You can’t make this stuff up! In addition to California’s usual terrifying hazards — earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires and Real Housewives — we can add fireballs!
No, not some runaway CGI from a Michael Bay giant-robot crapfest, this was a genuine fireball falling out of the sky. As in, a giant rock from outer space that ignited due to ram pressure with our atmosphere. (It’s not friction that heats a meteor and makes it glow; the real culprit is the pressure exerted by atmospheric gases piling up in front of it and creating drag!)
It all happened this past Sunday, when a hunk of stone streaked through the clear blue sky over Nevada and California before exploding over Central Valley with a force equivalent to a five-kiloton bomb! Luckily for those of us who don’t live in the Golden State, the so-called fireball was captured in a NASA photograph. (Click it for a bigger view)
If you’re wondering why it was called a fireball instead of just a plain old meteor, the International Astronomical Union defines a fireball as “a meteor brighter than any of the planets.” Since this one was clearly visible in daylight, it was a hell of a lot brighter than any planet. Astronomers also toss around the word bolide to describe an especially bright fireball or one that generates audible sounds. Or one that explodes!
This is one of the most amazing natural wonders I’ve seen in a long time: a tornado on the surface of the sun! Made up of dark plasma whipped by magnetic fields to gusts up to 300,000 mph, with temperatures of about 15,000 Fahrenheit, the tornado is believed to be as big as the Earth. The entire length of the ribbon-like structures could dozens of Earths long. Talk about stormy weather!
NASA released this video to celebrate the second anniversary of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which was launched on Feb. 11, 2010. This SDO video is made up of image captured every four minutes for 30 hours, starting on Feb. 7. SDO is laden with several cameras capable of capturing all manner of solar activities occurring at different wavelengths and frequencies.
Here we have perhaps my favorite favorite photograph — more than the cyclops shark and more than the frozen bubbles — an actual living cat glowing with bioluminescence. Yep, this cat glows with internal light.
Now, before you go turning off your room lights, this kitteh is special. Scientists splices his genes with the cells that make a certain jellyfish glow naturally. The result is an unearthly greenish aura around this cat — who, I stress, was not harmed by the process.
My little green buddy looks ready to join the Green Lantern Corps!
With the year rapidly coming to a close, I wanted to do some fun posts to wrap up 2011, so I thought I’d take a look at the year’s best photographs — according to me. These are the pics I liked the most or that affected me in some way that made them memorable. There’s no particular ranking to the photos, and I don’t particularly care what official photographic organizations think of them.
First up is a photo that freaked me out when I first saw it back in June: The cyclopean albino shark fetus. The mysterious, milky mutant instantly went viral. However, this looked SO fake that I couldn’t believe the photo was getting wide distribution; there was no way it could be real, right? A shark’s eyes are located on the sides of its head, so even if it had only one, it wouldn’t be in the middle of its nose on the front of its head, right? The pale thing even resembled a ghost more than a real shark.