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Image of the Day: November 2013

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Pennsylvania's Fall Colors from Space

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response/Adam Voiland)

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

Above: The colors of autumn sweep across the northeastern United States in this satellite image. Between mid-September to late October, forests in central Pennsylvania transform into a symphony of reds, yellow and browns, as temperatures fall and the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere.

NASA's Aqua satellite captured this photo on Oct. 21, 2013, when fall colors were at or just past their peak in central and eastern Pennsylvania. The forests along the ridge lines of the Appalachian Mountains were the most colorful. [Related: The Rich Colors of Fall Foliage]

Oh, What A Night At Arches National Park

Arches National Park is know for its famous red rock formations, but the stars in the night sky are also a featured attraction.

(Image credit: National Park Service)

The best thing about Arches National Park might be the nighttime sky above the famous stone arches.

Located near Moab, Utah, Arches is a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, not to mention hundreds of pinnacles, fins and massive balanced rocks.

Not only will this red rock wonderland amaze with its formations, but linger after the sun goes down for awe-inspiring star gazing. But bundle up, temperatures can swing as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) here. Arches is located in a high desert, where the elevation ranges from 4,085 to 5,653 feet (1,245 to 1,723 meters) above sea level. From this vantage point, observers will see the Milky Way, the cloud-like band in the above image.

As brilliant as the night sky appears in Arches National Park, the view is under threat from encroaching development. Light pollution from nearby towns has become evident in the last few years. To date there is no federal legislation mandating preservation of the night sky, according to the park's Web site.

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Eyes over Antarctica

Antarctica Ice Sheet & Mountains

(Image credit: NASA/Christy Hansen)

NASA scientists snapped this pristine shot while flying over Antarctica in December 2012. The researchers surveyed the ice sheet and mountains from a U.S. Air National Guard LC-130 aircraft.

Next week, NASA's Operation IceBridge will kick off a new season of monitoring ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice. This year, the mission will be stationed in Antarctica for the first time, enabling researchers to conduct more science on longer flights over the icy continent. Previously, Operation IceBridge flights took off from Punta Arenas in southern Chile. [Related Images: NASA's IceBridge in Action Over Antarctica]

Rare solar eclipse

Hybrid Solar Eclipse

(Image credit: NASA/NOAA)

On Nov. 3, the moon passed in front of the sun, blocking its light in a rare celestial event known as a hybrid solar eclipse. The hybrid eclipse began as an annular, or "ring of fire," eclipse along the path of totality, then shifted to a total eclipse, as the sun became fully obscured by the moon.

The celestial event, which was visible from eastern North America to the Middle East, was also spotted by the Suomi NPP satellite in orbit. The satellite snapped this image of the moon's shadow over the Gulf of Guinea, extending into western Africa. Three orbits of the Suomi NPP satellite are displayed in this image, each separated by approximately 97 minutes. [Related: The 7 Most Famous Solar Eclipses in History]

Somewhere over the rainbow

Rainbow over Eagle, Alaska

(Image credit: Mark Dornblaser, U.S. Geological Survey)

An eye-catching rainbow lights up the sky over Eagle, Alaska. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey snapped this pretty shot in June 2002, during a research trip to the Alaskan outpost.

Eagle is located on the southern bank of the Yukon River, near the border between Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory. Eagle is home to roughly 86 people, and the city has a total area of 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers), according to the 2010 United States Census. [Related Images: Amazing Rainbows!]

Little bundle of joy

Pygmy Hippo Calf at the Edinburgh Zoo

(Image credit: Edinburgh Zoo)

The Edinburgh Zoo recently celebrated the arrival of a new pygmy hippo calf. The female calf was born on Oct. 27, and has been named Adana by her keepers, which is a West African name meaning "her father's daughter."

Zookeepers at the Edinburgh Zoo said Adana is still a little shy, but has started to venture into the indoor pool. "Growing in confidence every day, Adana has ventured into the water under the watchful eye of mum," Lorna Hughes, team leader for primates and hoofstock at the Edinburgh Zoo, said in a statement. "Even though pygmy hippos are incredible swimmers, it's a little known fact the hippo calves need to be taught how to swim by their mothers."

Pygmy hippos are native to West Africa, but are endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. As part of the European Breeding Programme, 18 pygmy hippos have been born and raised at the Edinburgh Zoo since the 1970s. [Related: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]

Great Blue Heron Snags a Snake Snack

A photo of a great blue heron snagging a garter snake won honorable mention in the 2013 Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge photo contest.

(Image credit: Gary Davenport/US Department of the Interior.)

Of course, the early bird gets the worm, but in the above photo that worm turned out to be a snake.

Photographer Gary Davenport’s stunning close-up photo of a great blue heron and a hapless garter snake took honorable mention in the 2013 Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge photo contest. First place was awarded to a photograph of a pair of camouflaged raccoons. Photographs of coyotes and a stunning array of birds, including others with food on their minds, were also honored in the contest. To see more photos from the contest click here.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established in Oregon's Willamette Valley in 1965 to protect a habitat for wintering waterfowl. The refuge spans some 5,300 acres of marshes, grasslands and woodlands.

Thousands of ducks, geese and swans winter on the Refuge. The all-star of the refuge is the dusky Canada goose, whose nesting areas in Alaska were harmed by an earthquake in 1964.

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Where the glacier meets the sea

Operation IceBridge - Greenland Glacier

(Image credit: Jefferson Beck and Maria-José Viñas/IceBridge Science Team)

Last year, NASA's airborne research program conducted flights over the Arctic to assess the health of the ice in this fast-changing region. The agency's Operation IceBridge campaign is a six-year mission to study the complex dynamics of ice at the Earth's poles, in order to help scientists determine how melting ice sheets might elevate sea levels, and how fast sea ice is likely to retreat in the future.

This image was captured during an IceBridge flight over Greenland on April 25, 2012. A camera aboard NASA's P-3B aircraft snapped the photo of a glacier in eastern Greenland, flowing through a long and narrow valley that was carved by the movement of the ice. A layer of floating ice dotted with chunks of icebergs can be seen where the edge of the glacier meets the sea.

This month, Operation IceBridge researchers will kick off another season of monitoring ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice from the air. For the first time, however, the mission will be based in Antarctica, which will enable scientists to survey parts of the continent not visited on previous IceBridge campaigns. [Related: Stunning Photos of Antarctic Ice]

Gorgeous Saturn View

view of Saturn and its rings from NASA's Cassini spacecraft

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

NASA has revealed a stunning natural-color panoramic mosaic of Saturn, along with its rings and moons, as they'd look to human eyes. The majestic image, which also shows Earth, Venus and Mars, was snapped by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and unveiled at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12, 2013.

"In this one magnificent view, Cassini has delivered to us a universe of marvels," Carolyn Porco, Cassini's imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in a NASA statement. "And it did so on a day people all over the world, in unison, smiled in celebration at the sheer joy of being alive on a pale blue dot."

Porco and colleagues processed 141 wide-angle images to create this space-scape, which sweeps 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across Saturn and its inner ring system out to the planet's second-outermost ring (the E ring). According to NASA, the distance between Earth and its moon would fit easily inside the span of Saturn's E ring.

Welcome to the (concrete) jungle

Snow Leopard Cubs Debut at Central Park Zoo

(Image credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society)

A pair of adorable snow leopard cubs made their debut at the Central Park Zoo in New York City earlier this month. The still-unnamed male and female cubs were born this summer, and are the first snow leopard cubs ever born at the Central Park Zoo, according to officials at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The litter is the result of a successful pairing between a seven-year-old female, Zoe, and a six-year-old male, Askai. Both adult snow leopards are first-time parents, WCS officials said in a statement.

Currently, the cubs weigh about 30 pounds (14 kilograms) each, but they can reach up to 120 pounds (54 kg) when fully grown. Snow leopards are among the world's most endangered big cats, and conservation experts estimate roughly 3,500 to 6,500 remain in the wild. These animals are typically found in the remote mountains of Central Asia, and parts of China, Mongolia, Russia, India and Bhutan. [Related: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]

A place with a view

Maroon Bells in Colorado

(Image credit: K. Scott Jackson, USGS)

Colorado residents will likely be familiar with this pristine, sunrise view of the famous Maroon Bells, two peaks in the rugged Elk Mountains of west-central Colorado. Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak — collectively known as the Maroon Bells — are located about 12 miles southwest of Aspen, in the White River National Forest.

The two mountains, which are separated by roughly a third of a mile, are composed of Paleozoic Era-mudstone and sandstone that hardened into rock over the course of millions of years. Both Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak have summit elevations over 14,000 feet (4,200 meters), and represent the 27th and 50th highest peaks in Colorado, respectively.

This southwest view of the Maroon Bells, looking across an unbelievably still Maroon Lake, is touted as one of the most photographed spots in Colorado. Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey captured this scene in January 2010. [Related: One-of-a-Kind Places on Earth]