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Image of the Day: March 2014

Wild Animal Selfie in Zion National Park
A wildlife camera in Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah, gives a whole new meaning to the term "selfie." [Related: Photos of the Best Wild Animal Selfies]
(Image: © National Park Service)

Image of the Day Archive

Western Lowland Gorillas at Belfast Zoo

(Image credit: Belfast Zoological Gardens)

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

Above: A baby western lowland gorilla clings tight to his mother, Kwanza, at the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland. The little one, named Baako, was born on Aug. 3, 2013. Animal keepers say they are delighted with how the baby gorilla is progressing.The arrival of the bundle of joy last year marked the first time in 16 years that a western lowland gorilla was born at the Belfast Zoo."We knew that Kwanza was pregnant last year but we were also aware that she was a first time mum, which comes with its own set of risks," zoo curator Julie Mansell said in a statement. "For the first few months Kwanza cradled the newborn on her stomach but Baako is gaining confidence and is beginning to climb on her back and is also beginning to bond with the rest of the gorilla group, including father Gugas, Kamili and Delilah." [Related: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]

Wild Ice Views at Alaska's Telaquana Lake

Alaska's Telaquana Lake

(Image credit: National Park Service)

Last week, a flight over Telaquana Lake in south-central Alaska caught some amazing views of the ice below.

Telaquana Lake is located in the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, a land of stunning beauty where volcanoes steam, salmon run, bears forage, craggy mountains reflect in shimmering turquoise lakes, and local people and culture still depend on the land and water of their home.

Telaquana Lake is part of the historic Telaquana Trail, which native peoples used to travel from Telaquana Lake to Lake Clark. The trails connected all major villages in the area to each other and to seasonal camps. Today, the Telaquana Trail is mostly traveled by intrepid backpackers.

High above the trail, the park's volcanoes are a constant source of scientific research. The active volcanoes are continually monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory. Redoubt Volcano, the highest summit in the Aleutian Range, has erupted five times since 1900, and most recently erupted in 2009, spewing ash across south-central Alaska and mudflows down the Drift River.

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Fallout

Bikini Atoll

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey)

The Bikini Atoll is a tiny island that forms part of the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific. Sixty years ago, on March 1, 1954, the U.S. Army detonated a hydrogen bomb on the island that devastated the landscape.

The 15-megaton explosion was the most powerful at the time, and was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. The blast, which created a mushroom cloud of superheated air, vaporized everything on three islands and dug an enormous crater that measured 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) wide and 260 feet (80 meters) deep, according to NASA.

A total of 23 nuclear bomb tests were conducted on the Bikini Atoll between 1946 and 1958. During these years, natives were moved to other islands in the archipelago. The explosion and the subsequent public outcries provoked diplomatic negotiations that resulted in the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited surface tests. In the 1970s, several attempts were made to decontaminate the Bikini Atoll, but today the islands remain uninhabited, according to NASA.

This image was captured by the Landsat 8 satellite on Aug. 19, 2013. [Related: Top 10 Greatest Explosions Ever]

Crystal World

Ice Patterns

(Image credit: Loren Haury)

Photographer Loren Haury captured these fascinating ice patterns along Oak Creek in Sedona, Ariz. The delicate crystal structures formed in frozen pools along the streambed.

"As water slowly drained from the pools during the night, layers of ice were left suspended from the rocks," Haury told Live Science. "For scale, the ice feathers radiating from the rock on the lower left are about 3 [inches (7.6 centimeters)] long. By noon, all the ice had melted."

Haury captured this photo of the eye-catching scene on Sept. 13, 2005, using an Olympus C60 handheld camera.

"I had to work fast, because the interesting crystals and fine structure would quickly melt when patches of direct sunlight moved over the ice," he said. [Related: Gallery of Awe-Inspiring Glaciers]

A River's Path

Alcantara River in Sicily

(Image credit: Giuseppe Pappa)

The Alcantara is a 32-mile-long (51 kilometers) river in Sicily. Several thousand years ago, lava flow from nearby Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Italy, blocked the river bed. The lava cooled and crystallized into columns, and over time, the river cut a channel through the easily erodible columns, creating extraordinary gorges and ravines.

Photographer Giuseppe Pappa snapped this photo of a scenic gorge, located between the cities of Messina and Catania in Sicily, on Oct. 28, 2012. Pappa used a Canon EOS 1100D camera to capture the striking scene. [Related: The World's Five Most Active Volcanoes]

Precious & Pleasant

Baby African Pygmy Goats

(Image credit: Belfast Zoological Gardens)

The Belfast Zoo recently welcomed two African pygmy goats, a smaller female kid named Aziza (which means "precious" in Swahili) and a larger male kid named Adunbi (which means "pleasant" in Nigerian).

African pygmy goats, which hail from West Africa, measure between 19 inches and 23 inches (50 to 63 centimeters) in length when fully grown.

"Aziza and Adunbi are a wonderful addition to the herd of African pygmy goats and to the zoo farmyard," zoo curator Alyn Cairns said in a statement. "Aziza is always happy and very friendly to keepers and the other goats. Adunbi, however, has a much bolder personality. He is extremely mischievous, and a bit of a trouble maker and he likes to climb on top of things, including the other goats." [Related: World's Cutest Baby Wild Animals]

Squirrel Selfie in Zion National Park

A curious squirrel had a close-up photograph taken by a wildlife camera in Zion National Park.

(Image credit: National Park Service.)

A wildlife camera in Zion National Park has given a whole new meaning to the term "selfie."

OK, so it's not technically a selfie since the squirrel didn't take its own picture. But this photo is so darn cute, so why care? Camera traps such as this one are used for capturing wild animals on film when researchers are not present. These cameras are used in ecological research for studying bird nests, capturing proof of rare species, estimating population size and learning about habitat use.

Zion National Park certainly has wildlife worth watching, and not just squirrels. Zion is home to 68 species of mammal, ranging from the petite kangaroo rat to the sturdy, surefooted bighorn sheep. The most frequent mammal sightings are mule deer, foxes, bats, bighorn sheep and rock squirrels.

Located in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep sandstone canyons and the Virgin River. Zion also has 2,000-foot (610 meters) Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.

Smile when walking through these canyons, you might be on camera.

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St. Patrick's Day Cell

lung cancer cell in green

(Image credit: Martin Barr, courtesy GE Healthcare)

Ireland is exporting a little bit of green just in time for Saint Patrick's Day with this stunning image of a lung cancer cell surrounded by a halo of emerald. This image, taken by Martin Barr of the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Trinity College Dublin and St. James's Hospital, Dublin, is the winnter of the GE Healthcare Life Science's 2013 Cell Imaging Competition, the company announced today (March 12). It will be featured on an electronic billboard in Times Square next month.

The cell represents non-small cell lung cancer, one of the most common types of lung cancer. This image shows the cell in a hypoxic (low-oxygen) environment, a state that makes the cancer cells more resistant to chemotherapy. Barr is working to break down these defenses so that hypoxic cells in solid tumors can be more easily targeted.

Lights in the Sky

auroral curl mission by NASA

(Image credit: NASA/Christopher Perry)

Blastoff! A launch on March 3, 2014, sent a rocket directly into an eerie green aurora shimmering over Poker Flat, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics-Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) is an attempt to understand the conditions that create "auroral curls," which are curling structures seen inside an aurora.

This Little Light of Mine

firefly pupa with lantern glowing

(Image credit: ARMIN MOCZEK AND MATTHEW STANSBURY)

Lights on! This firefly is in the pupa stage, the stage of development between larva and adult. Already, though, the firefly's light, or photic organ, is functional. Research published March 18 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B reveals two ancient genes, part of a group called Hox genes, are crucial for the formation of the firefly's lantern.

Newborn Storm

tropical storm mike

(Image credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

This image, captured by a NOAA satellite, shows just-formed Tropical Storm Mike in the southwest Pacific. Mike could threaten the Southern Cook Islands.