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Image of the Day: July 2013

Image of the Day Archives

Africa's Okavango River Satellite Image

(Image credit: ESA)

For older Image of the Day pictures, please visit the Image of the Day archives.

Above: This picture of Africa's Okavango River is a compilation of three images taken by the Earth-observing Envisat satellite. The river originates in Angola, forming part of the Angola-Namibia border, and empties into the inland Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.

In this image, the river has formed a depression in the Kalahari basin, a semi-arid, lowland area that covers parts of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Afrikaans, the Kalahari is called "Dorsland," which translates to "thirsty land."

Hallowed Ground

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Satellite Image

(Image credit: Jesse Allen/Robert Simmon/NASA Earth Observatory/Landsat/USGS)

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the most famous battle of the American Civil War. From July 1 to July 3, 1863, soldiers from the Union and Confederate states clashed near this small town in southern Pennsylvania.

The Battle of Gettysburg was also the American Civil War's deadliest: Of the 160,000 soldiers who met on the battlefield, more than 51,000 were killed, injured, missing or captured at the end.

This image reveals the landscape around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as it was observed by NASA's Landsat 8 satellite on May 14, 2013. Based on 2010 census data, the town has a population of approximately 7,620 people. At the time of this image, many surrounding farms are still bare or newly planted.

Happy Fourth of July!

Fireworks over the National Mall

(Image credit: National Park Service)

Fireworks may not have been part of the original celebration when Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, but these dazzling aerial displays have become a time-honored tradition on the Fourth of July.

In this photo from the National Park Service, colorful fireworks explode over the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The United States Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial are all visible in the background. [5 Dazzling Facts About Fireworks]

A Hippo Reunion

Hippos at the San Diego Zoo

(Image credit: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo)

These two adorable hippopotamuses, named Otis and Funani, live in a 150,000-gallon pool at the San Diego Zoo. After spending the past 2 1/2 years apart, Otis and Funani were reunited this week, and animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo are now preparing the duo to live together full time. Previously, Otis and Funani alternated their days on exhibit at the zoo, while Funani cared for their calf, Adhama, who was born on January 28, 2011.

Hippos are known to be social animals, and tend to live in groups of 10 to 30 in the rivers and lakes of central Africa. [More photos: Edinburgh Zoo's Pygmy Hippos]

Tiger Cub Names Honor Wimbledon Champ

Amur tiger cub at Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park

(Image credit: Alex Riddell/Highland Wildlife Park)

When Andy Murray won the Gentleman's Championship yesterday (July 7) at Wimbledon — the first British man to do so in 77 years — he probably didn't know he was going to receive an honor apart from the coveted trophy. Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park has commemorated their countryman's historic win with a distinctly fuzzier prize: Two wee tiger cubs named in his honor.

The two Amur tiger cubs, born on May 29, will be named "Murray" and "Viktor" to honor the tennis player's "incredible victory," the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said in a release.

"Although we have used Russian names for our previous tiger births, it is an honor to be able to name one of our newest arrivals after Andy Murray and pay homage to his remarkable achievement," said Una Richardson, the park's carnivore head keeper.

Amur tigers, the largest tiger subspecies, hail from eastern Russia and northeastern China and are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Tiger cubs like Murray and Viktor born in captivity are part of an effort to preserve the species' genetic diversity.

Lightning over the Desert

Lightning over the Desert

(Image credit: ESO/G. Hüdepohl)

In this photo, taken on June 7, 2013, a furious thunderstorm rages over the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. This part of the Atacama Desert is home to the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory. On average, this region experiences an astonishing number of clear days —roughly 330 days a year. Lightning over the observatory is rare, since it located in one of the driest places in the world.

Four VLT Unit Telescopes can be seen atop Cerro Paranal, which rises 8,530 feet (2,600 meters) above sea level. Each of these telescopes is the size of an eight-story building.

A solitary star, called Procyon, is also visible on the left of the image. This star is a bright binary star in the constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog).

Return of the Red Panda

Red Panda at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

(Image credit: Andera Edwards/Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Rusty the red panda caused quite the stir two weeks ago when he wandered out of the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The plucky critter was safely found later that day in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

A thorough investigation conducted by animal care staff determined that Rusty likely escaped from his enclosure through the exhibit's tree canopy. Since then, the trees and plants around the red panda enclosure have been significantly trimmed, and an additional wall was built next to the upper part of the viewer balcony.

As a precaution, zoo staff kept Rusty at the zoo's vet hospital for over a week after he was retrieved, in order to monitor his health. On July 9, Rusty returned to his exhibit, and was reunited with his female companion, Shama.

The first thing that caught Rusty's attention when he returned to the enclosure was the fruit and bamboo, according to zookeepers. [World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]

Astronaut Spies Ocean Whirlpool

Ocean Eddy Photographed by Astronaut Chris Hadfield

(Image credit: Chris Hadfield/CSA/NASA)

The mesmerizing blue swirls in this picture are part of an ocean storm, or eddy. These offshore, circular currents of water can churn up nutrients that are normally found in colder, deeper waters.

This photo of an eddy off the coast of Italy was taken from the International Space Station by now-retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on March 10, 2013. Hadfield launched to the space station in December 2012 and spent five months aboard the orbiting outpost. During that time, he became the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station, as leader of Expedition 35.

Throughout Hadfield's most recent spaceflight, the astronaut shared stunning photos and educational videos from orbit, becoming a social media sensation and fan favorite. A month after returning to Earth, Hadfield announced his retirement from the Canadian Space Agency. The retired Canadian Armed Forces colonel flew in space three times and was Chief of International Space Station Operations from 2006 to 2008. [Chris Hadfield's Most Memorable Moments in Orbit]

Birth of a Baby Star

Massive Baby Star - Artist's Impression

(Image credit: David A. Hardy/

This artist's impression captures the birth of a massive baby star inside a dark cloud located about 10,000 light-years away from Earth. The star is 500 times the mass of the sun and is many times more luminous. In fact, it is the largest one seen so far in the Milky Way galaxy.

Astronomers used the new ALMA telescope (short for Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) in Chile to peer into the stellar womb and study the nascent star. Their observations revealed that matter is being dragged into the center of the giant cloud by the gravitational pull of the newborn star along a number of dense threads, or filaments. [Video: Dark Cloud is Creating a Monster Star]

Wildfire Burns In Red Rock Canyon

The Carpenter 1 wildfire is burning in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The fire has scorched nearly 30,000 acres.

(Image credit: Adam Loehnert/National Park Service)

Wildfires have been particularly cruel this summer, torching arid landscapes and killing historic numbers of firefighters. In the above photo, a wildfire burns just a short drive from the Las Vegas strip.

The Carpenter 1 wildfire, as it is called, is burning in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, 17 miles (27 kilometers) west of Las Vegas, and visible from the famous strip. The park is named after the large, red sandstone peaks that rise and fall across the terrain. Red Rock Canyon was Nevada's first National Conservation Area. More than one million people each year visit the area's 195,819 acres.

More than 1,000 people are battling the Carpenter 1 wildfire, which has forced hundreds of residents to flee the area. Lightning is suspected as the cause of the fire, which has burned nearly 30,000 acres.

In June, a deadly wildfire in Yarnell Hill, Ariz, claimed the lives of 19 firefighters, the most of any fire in the past 80 years. The fire is now contained, but not before the blaze burned more than 8,300 acres and destroyed 114 structures.

- Brett Israel, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor

Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Facebook and Google+.

'Wrasse-ling' In the Pacific Ocean

Surge Wrasse Fish

(Image credit: Claire Fackler, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries)

A colorful surge wrasse (Thalassoma purpureum) swims in the waters of the Kure Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Kure is made up of a shallow lagoon surrounded by a ring-shaped barrier reef. It is the northernmost coral atoll in the world, and is located 55 miles (89 kilometers) beyond the larger Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Surge wrasses are typically found in shallow surge zones of outer reef flats. These fish feed on zooplankton and hard shell invertebrates, including snails and crabs. [Related: Photos: The Freakiest-Looking Fish]

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.