100 Best Science Photos of 2018
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Slurpee wavesThe cold that gripped the U.S. East Coast this past winter created a gorgeous phenomenon along the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts — slurpee waves. As if frozen mid-break, these waves were surfable, according to photographer and surfer Jonathan Nimerfroh, who captured the surreal photos.
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Bomb cycloneA rotating winter storm that churned its way across the U.S. East Coast in January made for some stunning satellite images, like this one captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-East satellite. The storm was also an opportunity to learn about a phenomenon described by some pretty cool words — bomb cyclone and .... wait for it, bombogenesis. A bomb cyclone occurs when the atmospheric pressure inside a weather system drops rapidly, causing that system or storm to rapidly increase in strength; the result can be hurricane-level winds and heavy snow over a broad area. And the process that creates the wicked storms is called bombogenesis.
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Creepy viper fishHello, nightmares! Scientists pulled up this rare shark — known as the viper dogfish (Trigonognathus kabeyai) — during a routine fish survey off the Taiwanese coast in January. The ink-black sharks have gnarly needle-like teeth; creepy, glass-like eyes; a glowing belly and a potentially extendable jaw. The species wasn't discovered until 1986, and even today, so little is known about these alien-like creatures that scientists are unsure whether they're endangered or just incredibly hard to find.
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Birds of paradiseBlack doesn't get much blacker than the plumage of male birds of paradise, and this year, a new study revealed how these birds pull it off. It turns out that the jet-black feathers of these rainforest birds are differently shaped, on a microscopic level, compared with regular black feathers. That unique nanostructure of the feathers makes them particularly prone to scattering and reabsorbing light, and that in turn makes them not only black, but so black that they appear suck light away.
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Pelican spider assassinsAs Live Science reported in January, this spider is likely the weirdest assassin you'll ever see. And assassin it is: Rather than spinning webs, at night, this spider stalks the silk left behind by other spiders, slowing scuttling (often upside down) on its back six legs while its two front legs sweep through the air feeling for prey. Once it arrives at another spider’s web, this assassin can wait for hours for the perfect moment to strike and use its beak-like pincers called chelicerae to impale the unwitting spider. When not in assassin mode, the spider tucks its pincers against the long, neck-like appendage that connects the arachnid's head to its body — pelican style.
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Spiral bee hiveThe Australian stingless bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) in this image, captured by entomologist Tim Heard and posted to Reddit in January, worked together to build this spiral nest that looks delectable enough to eat (or maybe not). The spiral-shaped towers are called brood combs, and they link together hundreds of egg chambers, forming a staircase of developing young. "A fully developed nest consists of 10-20 layers. Each layer is one circle of a continuous spiral," Heard, of The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, told Live Science.
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Mohawk fishIn January, divers discovered a new population of rare, Mohawk-wearing fish that appear to “walk” on the seafloor. The fish, called red handfish Thymichthys politus), are extremely endangered. Previously, scientists only knew of one population of between 20 to 40 of the punkish-looking swimmers, which live off the southeastern coast of the island of Tasmania. The new population lives nearby, but researchers stayed mum on the exact location, in order to protect the fish. The discovery essentially doubles the number of red handfish scientists think are left on the planet.
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WWII motorcylce cemetaryAn undersea "graveyard" of British World War I motorcycles is both haunting and beautiful. The image earned photographer Tobias Friedrich the top prize this year in the Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY). In the image, derelict Norton 16H motorbikes recline in the foreground on the deck of a British munitions ship that German bombers sank in the Red Sea on Oct. 6, 1941. The seemingly perfectly-aligned cycles, which were part of the ship's lost cargo, had long captivated Friedrich, who painstakingly figured out how to capture the entire deck in one image.
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Baby antelopeIn May of 2015, in a matter of three weeks, 200,000 endangered saiga antelope dropped dead. That was 62 percent of the world's saiga population that had just keeled over. It wasn't until this year that scientists pinpointed the culprit: A bacterium that usually lives (without causing any problems) in the antelopes' guts, but warm, moist weather triggered its overgrowth. That's how Pasteurella multocida found its way into the antelopes' bloodstream and killed them. Shown here, a totally adorable newborn antelope resting in a scientist's arms.
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Nervous systemEver wonder what you'd look like as just a nervous system? Wonder no more: Back in 1925, two medical students in Kirksville, Missouri -- M.A. Schalck and L.P. Ramsdell -- took on the challenge of dissecting the body's nervous system in one piece. Their work is still on display at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University in Missouri, and a photo of it went viral on Reddit this year.
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Super blue blood moonA Super Blue Blood Moon lunar eclipse graced the heavens and dazzled Earth-bound humans during the early morning hours of Jan. 31, an event that hadn't happened in 152 years. Here's what that mouthful of a night-sky event means: A supermoon, which is a full moon at a time when the orb is near perigee, or at its closest point in its orbit to Earth, occurred at the same time that the moon passed through the Earth's shadow (a lunar eclipse). This was also the second full moon in January, meaning it's called a blue moon. Rather than appearing a blue hue, though, the moon shone a reddish color due to how the sun's reflected light gets filtered by our atmosphere.
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Sea stack on RedditStanding starkly amidst of a sea of waves is Dún Briste, a sea stack found off the western coast of Ireland. A photo of the jagged rock tower rose to viral-status on Reddit earlier this year, with a caption claiming the sea stack took "millions" of years to form. That's more than a wee bit off, though: Maria McNamara, a paleobiologist at the University College Cork, in Ireland, told Live Science that, "rather, [it likely formed in] tens to hundreds of thousands of years." That doesn't make it any less impressive, however. The rock formed during the Carboniferous, a 60-million-year-long period lasting from about 359 million to 299 million years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
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Gorgeous toenail fungusCan athlete’s foot be pretty? It depends on the angle: When researchers stuck the fungi responsible for the itchy infection under the microscope, the results were rather beautiful. The researchers weren’t in it only for the photos, however: In their study, they found that the species that causes toenail fungus doesn’t reproduce sexually. Instead, they clone themselves.
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Penguin supercolonySquee! Lots and lots of penguins were discovered nesting on Antarctica's Danger islands, scientists reported this year. They estimate, based partially on poop stains (yes, poop) seen in aerial snapshots, that about 1.5 million Adélie penguins are living and breeding on the islands. The supercolony had gone unnoticed for nearly 3,000 years, researchers said.
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Glacier blanketsOne could only hope to look so glorious beneath a cozy blanket. But these aren't just any blankets that were draped over Rhône Glacier in the Swiss Alps this year: The white cloths are meant to reflect the sun's light before it could wreak its warming havoc on the glacial ice. As is the case for many glaciers, as the globe warms, this one has retreated, by a lot — as much as 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) since 1856. Though the luxurious covering may slow this decline, it can't stop it completely, glaciologists said.
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Photo coincidenceNotice anything interesting about these two photos? They look to be the exact same photo with different lighting or processing, perhaps. And while either image would justify a "wow," it turns out both images are jaw-dropping for more than their visual aesthetics: They were taken by two different photographers, Ron Risman and Eric Gendron, unknowingly standing 100 feet from each other with their cameras aimed at the same spot at the exact same instant. As Live Science's Rafi Letzter reported this year, this photo coincidence is mind-blowing: "Shoot a moving scene in burst mode, and you'll see that photos taken just a fraction of a second apart look wildly different from one another."
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Weirdest animal feetAnimal feet caught our eye here at Live Science this year for their amazing beauty (and downright oddness) as well as their many uses as digging tools, grasping suckers or killing machines. Shown here, a platypus foot. As if the body of the duck-billed mammal weren't weird enough, with its flattened, beaver-like tail and bill that could have been borrowed from a mallard. Their feet are super weird too: Not only are their puppies webbed but males sport pointy spurs loaded with venom, possibly used during combat with rival males.
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Dreamy minke whaleIn what looks like a stereotypical hallucination of a whale floating beneath puffy clouds, rare footage released in March reveals a very real minke whale swimming with sinuous grace beneath a blanket of floating ice chunks. This might be the first underwater video of a minke whale in sea ice in the Ross Sea, said Regina Eisert, a marine mammal expert at the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, who captured the footage while trying out a prototype of an underwater camera
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Supersize whaleThis image of a diver swimming beneath a sperm whale captures scale like no other: Humans are but tiny "gnats" compared with the sperm whale, which can reach 40 feet (12 meters) long and weigh up to a whopping 130,000 pounds (59,000 kilograms). This year, scientists figured out why these marine beasts haven't gotten any bigger, say, supersize sperm whales. It turns out, it would be just about impossible for an ocean-bound creature to eat enough food to support a body larger than today's whales.
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Spiny lumpsuckerIf there ever lived a demon fish, here's what it would look like. But, alas, this fish is no demon. Leo Smith, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at The University of Kansas, captured the eerie image showing the armor-studded skeleton of a Pacific spiny lumpsucker (Eumicrotremus orbis), its empty eye sockets seemingly fixed upon you as its entire body glows red under fluorescent light. Turns out, when this fish is alive, it's totally adorable, with the appearance of a bug-eyed golf ball, Live Science reported.
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Lava dome fountainNo, it's not a massive, irritated zit on the surface of the ocean; this bizarre, fiery blob is a "lava-dome fountain." Normally, volcanoes erupt lava in powerful jets that look like fountains gone wild. But in this photo — captured Oct. 11, 1969, in Hawaii — the lava spurted out symmetrically, forming an aesthetically pleasing lava-dome fountain. The amazing photo resurfaced this March, when the U.S. Geological Survey tweeted out the photo with the hashtag TBT, for Throwback Thursday.
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Snow monkey spaYou can almost hear this Japanese macaque, or snow monkey, saying "aaah" as it melts into the man-made hot spring during a chilly winter day. This year, scientists learned why they like to bathe in these springs: They're cold. More specifically, lower the monkeys' levels of biological stress. "This indicates that, as in humans, the hot spring has a stress-reducing effect in snow monkeys," study lead author Rafaela Takeshita, of Kyoto University in Japan, said in a statement.
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New brain cellsYour brain keeps making new nerve cells, even as you get older. And they're beautiful. The study, published in April, suggests that aging brains produce just as many new brain cells as young brains do, something that surprised scientists who looked at brains from corpses of individuals who died between ages 14 and 79. They sliced up each brain's hippocampus and counted the newly formed brain cells to come to their conclusion. However, there were differences between old and young brains: The older brains appeared to be making fewer new blood cells and they weren't forming new connections between brain cells as quickly. Shown here, developing nerve cells, with the nuclei shown in yellow.
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Whale's rainbow sneezeWould the world be a better place if we could all just sneeze rainbows? Well, maybe not, but this humpback whale image suggests goodness is hiding all over the planet. Fortunately, wildlife photographer Domenic Biagini was in the right place at the right time to capture footage of what looks to be a rainbow spraying from the whale's blowhole; Biagini then shared the image on Reddit in April. Being an oxygen-breathing mammal, a whale exhales a mixture of warm air, some water vapor and plenty of whale snot. In this whale's case, the water vapor caught the sunlight just perfectly — in the same way raindrops do when they refract light into its constituent colors, creating rainbows.
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Jupiter's hellish stormsWhile Jupiter is infamous for its bigger-than-Earth storm that has raged near the planet's equator for centuries — and is so hellish it's called the Great Red Spot — another glowing, swirling system at the north pole mesmerized Earthlings this year. In April, NASA released a video showing a 3D flyover of the gas giant's north pole in infrared light. The views relied on data from NASA's Juno mission, revealing the turbulent 2,500-mile-wide (4,000 kilometers) cyclone at its top. That's not all, as the monster is ringed by eight other cyclones, each with diameters ranging from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,700 km). The flyover is worth the 1 minute-plus it takes to watch.
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Sun hole auroraDramatic auroras were the first sign on the night of April 10 that a stream of charged particles that had escaped from a hole in the sun's atmosphere had made its way through Earth's upper atmosphere. The glorious Northern lights appearing at latitudes as low as Williston, North Dakota. Here, the coronal hole on the sun seen in an image captured on April 10, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
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Exploding antsWhen gross is … stunningly cool-looking. Treetop-dwelling ants from Southeast Asia take down their foes by blowing themselves up, rupturing their cell walls and spattering toxic body fluids all over prey. And this year, scientists found such "exploding ants" (which sacrifice their own lives with the goo-spattering weapon) encompass not one, but 15, separate species, including one previously unknown species in Borneo, which they described in a new study released in April.
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Green-haired turtleYou can't help but think this Mary River turtle should have a guitar in its claws. As Live Science's Brandon Specktor described the punk rocker reptile in April: "With whisker-like growths forking out of its chin and shocks of algae bursting off of its head like a punky green mohawk, the freshwater swimmer looks as much like an aging rocker as it does an endangered species." The looker drew headlines in the spring when it took spot 29 on the Zoological Society of London's list of the world's 100 most endangered reptiles.
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Yellowstone magma pitThis year, scientists announced they were closer than ever to understanding how Yellowstone became the powerhouse of supervolcanoes. Using a computer model, the team found that 7 million years of underground unrest led up to the creation of the dual magma chambers that animate the Yellowstone caldera in modern times. Shown here, the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is one of the many signs of this hidden supervolcano.
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Switchblade fishIs ugly the new cute? Probably not, but we chose this image as one of our top science photos of the year because, this fish is, well, a badass. This venomous, armored stonefish has not one but two "switchblades" embedded in its skull. And scientists only just discovered these onboard assassin weapons this year. Moral of this story: Don't invite the armored stonefish to your next holiday party.
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Octopus momsThese dinner plate-size octopuses, which sport relatively enormous eyes, were spotted in droves this year clinging to hardened lava from an undersea volcano. Scientists were amazed when they came upon hundreds of the octopuses in footage captured by a submersible on the Dorado Outcrop, located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) west of Costa Rica. Not only was this quite a crowd of cephalopods, but many of them were mothers protecting clusters of eggs.
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Daredevil raccoonIf we only knew what this little raccoon was thinking after it climbed 23 stories up a vertical concrete wall in St. Paul, Minnesota, in June: The masked adventurer looks to be thinking, "What … have I gotten myself into?" The daredevil captivated the internet as it made the treacherous climb, stopping to rest on various window ledges and ultimately reaching the building's roof at around 3 a.m. local time the following day. In total, the raccoon had spent nearly 20 hours scaling the concrete building.
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Honey badgerIn other daredevil news from the year, a fearless honey badger took on a South African oryx, an antelope about 10 times its size, in Etosha National Park in South Africa. Fortunately for us, Dick Theron was visiting the park at just the right time, and he captured some stunning and sadly hilarious images of the "David and Goliath" battle — including this one of the wee honey badger getting a mighty head-butt from its opponent. "It kept on charging at the oryx, then the oryx would hook the badger between its horns and toss him five or six meters (16 to 19 feet) into the air," Theron said, as reported by the Daily Mail in July. The honey badger "just got up, shook itself and then charged at the oryx again!"
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Giant icebergIn July, residents of a small town in Greenland got a big visitor in the form of a massive iceberg, which parked itself just off the shores of the village. The iceberg, photographed on July 13 next to the village of Innaarsuit, measured a staggering 656 feet (200 meters) wide and rose about 328 feet (100 m) above sea level, according to satellite data, and was thought to weigh more than 12 million tons (11 million metric tons), according to The New York Times. Thirty-three of the village's 169 residents had to be evacuated because, if the iceberg had disintegrated, massive chunks of ice falling into the bay could've sent powerful waves washing into the town.
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Drinking turtle tearsTalk about basking in someone else's sadness … these colorful butterflies in the Peruvian Amazon lap up the tears of turtles there. But of course there's no weird psychological analysis needed. Instead, the butterflies are after the sodium in the turtle tears. The tropical entomologist who caught the tear-sippers in action, Phil Torres, called the phenomenon "one of the most bizarre, strange, beautiful, fascinating things I have ever seen in my entire life," in a video he posted to his YouTube channel in July.
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Penguin leapScientists revealed a depressing statistic this year: Just 13.2 percent of the world's oceans (which cover 70 percent of the planet's surface) remain truly wild. That's about 20.8 million square miles (54 million square kilometers) that are unadulterated by human activity. And most of these wilderness patches are in the Arctic, Antarctic or around remote, Pacific Island nations, the researchers said. So, at least for now, this penguin may have a spot to bask free of human mucking.
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Lunar eclipseThis year saw the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century. On June 27, our planet moved between the moon and sun. In part, because the moon passed straight through the center of Earth's shadow, it was a long show, taking nearly 4 hours from the moment Earth's shadow darkened the leading edge of the moon to the moment the moon's full shine returned. To capture the enormity of this astronomical phenomenon, amateur astronomer Tom Harradine arranged several different photos taken during the lunar eclipse, to reveal the full scale of the Earth's shadow in space.
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Ducklings!That’s a duckload of baby ducks! In June, nature photographer Brent Cizek snapped this shot of a mama duck followed by what looks like a small army of ducklings at Lake Bemidji in northeastern Minnesota. Cizek counted at least 50 ducklings in his original photo, but when he returned to the lake for later visits, he spotted as many as 76 tiny beaks to feed. The photographed dubbed the duck Mama Merganser, nodding to her species, the common merganser (Mergus merganser). (The ducklings are also common mergansers.) Experts say that it’s unlikely all the ducklings are Mama’s offspring, and more likely, she’s helping out other duck moms on the lake.
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Algae bloom swirlsIf Dr. Seuss splashed around in an ocean, this is what it might look like: a sea of tuhttps://www.livescience.com/63205-algae-bloom-swirls.htmlrquoise swirls decorating its surface. NASA's Operational Land Imager on the Landsat-8 satellite spied a particularly intense algal bloom in the Baltic Sea in July. As for what created the sea art, scientists suspect a mix of blue-green algae (also called cyanobacteria) and a chlorophyll-rich phytoplankton called diatoms. The chlorophyll pigment from both is what creates the gorgeous aqua color. As for the swirl, the bloom appears to traces the edges of a vortex created by an ocean eddy, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.
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Mendocino wildfireThe Mendocino Complex wildfire tore through northern California this past August, burning nearly 460,000 acres (about 186,000 hectares) of land and making it the state's largest fire in history. The fire was actually two separate fires — the Ranch Fire and the River Fire — that merged in August. Both fires had started burning in July. The Mendocino Complex Fire bumped down the previous record holder for largest fire, the Thomas Fire, which set its record only eight months earlier. In the photo above, a firefighter battles flames near Clearlake Oaks, California on Aug. 4.
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Steve auroraThis mysterious and majestic ribbon of purple light slashing across the Canadian sky has a fittingly mysterious and majestic name: STEVE. The shimmering band of light was given this name by skywatchers back in 2016. At the time, they thought Steve was just another part of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. However, scientists have since learned that Steve is something completely different — and something "completely unknown" to science. That's because Steve doesn't contain the telltale traces of charged particles blasting through the Earth's atmosphere that auroras do. So for now, we just have to call it STEVE: "Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement."
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Cute aye-ayeThis squirrel-size bundle of wiry fur, beady eyes and freakishly scraggly claws, is, sort of, cute, right? She's distinct (and endangered), we'll give her that. The little aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), named Tonks43 of 100
Gator eats gatorA gator's gotta eat. And sometimes, that means eating another gator. Texas photographer Brad Streets spotted the cannibalism-in-action this summer at a state park. Experts told Live Science that alligator cannibalism isn't at all unusual. For a large gator, a small one might be the perfect snack.44 of 100
Alien wasp pupaeThis year, scientists found four tiny surprises hiding out inside fossilized fly pupae dating to the Paleogene period (about 65 million to 23 million years ago): four parasitic wasps. These wasps lay their eggs inside developing flies, using their host as an all-you-can-eat buffet. In most cases, the wasps consume the entire fly, before dying and becoming fossilized while still inside the fly's chrysalis shells.45 of 100
Starving orcaIn one of the sadder animal stories of the year, an endangered killer whale (Orcinus orca), named J50 or Scarlet (and shown here), captured our hearts as we rooted for her to survive starvation and subsequent illness. Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried several methods to save her, feeding her salmon and injecting the orca with antibiotics. Even so, toward the end of September, after not seeing J50 for weeks, officials declared the little one dead.46 of 100
Hurricane Florence eyeThis beautifully still and quiet storm eye belies the havoc Hurricane Florence wreaked across the southeastern U.S. in September. And while the storm was still raging, packing Category-1 wind speeds, scientists calculated how much climate change nudged this storm into the monster it became. Because of climate change, they found, Hurricane Florence would grow about 50 miles (80 kilometers) larger and dump 50 percent more rain over a period from Sept. 11 to Sept. 16 than it would have in a world before climate change.47 of 100
Alien jellyfishA family on New Zealand's North Island came upon what appeared to be a creature disguising itself as a Jell-O mold. But, alas, this blob with its gelatinous grape-colored center, was not for eating. Rather, the family had spotted an enormous lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). The lion's mane is the largest jellyfish species, with a bell that can grow up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) across and a thick mop of hair-like tentacles that reach nearly 120 feet (36.6 meters) long, according to the nonprofit Oceana.48 of 100
Pufferfish artThis fish may be the greatest and hardest-working fish on Earth (you gotta watch the video): When it's time to find a mate, male Japanese pufferfish in the Torquigener genus spend seven days, 24 hours each day, sculpting a complex but ultimately fleeting work of art into the sandy seafloor. And they do it al by wiggling their fins to create intricate ridges and valleys. In the end, if the male is chosen by the female, she will lay her eggs at the center of this sandy design.49 of 100
Thor's wellDallas resident Brad DeWald posted an image on Reddit showing a seemingly impossible phenomenon: an ocean draining straight into the underworld. Of course, this is somewhat of an illusion, albeit a totally gorgeous one. Called Thor's Well, at this spot off the coast of Oregon, there’s a 20-foot-deep (6 meters) chasm where, just before and after high tide, frothy waves shoot out of the hole and then drain back down. For most of the time, the "well" is either empty or completely covered by water.50 of 100
Nikon small worldIf only birth were so graceful and smooth for humans as it appears to be for this water flea. Photographer Wim van Egmond captured a glorious video of a wee see-through daphnia, also called a water flea, as the mom-to-be expels a wriggling, googly-eyed larva into the surrounding water. And just seconds later, the newborn darts away. This footage earned Van Egmond a top spot in the annual 2018 Nikon Small World in Motion contest.51 of 100
Moth drinks bird tearsSomewhere in the Brazilian Amazon, this moth is literally drinking the tears out of a bird's eye in the dead of night. Pretty metal, right? In fact, tear drinking is common enough in biology that it has a name: lachryphagy. For the tear-hungry insects, it's a common way for them to supplement their diets with sodium and even some protein, according to researchers. However, drinking the tears of birds is rarer than, say, sipping on crocodile or turtle tears, according to Leandro João Carneiro de Lima Moraes, a biologist at the National Institute of Amazonia Research in Brazil who filmed the moth-on-bird action while doing fieldwork in the central Amazon. The reason is pretty simple: birds are too fast, so it's best to approach them at night, when they're in a more torpid state.52 of 100
Sneezing deerAh-choo! Hobbyist nature photographer Oban van Shie caught quite a sight while strolling strolling through Bradgate park in Leicestershire, England in September: a snow-white buck resting in the tall, green grass. He started snapping picture after picture of the buck from afar. When he got home, he realized he'd captured a treasure: an image of this glorious deer — eyes clenched, mouth cracked, tongue lolling — mid-sneeze.53 of 100
Blue buttonsWith tentacles that look more like a finely beaded necklace for royalty than stingers, jellyfish-like creatures called blue buttons (Porpita porpita), surprised residents when they began washing ashore on New Jersey beaches in the fall. Turns out, Hurricane Florence carried the tropical animals out of the Gulf Stream, pushing and them northward up the East Coast.54 of 100
Quintuple rainbowWhile shooting a sunset in New Jersey this fall, photographer John Entwistle was greeted by a sky painted with what looked like a set of five rainbows. Supernumerary rainbows like this one consist of a primary rainbow (the brightest of the bunch) along with at least two other rainbows that are generally less vivid. In Entwistle's case, five supernumerary rainbows were visible.55 of 100
NIkon small worldPhotographer Yousef Al Habshi of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates snagged first prize in the annual Nikon Small World microphotography challenge, in which photographers captured amazing shots of objects too small to be seen without a microscope. In Habshi's case, he captured the pitch-black compound eye of an Asian red palm weevil (Metapocyrtus subquadrulifer), ringed by tiny yellow hairs and a valley of emerald-green scales that seem to glow.56 of 100
Freakishly square icebergLook at this amazingly rectangular iceberg. An object of near geometric perfection jutting into a polar sea of the usual squiggly, chaotic randomness of the natural world. NASA tweeted an image of the incredible iceberg on Oct. 17, and it left Live Science wondering: How the heck did this even happen? It turns out that the iceberg formed by a process that's fairly common along the edges of icebergs. The rectangular sheet of ice is what's known as a "tabular iceberg," a wide, flat sheetcake-like block of ice that splits from the edge of an ice shelf.57 of 100
Baby octopusIf this tiny baby octopus doesn't make you squee, what will? This pea-size cephalopod was spotted hitching a ride on a piece of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean in August, according to researchers at Hawaii's Kaloko-Honokokau National Historical Park, who posted photos on Facebook. The babies (there were two) were likely either day octopuses (Octopus cyanae) or night octopuses (Callistoctopus ornatus), Sallie Beavers, a marine ecologist with the park, told the Associated Press. Either way, they won't be small for long: Day octopuses can grow to have an armspan measuring 3 feet, and night octopuses can have an armspan measuring up to 7 feet.58 of 100
Headless chicken monsterEarlier this year, researchers spotted what, to some, appeared to be a headless chicken monster floating through the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. Of course, it's neither chicken nor monster, but instead a colorful swimming sea cucumber (Enypniastes eximia). Scientists spotted the swimmer using new camera technology that could plumb the depths of the ocean floor; previously, E. eximia had only been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico. While most sea cucumbers are spend the majority of their time on the sea bed, the swimming sea cucumber only lands to feed.59 of 100
Glacial flourGesundheit? No, these NASA satellite images don't show a Greenland glacier sneezing. Instead, they capture a what's known as "glacial flour," a fine dust created when glaciers pulverize rocks. NASA spotted this glacial flour dust storm drifting over Greenland in September.60 of 100
Roach kicksHi-ya! If only this cockroach had vocal cords, that might be the sound it makes when a would-be zombie-maker (a wasp) tries to sting it in the brain. Until this year, scientists thought that cockroaches were all but defenseless against emerald jewel wasps, which turn cockroaches into mind-controlled zombies. Not so fast: They discovered this year these cockroaches lash out with a karate-like kick, something that doesn't kill their attackers but tends to send them looking for easier victims.61 of 100
Deadliest catThe deadliest cat on Earth is also the most adorable. And no, it's not a lion, a tiger or a leopard, but instead a wee feline you've probably never heard of: the black-footed cat. Native to the grasslands of southern Africa, the black-footed cat has an endearingly round face and a light brown, black-spotted body that is small even compared to domestic cats, according to the PBS Nature miniseries "Super Cats," which aired this year. In one night, the adorable killers snag between 10 and 14 rodents or small birds, averaging a kill about every 50 minutes, experts told Live Science. With a 60 percent success rate, black-footed cats are about three times as successful as lions, which average a successful kill about 20 to 25 percent of the time.62 of 100
Animal x-raysFluffy on the outside, creepy on the inside? An X-ray of this bufflehead duck shows the edgier side of this normally endearingly pudgy-looking bird. The skeletal image was one of many animal X-rays posted on Twitter by the Oregon Zoo — as a Halloween treat. "To get these extraordinary images, the veterinary staff turned to digital radiography, a type of X-ray imaging that uses digital image-capture technology instead of printing images to film," Live Science reported on Oct. 31.63 of 100
Orange airglowAn astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this mesmerizing shot of the the blue planet transformed to a vivid shade of orange. The luminescent orange “airglow,” which makes Earth look like a giant orange lollipop, forms as a result of chemical reactions that occur high in the planet's atmosphere. Airglow is usually only visible at night, as it's 1 billion times less intense than sunlight. This particular shot was captured 250 miles above Australia on Oct. 7.64 of 100
Antarctic glacierBeneath Antarctica's icy veneer lies a graveyard of lost continents. These ancient cores of continents, called cratons, reveal that the coldest continent was once a part of a much larger supercontinent known as Gondwana, according to a study published Nov. 5 in the journal Scientific Reports. Gondwana broke up 180 million years ago, but the telltale signs of this ancient past are revealed in height differences between East Antarctica and West Antarctica. The Eastern portion of the continent has thicker crust than the western portion — because it is a mix of old cratons, Live Science previously reported. Above, the jagged, forbidding glaciers of Antarctica glow an eerie blue.65 of 100
Silly animalsWhat do manspreading squirrels, hugging komodo dragons and hyenas with wings have in common? They are all among the finalist photographs captured for the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. The awards aim to celebrate the sillier side of the animal kingdom. Amongst the favorites: Other finalists include a bear nosediving into the snow, a shocked lemur and a deer with a truly dopey expression.66 of 100
Feather boaIn October, divers near northern New Zealand spotted this floating "feather boa" undulating through the sea. The gorgeous ribbon of silver is called a pyrosome and isn't a single creature, but rather, a colony of tiny animals called tunicates. Tunicates, which can either be free-floating or anchored to the seafloor, feed on plankton. Pyrosomes can be made up of different species of the tiny animals, but the large ones are often formed by the species Pyrosoma spinosum, which are bioluminescent. Colonies can grow up to 60 feet (18 meters) in length and be wide enough for humans to swim through.67 of 100
Bizarre microbeScientists recently detected two previously unknown species of microbes so unusual that the researchers had to reorganize the tree of life to make room for them. The bizarre microbes, found in a Canadian dirt sample, belong to a group with the tongue-twisting name hemimastigote. They were previously classified as a phylum within a much larger super-kingdom, however, new genetic analysis of the microbes reveals that the microbes are so distinct, they warrant a super-kingdom of their own. Under the 3D magnification of scanning electron microscopy, the creatures somewhat resemble hairy pumpkin seeds.68 of 100
Antarctic islandThe remote Deception Island, off Antarctica, may look calm and quiet, but its cold, silent exterior hides an explosive past. About 4,500 years ago, the entire island, which is an active volcano, exploded. The violent eruption of rock and magma reshaped the island and left it with its distinctive horseshoe shape, researchers reported Nov. 22 in the journal Scientific Reports. The explosive island sent as much as 14 square miles of rock skyward, making it the largest volcanic explosion in Antarctica in the last 11,650 years, Live Science previously reported. Here, an image into the island's caldera, as seen from above.69 of 100
Lung-shaped blood clotA blood clot briefly took over the internet this December, when doctors snapped an image of an anatomically precise one. The clot, which formed in a man's bronchial tree, or branched airways of the lungs, shocked doctors when the man coughed it up, perfectly intact. The doctors think the clot formed because of medications the man was taking for heart failure. Sadly, the man died one week later.70 of 100
CRISPR on videoIt's 2018, so you're probably familiar with CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that allows scientists to "cut and paste" genetic code to their own specifications. (If you need a reminder, look no further than the allegedly gene-edited babies from China.) But though scientists knew the tool worked, they'd never directly seen it in action until this year, when a team of researchers in Japan captured a molecular movie of the tool chewing up some DNA.71 of 100
Mini placentaWhen you think of a placenta, you may not think of beauty. (More likely, a bloody mass comes to mind.) But when scientists grew mini placentas in lab dishes, the results were much more photo-friendly — and functional. The tiny organs (called organoids) were able to secrete hormones that could trick a pregnancy test.72 of 100
MRI beatboxingIn order to produce convincing drum beats and other percussive sounds when beatboxing, the vocal tract has to wriggle and snap itself into odd contortions. Doctors were able to watch these muscles in action when they asked several beatboxers to perform their craft while inside an MRI machine, with awe-inspiring results.73 of 100
Bubbles can spread baceriaBubbles may look pretty, but they can serve as effective launching pads for bacteria. In a November study, scientists found that bacteria can manipulate the physics of bubbles, making them last longer without popping. But by sticking around longer, the bubble's surface thins, so when they do pop, they create more droplets that are launched into the air at faster rate than clean bubbles. The photo above shows a clean bubble (top) and a bacteria-contaminated bubble (bottom).74 of 100
Animal eyesIt's not just that leaf-tailed geckos have bizarre-looking eyes. (Case-in-point: The marbled eyeballs often have a background color of gold, silver or tan covered with concentric striations around the pupils.) But what makes these peepers even weirder is how the reptiles clean their gem-like eyeballs: with a quick lick of the tongue.75 of 100
Lab-grown mini kidneysLab-grown mini organs are nothing new in 2018 (see lab-grown mini placentas), but these mini kidneys have a mind of their own — literally. Instead of simply developing into various kidney cells, these organoids sprouted their own brain and muscle cells, too. In the image above, kidney cells are shown in green, and brain cells, or neurons, are red.76 of 100
Giant nesting dinosaurHow did the giant dinosaur keep its eggs warm? By sitting on them, just like their modern-day relatives birds, of course. But the equation changes a bit when you consider that these dinos, known as oviraptorosaurs, weighed as much as rhinos. In other words, more than enough to crush an egg to smithereens. New research from May, however, revealed that the massive dinos laid their eggs in a doughnut-like circle, which allowed them to plop down without crushing the eggs.77 of 100
Pompeii man decapitatedThink you had a bad day? This Pompeii man has you beat: In May, archaeologists excavated the remains of a man who likely died when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Oh, and then a massive 1-meter-long rock fell on his head, decapitating him.78 of 100
Mummy juiceMaybe it was the July heat, but when Egyptologists finally cracked open the massive black sarcophagus, the internet was thirsty for a taste of what was inside: namely, what a lot of people started calling "mummy juice" or "bone juice." In truth, that dark red liquid bathing three skeletons was probably just sewage that seeped in over the years. And you definitely should not drink it.79 of 100
Pooping hipposHippos are ruining the pool party. On a stretch of the Mara River in southwestern Kenya, thousands of hippos converge daily to cool down in the shallow pools. They also poop in the water. Like, a lot. According to a study from 2018, the hippos expel an estimated 9.3 tons (8,500 kilograms) of excrement each day. And although some poop is good for the ecosystem (it provides vital nutrients for smaller creatures), too much poop leaves fish gasping for oxygen, the study found.80 of 100
Pooping tardigradeLive Science's favorite indestructible yet adorable creature, the tardigrade, can apparently add another superlative to its stellar resume: massive poos. Tessa Montague, a recent PhD graduate of Harvard's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, posted a video to Twitter this year of a tiny tardigrade expelling a bowel movement about a third the size of its own body, and then squirming away. Montague told Live Science that it doesn't appear that tardigrades poop often, but when they do, they do it up big.81 of 100
Roundworms bile ductIf the idea of a single 7-inch worm wriggling instead your body sounds horrifying, try 14 of them. That was the case for a woman in India, who had 14 roundworms squirming inside her bile duct. It's not clear how the woman got infected, but roundworm eggs can be found on contaminated fruits and vegetables, an expert told Live Science. Once doctors removed the worms, the woman felt much better.82 of 100
Symmetrical cloudThe phrase "mushroom cloud" rarely brings joy, but this impossibly symmetrical mushroom monstrosity is a pure, fluffy delight. This storm cloud (check out the also-symmetrical rain pouring out from under it) was snapped on an Alabama beach in 2016 by local Rick Geiss, but it went viral on Twitter this year.83 of 100
Sun explodesDon't be alarmed, but the sun is constantly exploding. Normally we can't see it, but earlier this year, researchers are NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory used computer models to capture snapshots of this unseen solar energy, with stunning results. The computer-enhanced ultraviolet photo shows a model of the sun's magnetic-field lines swirling out of the stars surface. Each white line represents a powerful electromagnetic eruption resulting from the high-energy interactions between the ultra-hot, supercharged particles that make up both the sun's magnetic field and the plasma writing around the star's surface.84 of 100
Tesla roadsterElon Musk's Tesla Roadster got a ride into space as the test cargo for the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch back in February. Usually, first launches involve adding on hunks of metal as extra lift weight. This time, the Roadster served as that hunk of metal, with added pizzazz. It also made for some pretty striking photos that were so crisp even Musk said they looked fake. Part of the reason for that is that light travels through the vacuum differently than it travels through air or water. In addition, Earth's atmosphere is filled with particles, such as soot, dust and water droplets, that aren't present space, and can alter how colors appear.85 of 100
Earth turtleThis turtle has the whole world on its shoulders. Or, more precisely, on its back. The amazing photo, taken by Washington College's Turtle Task Force, made the rounds on Twitter in November. The group spotted the turtle while researching turtle migration. She had just emerged from a muddy hole in the dirt by a dried-up lake. The turtle weighed about 13 pounds (6 kilograms), while the pack of dirt on her back weighed about 18 pounds (8 kg).86 of 100
Saturn hexagonThe Cassini-Huygens mission sent back this image in September of a giant, hexagonal vortex that formed around Saturn's north pole as it entered summer. Researchers aren't sure what caused the vortex, but think it could be a massive structure towering through the gas giant's atmosphere. The warm polar vortex resembles another previously discovered hexagon formation also located at the planet's north pole, but lower in the atmosphere.87 of 100
Iceberg pirouettesThe Delaware-size iceberg that calved off Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017 was on the move again this summer. The trillion-ton chunk of ice performed a graceful northerly pivot over the course of July and August, satellite imagery reveals. The iceberg will probably bump around in its current location near the ice shelf that calved it for at least a few months, periodically getting stuck on shallow seamounts on the ocean floor. Once it makes its way into warmer waters, it will break apart and melt.88 of 100
Deep biosphere wormsLife on Earth takes billions of shapes, but to see most of them you'll have to dig deep below the planet's surface. Take, for example, this deep-dwelling roundworm from the genus Poikiloaimus. It was discovered in the Kopanang gold mine in South Africa, nearly one mile beneath the Earth's surface. In a statement this year, the Deep Carbon Observatory, a group of scientists dedicated to studying life below the surface, dubbed the Earth's deep biosphere a "subterranean Galapagos." They estimate the mass of life in this deep, dark biosphere utterly dwarves the life roaming on the surface.89 of 100
Eel in seal noseIt's unclear who's having a worse day in this photo: The seal with an eel stuck in its nose, or the eel stuck in a seal's nose. Either way, eels getting stuck in seals' noses turns out to be a thing that happens, albeit rarely, and researchers aren't really sure why. Researchers in Hawaii snapped this photo of a young monk seal with an eel hanging out of its right nostril, and the internet went wild.90 of 100
Sun's north poleThis time of year may have you thinking of the North Pole, but if that winter imagery is too chilly for you, try this: A composite photo of the sun's north pole. The images, taken by the European Space Agency (ESA) and posted online in December, offer a glimpse of the sun that has never been seen directly. That's because satellites can only see the solar disc — the circular profile of the sun that we can see plainly from here on Earth. The composite photo was taken using time-lapse photography that captures the swirling, changing atmosphere that crowns the top of the sun.91 of 100
Frozen Siberian islandsChilling between the Arctic Ocean and Siberia's frigid northern seas are an extremely cold and remote cluster of rocks known as the New Siberian Islands. Seen from above, the islands look like a jigsaw puzzle of cracking ice. On Dec. 1, the NASA Earth Observatory posted a photo of the freezing, ice-ringed islands. The image shows the frozen seas surrounding the bleak, rocky cliffs.92 of 100
Pooping sea cucumberEverybody poops — and that includes sea cucumbers. Despite their name, these slimy sea creatures are animals, not vegetables, complete with a digestive system. And a video posted to the YouTube channel SouthernIslandDive captured that digestive system in action, or at least, the end of it. The video shows a dark hole on one end of the animal's body opening, and long spiral mass of sediment-packed poo shooting out.93 of 100
Giant tadpoleMeet Goliath, a massive tadpole bigger than a banana. Goliath is an American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) tadpole who was pulled out of a shallow pond in southeastern Arizona, according to herpetologist Earyn McGee, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona. McGee posted photos of Goliath to Twitter, noting that the researchers who spotted him initially thought he was a fish due to his unusual size. It's thought that his size is due to a hormone imbalance, and that, as a result, it's unlikely that he'll ever metamorphose into a frog.94 of 100
Mars InSightGreetings from the Red Planet! After a nearly 6-month-long journey, NASA's InSight lander touched down safely on the Martian surface — and promptly snapped a photo. The InSight is the first Mars lander to successfully touch down since the Curiously rover arrived on the planet in 2012. Over the next two years, the robot will probe Mars' interior structure.95 of 100
Digitally-preserved cadaverBefore she died, Susan Potter knew she would make history. Not only would hers be the first diseased cadaver (and one containing a titanium hip) to be frozen, sliced up and digitized for all to study, but she also came with a detailed backstory. Potter is the subject of a profile published in the upcoming January 2019 issue of National Geographic. When Potter first proposed donating her body to science, she thought she would die shortly after. However, she went on to live for 15 more years. After her death, her cadaver was sliced into 27,000 pieces and scanned into a database that medical studies can study to learn about the human body.96 of 100
Massive emeraldMiners unearthed a massive emerald in Zambia. The ginormous crystal clocked in at a stunning 5,655 carats and weighed 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms), putting it on par with a human brain. The stone was named "Inkalamu," which translates to "lion" in the local Zambia Bemba language. It's likely, however, that it won't stay in its massive form forever, but instead, be divided into many hundreds of individual stones.97 of 100
Star-shaped cataractA punch in the face left a man in India starry-eyed — literally. Doctors reported in a case report, published in November in the journal BMJ Case Reports, that the 36-year-old man developed a "rosette cataract" after being socked in the face. Cataracts are more common in older adults, and form when proteins in the lens of the eye clump together, blurring vision. However, physical trauma can also cause cataracts. Rosette, or star-shaped, cataracts are very rare. In the man's case, his cataract had five distinct "petals," though rosette cataracts with as many as 10 "petals" have been reported in the medical literature.98 of 100
Shark getting ultrasoundHuman babies may be able to kick in the womb, but shark babies, it turns out, can leave the womb. A new study published in December describes how tawny nurse shark (Nebrius ferrugineus) embryos can swim from one of mom's uteruses to the other (it should be mentioned that these sharks have two uteruses). Weirder still, the baby sharks can also poke their baby sharks heads out of momma shark's cervix, to take a peek at the great blue sea. In the photo above, a researcher performs an ultrasound on a pregnant shark.99 of 100
Aramaic incantationAbout 2,800 years ago, a mysterious man named Rahim son of Shadadan inscribed an incantation on the wall of a stone cosmetics container in what may have been a shrine in Turkey. Archaeologists discovered the enigmatic Aramaic incantation, the oldest ever found, in August 2017. The inscription writes of the "seizure of a threatening creature," and describes using the blood of the devourer to cure someone of a condition called the fire, Live Science previously reported. Though it's not clear what the “fire” was, it's likely that the blood of the devourer was either ingested or smeared on the body of the afflicted. The words are accompanied by drawings of strange animals, including a fish, a centipede and a scorpion.100 of 100
'Little Foot'One of the oldest human ancestors ever found was a little bit ape and a little bit human -- at least if its brain was any indication. The 3.67-million-year-old Australopithecus skeleton, dubbed "Little Foot," was found two decades ago in Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. Relatively little was known about the tiny, hair, human ancestors' brains until researchers examined Little Foot's skull using micro Computed Tomography (CT) scanning. The stunning digital images reveal that Little Foot's brain was a little different from that of later Australopithecus skulls. In fact, its brain was half-human, half-ape, Live Science previously reported.
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