes, take on unearthly hues in this elevation model made with images captured by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. The larger volcano, Ceraunius Tholus, rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) above its surroundings.