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It's difficult for the unaided eye to appreciate the striking, varied geography of the moon, which has peaks higher than Mount Everest and craters nearly as deep as the Marianas Trench. This topographical map, published by NASA in February, conveys that geography in glorious fashion.
A spider attacks a wasp: A minute, everyday event, something that's happened billions upon billions of times in these antagonists' evolutionary history, each incident lost to time. But not this meeting, entombed by tree resin 100 million years ago in what's now Myanmar. The resin turned to amber, a time capsule both beautiful and informative.
Superstorm. Megastorm. Frankenstorm. Some 1,100 miles across, Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane ever.
These Pollia condensata berries are so colorful that they might have been picked minutes ago. In fact, they were gathered in 1974. Like beetles and butterflies, their color comes not from pigments but from the refractive geometries of their surface coverings, which don't degrade over time. (Some beetle colors even shine true after nearly 50 million years.) Researchers say that P. condensata's blue is the most intense color in the natural world.
The microscopic world is a cornucopia of beautiful images; most any finalist in Nikon's Small World contest or the Olympus Bioscapes Digital Imaging Competition deserves inclusion on this year-end image list. But if just one is to be picked, let it be this single-celled algae photographed by Marek Mis, conveying in its light and color the essences of life itself.
The Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Odontodactylus scyllarus, has one of the most complex vision systems in the marine world. Obviously.
A neuron treated with a beta-amyloyd peptide shows here a beta-amyloyd plaque -- thought to be the fundamental cause of Alzheimer's disease.
What did the first galaxies look like? To help answer this question, the Hubble Space Telescope has just finished taking the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), the deepest image of the universe ever taken in visible light. Pictured above, the XDF shows a sampling of some of the oldest galaxies ever seen, galaxies that formed just after the dark ages, 13 billion years ago, when the universe was only a few percent of its present age. The Hubble Space Telescope's ACS camera and the infrared channel of the WFPC3 camera took the image. Combining efforts spread over 10 years, the XDF is more sensitive, in some colors, than the original Hubble Deep Field (HDF), the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) completed in 2004, and the HUDF Infrared completed in 2009. Astronomers the world over will likely study the XDF for years to come to better understand how stars and galaxies formed in the early universe.