Image of the Day Archive
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Above: A majestic Sumatran tiger at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
Virtual reality is certainly not just for the gaming world. In this photo, taken on Feb. 21, 2013, Pfc. Cullen Rocha sits at the gunner station during a training exercise in the U.S. Army's Virtual Clearance Training Suite in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
The sophisticated virtual reality system is used to train troops for various convoy operations, according to military officials. [Related: 10 Coolest Military-Tech Projects]
Three Norway rats — Daisy, Petunia and Violet — are the newest residents at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. These remarkable rodents, part of the Think Tank Exhibit, will demonstrate their adaptability and intelligence as they explore their habitat, which is set up as a pet playground complete with a specially designed tunnel system that runs overhead.
In this photo, Petunia and Daisy peek their heads out to survey the crowd. [Related Gallery: Best Wild Animal Selfies]
Double Rainbow Over Great Sand Dunes
This double rainbow in the desert may seam surreal, but it’s not a mirage.
Hikers in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve captured the double rainbow and submitted the image to the U.S. Department of the Interior's "Share the Experience" photo contest, which showcases the best photos of national parks submitted by the general public.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is certainly worth showcasing. It’s one of the most biologically and geologically diverse parks in the United States. The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece of the park’s diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, and alpine lakes.
The park is also perfect for hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and, if you’re lucky, spotting double rainbows. [Related Gallery: Earth as Art]
This cosmic rainbow is actually a multicolored close-up of Saturn's rings. The image, taken on June 30, 2004, was captured by the Cassini spacecraft as it entered into orbit around the ringed planet.
Cassini's Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph carries out observations in ultraviolet wavelengths. The section of the planet's rings featured in this photo span approximately 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers).
The various colors correspond to the differences in the composition of the rings, according to astronomers at the European Space Agency. The turquoise-colored rings contain particles of nearly pure water ice, and the reddish rings contain ice particles with more contaminants. [Related: 101 Stunning Images from Orbit]
These tiny interlaced fibers make up a 3D fabric "scaffold" that scientists at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, are hoping will lead to better ways to develop synthetic cartilage in joints.
The fabric scaffold consists of seven layers of fibers, each about as thick as a human hair. Stem cells could be injected into the tiny woven structure and "grown" into cartilage tissue, according to the researchers. [Related Gallery: 10 Science Discoveries to Be Thankful for]
Pretty shrubs and flowers add accents of color to the stunning landscape of the Pit River Canyon Wilderness Study Area in California. The region comprises 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) of pristine land, full of dynamic geology and wildlife. The flats above the canyon have yearlong populations of deer and antelope, according to officials at the United States Bureau of Land Management.
The Pit River also snakes through the Wilderness Study Area for approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers), and segments of the 1848 National Historic Lassen Emigrant Trail, which served as a crucial passageway for gold seekers en route to California, are also located within the region's boundaries. [Related Gallery: One-of-a-Kind Places on Earth]
Wild Horses Roam Assateague National Seashore
Want to live on the edge? Visit a place recreated each day by ocean, wind and waves; a place so wild that horses roam free.
Visitors to the Assateague National Seashore, which stretches across Virginia and Maryland, can explore sandy beaches, salt marshes and maritime forests, and see horses in the wild.
The "wild" horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state. Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, mosquitoes, stormy weather and poor quality food found on this remote, windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society.
Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. While this dramatic tale is popular, there are no records to confirm it. The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock. [Related: Amazing Horse Photos]
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An F-35 fighter jet is silhouetted against a colorful, evening sky on Jan. 16, 2012. The next-generation warplane completed the night flight over Edwards Air Force Base in California. [Related: The 10 Fastest Military Airplanes]
You Looking At Me?
A seal pup munches on a snack at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The four-month-old pup has been separated from her mother as a way to mimic the social dynamics of gray seals in the wild. In their natural habitat, female gray seals will typically leave their pups after roughly 3 weeks, when they are fully weaned, according to zoo keepers. [Related Gallery: Seals of the World]
Mock Mission to Mars
In February, a team of scientists participated in a simulated Mars mission in the Utah desert. The two-week expedition was designed to test equipment and procedures for future missions to the Red Planet.
In this photo, Lucie Poulet, a scientists at the German Aerospace Center, surveys the land around the Mars Desert Research Station, which is located northwest of Hanksville, Utah. [Related: 7 Most Mars-like Places on Earth]