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Image of the Day: November 2013

Frost Blankets Bison at Yellowstone

Bison covered in frost

(Image credit: Tim Townsend/US Department of the Interior)

A bison in Yellowstone National Park recently awoke with a frosty blanket. What looks miserably cold to people barely registers to a bison, whose heavy fur is perfectly adapted to such wintery conditions.

The bison is the largest land mammal in North America. Bulls (what males are called) are more massive in appearance than cows (females), and more bearded. They can weigh more than half a ton. But don't be fooled by their size; bison are agile and quick and can run up to 30 mph (50 km/h).

Bison were nearly extinct in the 19th century due to hunting, slaughter and bovine diseases from domestic cattle. Today, Yellowstone is the only place in the lower 48 states where a population of wild bison has persisted since prehistoric times, although fewer than 50 native bison remained there in 1902. Today, the Yellowstone Park bison herd is estimated at 3,700 bison.

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Golden horizon

Shenandoah National Park

(Image credit: National Park Service)

This breathtaking view of the horizon from Buck Hollow Overlook in Shenandoah National Park is a good reminder that even city dwellers don't have to travel too far to enjoy the spoils of nature. Shenandoah National Park straddles part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, just 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Washington, D.C.

The park's scenic Skyline Drive lets visitors explore the 105-mile-long (170-kilometer-long) park, with more than 75 overlooks along the way. The park's 500 miles (800 km) of trails are also a hiker's paradise, and visitors can expect to see some of the most spectacular panoramic views of the Virginia landscape from the various peaks. [Related: Top 10 Most Visited National Parks]

Minotaur liftoff

Minotaur 1 Rocket Launch

(Image credit: NASA/Allison Stancil)

A spectacular rocket launch lit up the night sky along the U.S. East Coast yesterday (Nov. 19). A Minotaur 1 rocket, built by Orbital Sciences, blasted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore, carrying 29 satellites into orbit.

Skywatchers along the U.S. East Coast — from Massachusetts to New Jersey — reported seeing the impressive night launch. Because of the rocket's trajectory, it was expected to be visible from northeastern Canada to Florida, and as far inland as Kentucky, Orbital Sciences officials said. [Related: See more amazing Minotaur 1 rocket launch photos]

G'day mate!

Baby koala at Edinburgh Zoo

(Image credit: Edinburgh Zoo)

Lucky visitors at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland recently caught a glimpse of the zoo's first baby koala. Zookeepers have yet to determine the sex of the little one, but report that the baby koala has grown almost all of its fur and is becoming more active.

Some spectators at the zoo were able to see baby koala emerging from its mother's pouch. "Over the past few weeks, patient visitors have spotted a nose or a pink arm poking out," Lorna Hughes, team leader for koalas, hoofstock and primates at the Edinburgh Zoo, said in a statement. "Now you [are] more likely to see the joey's whole head or if you are very lucky the whole thing!"

The birth of the new baby koala is a first for the United Kingdom. Its mother, two-year-old Alinga, was the first female koala to arrive at the Edinburgh Zoo, according to zookeepers. [Related: 9 Weird Animal Facts]

Free Fallin'

Paratroopers Perform Free-Fall Exercise

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

Paratroopers from the Bangladesh Air Force and the U.S. Air Force jump from a C-130 Hercules aircraft in a free-fall exercise over Bangladesh on Nov. 12, 2013.

The drill was part of an annual exercise program, called Cope South. The training program is designed to increase the troops' combat readiness, and to improve cooperation between the U.S. Air Force and the Bangladesh Air Force. [Related: 7 Technologies That Transformed Warfare]

Turkey Time: Wild Turkeys Rebound in US

The wild turkey population in the United States has rebounded from a low of 20,000 in the early 20th century to around 7 million today.

(Image credit: Dendroica Cerulea/US Department of the Interior.)

Despite being an iconic staple of Thanksgiving dinner, the wild turkey population in the United States is alive and gobbling. They can be found strutting their stuff at wildlife refuges across the country, like the tom in the above picture was doing at New Jersey’s Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge.

The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is native to the United States, where the species has struggled in the past due to hunting and loss of habitat. In the early 20th century, the wild turkey population fell to around 20,000. Today, due to successful conservation efforts, the population is around 7 million.

By looking at a turkey, it's hard to tell that they would be tasty. Male turkeys have a distinctive fleshy wattle, called a snood, that hangs from the top of the beak. Males are known as toms or gobblers and are larger and much more colorful than the females, known as hens. A baby turkey is known as a poult.

Legend has it that the turkey got its name from a similar looking variety of bird being imported to Britain from the Eastern Mediterranean, by way of Spain. The British came to associate the tbird with the country Turkey, and the name has stuck ever since.

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Winter 'Wonderland of Rocks'

Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona

(Image credit: National Park Service)

A dusting of snow covers the jagged rocks at Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. This so-called "Wonderland of Rocks" is located in the Chiricahua mountain range, which stretches roughly 35 miles (56 kilometers) along southeastern Arizona.

Chiricahua National Monument is known for its columns of rock, which cover the 18-square-mile (47-square-kilometer) site. Geologists believe a volcanic eruption rocked the region more than 25 million years ago, spewing ash that cooled, hardened and eventually eroded into the structures that can be seen today. [Related: The World's Most Famous Rocks]

Portrait of a bear

Andean Bear

(Image credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)

This photogenic Andean bear flashes its best pensive look to the camera. Andean bears are the only bears native to South America, and they inhabit mountainous regions of western Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

Andean bears are also known as spectacled bears, because they often have light fur on their faces that resemble huge glasses. Animal conservation experts estimate there are fewer than 18,000 Andean bears are living in the wild today. Over the past few decades, this species has been affected by deforestation and habitat fragmentation. [Related: Camera Trapped - Elusive Wildlife Caught in Photos]

Hot date with the sun

Comet ISON

(Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery)

Are you ready for a cosmic Thanksgiving show? The icy Comet ISON will swing around the sun today, in a well-timed Thanksgiving treat for skywatchers. Comet ISON is scheduled to pass closest to the sun Thursday at 1:38 p.m. EST (1838 GMT), coming within 684,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) of the solar surface, according to NASA officials.

Scientists around the world will be keen to see if the comet survives its fiery encounter with the sun, or if it disintegrates into ice and dust.

This photo, taken Nov. 19, shows Comet ISON's tail as it blazes through space at 136,700 miles per hour (220,000 km/h). At the time of this image, Comet ISON was some 80 million miles (128.7 million km) from Earth, and 44 million miles (71 million km) from the sun. [Related: Comet ISON's Sun Encounter: Complete Coverage]

Planetary portrait

Juno Spacecraft Photographs Earth During Flyby

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

Last month, NASA's Juno spacecraft paid us a visit, flying by Earth to use the planet's gravity to boost it on its way through the solar system to Jupiter. The spacecraft's onboard camera captured this haunting photo of Earth as it swung by the planet. Juno's other instruments were tested during the flyby to ensure they work as designed for close planetary encounters.

The Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 5, 2011. Juno's rocket was only capable of giving the spacecraft enough energy or speed to reach the asteroid belt, at which point the sun's gravity pulled Juno back toward the inner solar system. The spacecraft's Earth flyby helped increase its speed to put it on course to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. [Related Quiz: How Well Do You Know Our Solar System?]

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.