Happy Birthday, Panya!
The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans celebrated a special milestone yesterday (Jan. 16): The 50th birthday of Panya, a female Asian elephant. A party was held at the zoo, and Panya was presented with a cake, gifts and a giant birthday card signed by guests.
Panya weighs a whopping 9,500 pounds (4,300 kilograms). The female elephant and her longtime sidekick, 41-year-old Jean, are star attractions at the Audubon Zoo. Panya arrived at the zoo in 1980, and Jean, who tips the scales at 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms), was brought to the zoo in 1978. [Related Gallery: Mystery of the Pygmy Elephants of Borneo]
Let it Snow
Snow and low clouds blanket the mountains and trees in this wintry scene of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The park contains 150 lakes, 359 miles (578 kilometers) of trails and 72 peaks higher than 12,000 feet (3,700 meters).
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to a variety of large mammals, including elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, moose and mountain lions. [Related: Top 10 Most Visited National Parks]
Colorful Rock Layers
In the northwestern Xinjiang province of China, a series of ridges dominate the landscape, with distinctive red, green and cream-colored sedimentary rock layers visible on some of the highest hills. The colorful layers are created by rocks that formed at different times and in different environments.
The red layers near the top are sandstones formed during the Paleozoic Era — which lasted from about 542 million years ago to 251 million years ago — by ancient rivers, while the green layers are sandstones from the Silurian Period formed in a moderately-deep ocean. The cream-colored layers are limestone from the Cambrian and Ordovician Periods formed in a shallow ocean.
The Landsat 8 satellite, operated jointly by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, captured this view on July 30, 2013. [Related: World's Most Famous Rocks]
Normally, photographing nature shouldn't require any special effects, but this dramatic scene, shot using a fish-eye lens, captures the incredible beauty of tree canopies in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park.
The park lies along the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. Shenandoah's Skyline Drive, a 105-mile (169-kilometer) road that runs the length of the park and meanders along the ridge of the mountains, is one of the area's biggest draws. [Related: 8 Amazing National Park Structures]
A Striped Affair
A Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) and her baby explore their habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The male zebra foal, named Tanu, was born earlier this year, on Jan. 3.
Tanu memorizes his mother's stripe pattern in order to recognize her from other zebras in the herd. While every zebra has a unique stripe pattern, Grevy's zebras have the skinniest stripes of any zebra species, and their natural streaks run all the way down their back to a white belly. [Related: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]
Snow Blankets Crater Lake National Park
As of last week, Crater Lake National Park had seen just 32 inches (81 centimeters) of snow this year. That's a far cry from the 78 inches (198 cm) of snow that should be on the ground by this time of year, but recent mild temperatures and sunny skies has made it the perfect location for some good outdoor activity and great photography, as seen above.
Crater Lake National Park is named after Crater Lake, a caldera lake in south-central Oregon. The lake is famous for its deep blue color and the clearness of its water. The lake partly fills the nearly 2,148-foot-deep (655 meter) caldera, which was formed nearly 8,000 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama.
You won't find any rivers flowing into or out of Crater Lake. Rainfall and snowfall are needed to keep the caldera full. At 1,943 feet (592 m), the lake is the deepest in the United States, and one of the top 20 deepest lakes in the world.
While the snowfall numbers so far this year have been low, there should be plenty more powder on the way. Crater Lake National Park gets an average of 533 inches (1,353 cm) of snow per year — that’s more than 44 feet (13.4 m) of snow.
Thar She Blows!
El Salvador's San Miguel volcano erupted on Dec. 29, 2013, leaving the summit with a coating of light gray ash. The December eruption unleashed a plume of ash that reached about 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) into the atmosphere, according to NASA officials. The ash settled on the slope of the volcano and fell on nearby towns, forcing 5,000 evacuations.
NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite collected this photo, which was part of a series of post-eruption images taken on Jan. 15, 2014.
San Miguel is one of El Salvador's most active volcanoes. Its distinctive symmetrical cone rises to an elevation of 6,990 feet (2,130 meters), and features a large, deep crater at its summit. The volcano last erupted in 2002, according to NASA officials. [Related: Amazing Images of Volcanoes from Space]
Face of a Glacier
This photo, taken from the Cascade Range in Oregon, shows the steep ridges of Hayden Glacier, on the southeast slope of the Middle Sister volcano. Hayden Glacier sits at an elevation between 7,800 and 8,800 feet (2,400 and 2,700 meters). [Related: Images of One-of-a-Kind Places on Earth]
By the Seashore
If you want to stroll along white sandy beaches, dip your feet into aquamarine waters, or set up camp on a barrier island, then a visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in may be in store.
Located along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi, the region features salt marshes, natural beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, nature trails and historic sites, according to the National Park Service (NPS). The protected regions, established by the NPS on Jan. 8, 1971, include mainland areas and parts of seven islands. [Related Gallery: Stunning Sands – A Rainbow of Beaches]
The Puppy Bowl is back!
This weekend, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will square off at the Super Bowl, which is taking place this year at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. But before the players take the field, viewers will be treated to the cutest sporting event of the season.
Animal Planet will air the 10th annual Puppy Bowl before the Big Game on Sunday (Feb. 2), from 3pm to 5pm (ET/PT). The adorable event will also feature penguin cheerleaders, a "Fantasy Puppy League," and a half-time show with 30 kittens. At the end of the game, fans will crown the MVP, Most Valuable Puppy. Check local listings for more details. [Related Quiz: Puppy Love – Test Your Dog Breed Knowledge]