Image of the Day Archives
For older Image of the Day pictures, please visit the Image of the Day archives.
Above: This majestic photo of the bright moon over the Atlantic Ocean was submitted by reader Scott MacNeill, who captured the stunning scene on one of the last nights of summer. MacNeill snapped the photo from Brenton Point in Newport, R.I., as the crisp autumn air wafted over the water.
"I sat on this cliff for about an hour with the wind in my hair mesmerized by the beautiful blue-grey moonlight casting shadows on the cliffs that danced with the sway of the tides," MacNeill told LiveScience in an email. "Welcome Autumn!" [Related: 5 Odd Facts About Fall]
Preserving the pristine
The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is a lively, colorful place at this time of the year. The refuge was established in 1966, and is named for Rachel Carson, the author and environmentalist whose seminal book, "Silent Spring," raised awareness of the impact of the insecticide DDT on wildlife and the environment.
The refuge is located along 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Maine's coastline, and consists of eleven divisions between the towns of Kittery and Cape Elizabeth. The 5,400-acre (22-square kilometer) refuge was created to protect salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds. Major habitat types present on the land include forested uplands, dunes, coastal meadows, tidal salt marshes and the distinctive rocky coast, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. [Related: Amazing Ecology - Award-Winning Photos of Wildlife]
A coral refuge
Colorful coral reefs are a big attraction at Eliat, Israel's southernmost city and a popular resort located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Corals are reef-building animals that are some of the planet's richest and most diverse ecosystems. But, warming oceans are causing corals around the world to deteriorate rapidly.
Higher than normal ocean temperatures damage algae that grows within the coral's tissue, causing the corals to turn white in a phenomenon known as "coral bleaching."
While coral bleaching is increasing globally, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, have not observed bleaching in the Gulf of Eliat. The scientists suggest the Gulf of Eliat is a unique refuge for coral reefs because of a "warm water barrier" that exists at the southern Red Sea, allowing only heat-tolerant genotypes of corals to enter from the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea. [Related Gallery: Colorful Corals of the Deep Barrier Reef]
Up, up and away!
An enormous stratospheric balloon is inflated at the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base in Ontario, Canada. The new $4 million facility is operated by the Canadian Space Agency and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency.
Last month, the first balloon campaign was launched to study Earth's atmosphere and environment. The remotely controlled atmospheric balloons can carry up to 1.75 tons of equipment into the stratosphere, and are capable of reaching an altitude of 26 miles (42 kilometers). The balloons also do not require any energy or fuel, and are fully recoverable following their flights. [Related Infographic: Earth's Atmosphere Top to Bottom]
Eagle Soars at Shiloh
The battlefields in Shiloh National Military Park are a fitting place for an eagle to soar.
Pigs of the sea
This strange-looking specimen is a Scotoplanes, a type of deep sea-dwelling sea cucumber. These creatures' squat, stubby legs and pudgy appearances earned them the nickname "sea pigs."
Sea pigs live in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and are typically found at depths of more than 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). Some related species may be found in shallower waters near Antarctica. Sea pigs feast on detritus that falls from the ocean surface by extracting organic particles from mud on the ocean floor. [Related: Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures]
Let there be light
Light reflects on the surface and inside of a water-filled sphere. Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) are studying interactions between light and matter to better understand the behaviors of photons, atoms and cells.
Members of the OIST's Light-Matter Interactions Unit are investigating the interplay between light and optical nanofibers in order to develop highly sensitive biosensors. [Related: Bionic Humans: Top 10 Technologies]
By the setting sun
The sun sets over the United States Naval Research Laboratory's 50-foot radio telescope dish. The dish sits atop the laboratory's main administration building, and acts as an unofficial symbol of the facility.
The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), located in Washington, D.C., conducts scientific research and development for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. The facility, which opened in 1923, was informally proposed by Thomas Edison, who commented on the need for a government research facility in an article published in the New York Times Magazine in 1915.
"The Government," Edison said, "should maintain a great research laboratory … In this could be developed … all the technique of military and naval progression without any vast expense."
The NRL receives research and development grants from a variety of government agencies, including DARPA, but does not receive directly funding under the federal government's budget. [Related: 7 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets]
March of the Emperor Penguins
The Emperor Penguin is Antarctica's largest sea bird and one of the most iconic and beloved animals. Emperor Penguins can reach up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) in height, and feed primarily on fish, squid and tiny, shrimplike animals called krill.
Unlike other penguin species, Emperors breed during the Antarctic winter, trekking for miles across sea ice to large breeding colonies. Disappearing sea ice due to climate change is destroying penguin habitats, hampering breeding and affecting the birds' source of food. As a result, Emperor Penguins are currently under consideration for inclusion in the U.S. Endangered Species Act. [Related Images: A Gallery of Pudgy Penguins]
Solitude at Hole in the Rock
Follow in the footsteps of some of America's most famous explorers at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana.
Located in central Montana, the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is home to a spectacular array of plant life, wildlife, unique geological features, endless recreational opportunities and several historically and culturally important areas.
The monument was designated to protect the Missouri Breaks, a series of badlands, which are areas that have been severely eroded. At the Missouri Breaks, visitors will see rock outcroppings, steep bluffs and grassy plains. The 149-mile (240-kilometer) Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River flows through the monument.
Access to Hole in the Rock, pictured above, first requires a multi-day trip down the Upper Missouri Wild and Scenic River. This is the same route, albeit downstream, that Lewis and Clark travelled on their voyage of discovery across the western United States.
Follow OurAmazingPlanet @OAPlanet, Facebook & Google+.
Follow the Yellow River
The Yellow River in China is the second-longest river in Asia, stretching nearly 3,400 miles (5,500 kilometers). The river flows through nine provinces in China, and empties into the Bohai Sea along the country's northeastern coast.
A recent study found that the Yellow River transports large quantities of sediment from northern Tibet to the Mu Us desert in Inner Mongolia. The study, published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, suggests that the river contributes a significant volume of material to the Chinese Loess Plateau, a sprawling highland area located in the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River that has formed thick deposits over the past 2.5 million years. [Related: The World's Longest Rivers]