Archive for October, 2013

See How Smoking Prematurely Ages the Skin (Images)

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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See How Smoking Prematurely Ages the Skin (Images)

By Anthony Rivas
Rab, Okt 30, 2013

There are so many harmful effects caused by smoking that it’s hard to decide where to start listing them. From health complications after surgery to brain damage, and even inflicting harm on our pets, the list can go on. Smoking is also believed to contribute to skin aging, and now a new study on twins shows that smoking can indeed cause premature wrinkling and other characteristics of accelerated aging.

Researchers scouted for twins at the annual Twin Days Festival, in Twinsburg, Ohio, to find pairs in which one twin smoked and the other didn’t, or both smoked, but with a five-year difference between initiation. They found 79 twins, of whom 57 were women, altogether with an average age of 48 years old. Close-up photos of each participants face were shown to a group of plastic surgeons, who had no knowledge of each participants’ smoking history. They were told to point out “specific components of facial aging” that were related to smoking, and 57 percent of the time, they were able to spot the smoking twin.

(Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery/American Society of Plastic Surgeons.)  The twin on the left is a non-smoker. The twin on the right smoked for 29 years, as seen by aging around the eyes.

(Above: The twin on the left is a non-smoker. The twin on the right smoked for 29 years, as seen by aging around the eyes.)

“Smoking makes you look old. That’s all there is to it,” Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, and who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters. Besides lung cancer, heart attacks, and strokes, just one more good reason to stop smoking is that it’s definitely making you look a lot older.”

The various indicators of aging that the surgeons found included: more sagging of the upper eyelids, baggier lower eyelids and bags under the eyes; more facial wrinkles, including lines between the nose and mouth, wrinkling of the upper and lower lips, and sagging chins. Signs of aging were most pronounced on the lower parts of the face, with those whose difference was more than five years showing even more signs, the researchers said.

(Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery/American Society of Plastic Surgeons.) Both twins smoked, however, the one on the right smoked for 14 years longer, as seen by more facial wrinkles.

(Above: Both twins smoked, however, the one on the right smoked for 14 years longer, as seen by more facial wrinkles.)

“It is noteworthy that even among sets of twins where both are smokers, a difference in five years or more of smoking duration can cause visibly identifiable changes in facial aging,” they wrote.

The results held true even when environmental factors, such as work stress, alcohol consumption, and sunscreen use were accounted for. They also said that they could not control for the effect of smoking on fat distribution. A U.K. study found that “smokers on average have a lower body mass index than non-smokers.”

Study author Dr. Bahman Guyuron suggested facial creams and plastic surgery for people who have already damaged their skin from smoking, but told Reuters that the goal of the study was to encourage people never to start in the first place. “We are hoping that by again emphasizing the harms that come from smoking, we can dissuade individuals from smoking … knowing how much it may damage their skin,” he said.

Smoking kills more than five million people each year around the world, and is responsible for nearly 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, according to the National Institutes of Health. It also increases the risk for cancer by up to 23 times for men and 13 times for women, according to the U.S. Cenetrs for Disease Control and Prevention, putting them at risk for cancer of the lips, oral cavity, esophagus, and many more.

What Is OCD?

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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What Is OCD?

By Elizabeth Palermo, LiveScience Contributor   |   October 30, 2013 01:36pm ET
Frequent, repetitive handwashing may be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
Credit: caimacanul / 

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental disorder characterized by recurrent, persistent thoughts (obsessions) and ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) that interfere with a person’s daily life and relationships, according to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition” (DSM-5).

People with OCD often realize their compulsive behavior is irrational, but they feel powerless to stop, since that only increases their level of anxiety.

The International OCD Foundation estimates that about 1 in 100 adults in the United States — and 1 in 200 children — has OCD. The condition often appears first during childhood or the teen years, and it tends to occur in men and women in roughly equal numbers. [Hypersex to Hoarding: 7 New Psychological Disorders]

Symptoms of OCD

OCD has many manifestations, but commonly, the obsessions of a person who has OCD are in some way linked to his or her compulsions. A child who obsesses about germs or contamination, for example, might compulsively wash his hands. Other common obsessions and compulsions include the constant need to “check” things, like that the front door is locked or the oven is turned off; an obsession with counting or arranging things in a particular order; or compulsive hoarding.

While OCD symptoms show up differently in each individual, those who have the disorder have at least one thing in common: Their obsessive-compulsive tendencies get in the way of everyday life. This is what separates OCD from the day-to-day anxiety and habits that are deemed “normal.”

A small amount of obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior is not necessarily a symptom of OCD; these are normal responses to real stress that serve a valuable purpose. The ability to foresee — and then worry about — possible dangers allowed early humans to take precautionary measures and survive difficult situations. But those with OCD may worry and compulsively perform “precautionary” behaviors even after they have determined that no danger exists.

Causes of OCD

Researchers have many theories about the causes of OCD in humans, ranging from childhood trauma to bacterial infection to genetics — the condition often runs in families. But scientists agree that OCD coincides with abnormalities in certain brain processes.

When exposed to threatening or frustrating situations, most people with OCD experience hyperactivity in the parts of the brain regulating external stimuli, including the amygdala — the part of the brain where danger is evaluated and processed — and the orbital frontal cortex, which performs cognitive processing and decision-making functions.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a chemical that relays messages within the brain) that may play a part in OCD. People with the condition who take medication that modifies serotonin levels have fewer symptoms of OCD (see Treatments, below).

Diagnosis of OCD

While not all perfectionist behaviors are symptomatic of OCD, the disorder can become so severe and time-consuming that it becomes dysfunctional, preventing a person from normal day-to-day activities.

Only a qualified physician or mental-health provider can make an accurate diagnosis of OCD. The condition is often present with other mental-health disorders, such as depression, eating disorders or other anxiety disorders.

Treatment for OCD

There are several methods of treating OCD; most involve some kind of medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating OCD by teaching the individual with the disorder to try a different approach to those situations that trigger their obsessive-compulsive behavior. One type of CBT, known as exposure and response prevention, can help people with OCD by teaching them healthy ways to respond when exposed to a feared object (dirt or dust, for example).

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are the medications most commonly prescribed for treating OCD. Anti-anxiety medication may also be prescribed.

Both types of medications may take several weeks to begin to work, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition to side effects such as headache, nausea and insomnia, antidepressants have been shown to cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors in some people. People taking antidepressants need to be monitored closely, especially when starting their treatment.

Follow Elizabeth Palermo on Twitter @techEpalermoFacebook orGoogle+Follow LiveScience @livescience. We’re also on Facebook &Google+.

Possibly one of the weirdest geological formations in the world

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Possibly one of the weirdest geological formations in the world


How did this happen? In Norway, there is a bizarre rock formation known as Kjeragbolten – Norway, which is a huge block of stone that has become lodged in a 984-meter-deep crevice over a gorgeous lake. It’s so sturdy that sheep like to stand on it — and so do humans.

Photo by Deeds

Possibly one of the weirdest geological formations in the world

Photo by 7ty9


According to Atlas Obscura:

The boulder itself is a 5-cubic-meter large block of stone suspended above 984-meter deep abyss. Despite its impressive appearance, it is easily accessible on foot without any special equipment. The whole of Kjerag mountain is a popular hiking area, and Kjeragbolten is a favorite photo spot.

Apparently, for some the thrill of standing on a boulder suspended between two cliffs isn’t quite enough, as Kjeragbolten has become a very popular spot for base jumpers to use when launching themselves into the air.


You can’t tell if someone is lying by reading their facial expressions

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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You can’t tell if someone is lying by reading their facial expressions


So you’ve watched every single episode of Lie to Me and read every article from here to Mars on how to spot a fake smile and gotten pretty damn fantastic at spotting these fleeting, involuntary facial movements called microexpressions. You’re pretty much ready to bet the farm that you could spot a liar just by reading the clues written all over his stupid little liar face. Except no. No you can’t.

Microexpressions, as defined by psychologist Paul Ekman (who coined the term “microexpression,” basically wrote the book on the little bastards, and has been studying their use in detecting deception for going on half a century, now), are:

…very brief facial expressions, lasting between 1/25th and 1/15th of a second. They occur when a person either deliberately or unsconsciously conceals an emotion being felt. Any one of the seven emotions found to have a universal signal may appear in a micro expression: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, contempt, surprise and happiness.

Microexpressions therefore fall under the umbrella of “body language” (“nonverbals,” if you’re one for parlance), and are distinguishable in that they refer explicitly to the face and specific situations in which they’re likely to appear, viz. a situation where the emotion being felt is being either intentionally or unintentionally suppressed.

The big upshot is that microexpressions have the potential to reveal hidden sentiments (NB: They were first detected by psychologists Ernest Haggard and Kenneth Isaacs when the two of them were reviewing footage of people undergoing couple’s therapy. Go ahead and mull that one over for a second), and so could serve some use to people (law enforcement, parents, poker players, a suspicious spouse) who stand to gain from knowing where someone really stands on an issue – or, more specifically, whether that someone is lying. The whole premise of the showLie to Me, starring Tim Roth as an uncannily capable human lie-detector, is based almost entirely on research surrounding microexpressions.

It of course bears mentioning that while Lie to Me is a fictional TV show, microexpressions are 100% real. They’re difficult to detect, and even more difficult to analyze, but they’re real. But we repeat: you probably can’t use them like Tim Roth.

There are several reasons for this, but arguably the most important one is that a microexpression, on its own, can really only tell you that a person is experiencing some emotion. Even if you can accurately determine which emotion it is – let’s say it’s fear – all you can really say from your assessment is that the person you’re talking to is experiencing fear. Let’s say you’re interrogating someone suspected of murder and you pick up on their fearful microexpression. Are they afraid that you’re close to figuring out they committed the crime, or afraid of being interrogated by some creep who is goggling at their face the way a dog might stare at a rack of ribs?

The point being that context – situational context, emotional context, the context of your relationship with the person you’re scrutinizing – is incredibly important when reading someone’s microexpressions. The importance of context applies to the analyses of other forms of body language, too, by the way. According to Joe Navarroa former FBI counterintelligence agent and an expert on nonverbal cues, a person’s feet tend to be more accurate in revealing sentiments and intentions than her face. And loads more important than someone’s face or feet, on their own, is the concurrent reading of her entire body, which Navarro says “is constantly transmitting vital information.”

But even if you have been trained to pick up on every last one of a person’s corporeal clues, it remains incredibly unlikely that you are equipped to divine when they are or are not being deceitful. To quote Ekman, the pinoeering microagression researcher, again, this time from his book Telling Lies: “Most liars can fool most people most of the time.” That includes people who have been taught to spot body language.

“Our research,” he goes on to explain, “and the research of most others, has found that few people do better than chance in judging whether someone is lying or truthful.” His research has also shown, and I’m going to bold this, just so that I can refer to it easily when I see someone bring this up in the comments“that most people think they are making accurate judgments even though they are not.” Allow us to reiterate: YOU ARE NOT TIM ROTH.

Okay but so wait… like… what if you really CAN tell when people are lying? What if you really are Tim Roth? Well, then perhaps you are one of the “few exceptional people who,” Ekman claims, actually “can quite accurately spot deceit.”

And this is where things get a little weird.

Some years ago, Ekman teamed up with fellow UC San Francisco psychologist Maureen O’Sullivan to establish a research project that would not only investigate people’s ability to detect lies, but actively seek out “Truth Wizards” – that is, people able to identify deception in other people in at least 80% of standardized trials. “Although most groups, including police officers, CIA and FBI agents, lawyers, college students and therapists, do little better than chance,” said O’Sullivan in a 2004 statement, wizards can usually detect whether a person is lying, whether that lie is about an opinion, and “how someone is feeling about a theft.”

By 2004, “The Wizard Project,” had tested more than 13,000 people and O’Sullivan and Ekman had identified 31 wizards. By those figures, fewer than 25 people in 10,000 are good enough at detecting deception to merit wizard status.

But then, the fact that there are any wizards to speak of whatsoever is certainly surprising, is it not? This is the real question – are there, in fact, people who possess the uncanny ability to read fleeting facial expressions, hand gestures, or shifts in body weight and divine your true feelings, opinions, or knowledge on a subject? Could you really be Tim Roth?

A statistical critique of The Wizards Project by psychologists Charles F. Bond Jr. and Ahmet Uysal found O’Sullivan and Ekman’s findings to be statistically and methodologically suspect. “Analyses reveal that chance can explain results that the authors attribute to wizardry,” the researchers write in a 2007 issue of Law and Human Behavior. “Thus, by the usual statistical logic of psychological research, O’Sullivan and Ekman’s claims about wizardry are gratuitous.”

In the same issue of Law and Human Behavior, O’Sullivan cam to Ekman’s defense as well as her own with a perspective piece titled “Unicorns or Tiger Woods: are lie detection experts myths or rarities?” The piece takes Bond and Uysal to task, claiming misrepresentation or misinterpretation by the researchers’ of The Wizards Project and its findings.

The “lively debate” over Ekman and O’Sullivan’s work on deceit detection, is ongoing – and on the subject of microexpressions, in particular, Ekman remains a contentious figure. His efforts to teach microexpression-analysis to TSA Agents has produced uninspiring results. Boise State University psychologist Charles Honts, a former DoD polygrapher who was trained by Ekman and now specializes in the study of deception, claims that every one of his attempts to replicate Ekman’s experiments have failed. “There’s not a lot of science to back up Ekman’s claims,” said Jay Nunamaker, head computer engineer of the digital lie-detecting Embodied Avatar project, in an interview with WIRED published earlier this year. “Applying them to deception detection is a reach.”

In light of this contention, it is perhaps sufficient, in the debate over whether you are or are not capable of telling whether another person is lying, to refer to the title written by O’Sullivan in defense of her and Ekman’s Wizard Project findings: “Unicorns or Tiger Woods: are lie detection experts myths or rarities?” When an ability becomes so rare as to be confused with myth, it’s probably safe to assume you don’t possess it.

In brief: No. You are not Tim Roth.

Related articles

Images: Small Worlds Come to Life in Stunning Photos


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Images: Small Worlds Come to Life in Stunning Photos

By LiveScience Staff   |   October 28, 2013 01:36pm ET

Images of the small world around us

Credit: Mr. Raul M. Gonzalez | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
From an up-close look at yellow food coloring to a peek at pearly dewdrops dangling from a spider web, here’s a look at a world too tiny to see with the naked eye in images from the 2013 Nikon Small World Competition.

Round and about

Credit: Ms. Kelly Brinsko | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
False-twist textured nylon yarn. Crossed Polarized Light at 100X.

Tiny tree?

Credit: Mr. Frank Fox | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Vorticella sp. (protozoa). Darkfield at 20X.

Knobs and rods

Credit: Mr. Frederic Labaune | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Crocus pollen and stigmate. Episcopy and stacking at 40X.

Not what it seems

Credit: Mr. Frederic Labaune | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Crystallization of tartrazine (dye primarily used as a food coloring). Differential Interference Contrast at 40X.

The stars aligned

Credit: Dr. Veli-Pekka Ronkainen | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Surface details of a one euro coin. Confocal reflection microscopy, Z-stacking and maximum intensity projection at 10X.

With open arms

Credit: Dr. Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa, Corinna Schulze and Ricardo Neves | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Actinarctus doryphorus (marine tardigrade) autofluorescence of cuticle. Confocal at 40X.

A peek inside

Credit: Dr. David Ward | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Nerve and muscle thin section. Brightfield, Image Stacking at 40X.

Strange and beautiful

Credit: Dr. Havi Sarfaty | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
A flower stamen. Reflected light at 40X.

Sleek and shiny

Credit: Dr. César Menor Salván | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Pearceite, an uncommon silver mineral, in beautiful hexagonal crystals, from a copper mine in Spain. Reflected Light, Stereomicroscopy at 100X.

A tiny explosion

Credit: Dr. James Burchfield | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
The explosive dynamics of sugar transport in fat cells. Live Cell Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence at 1,000,000X.

A nest egg

Credit: Dr. Mariela Loschi | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Detail of the microtubules and nucleus in a COS-7 (Cercopithecus aethiops kidney, SV40 transformed) cultured cell. Confocal at 100X.

Squeaky clean

Credit: Mr. Haris Antonopoulos | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Soap bubble. Polarized Light at 10X.

A circle of life

Credit: Mr. Arturo Agostino | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Navicula variolata (diatom). Darkfield at 400X.

Animal, mineral or vegetable?

Credit: Mr. Jose R. Almodóvar | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Glands in a leaf of Drosera capensis, a carnivorous plant. Image Stacking at 10X.

Nature’s decorations

Credit: Mr. Massimo Brizzi | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Dew on spider web at 5X.

Vitamin C Crystal

Credit: Mr. Raul M. Gonzalez | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) crystal. Brightfield at 100X.

Butterfly tongue

Credit: Kata Kenesei and Barbara Orsolits | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Miley Cyrus has nothing on this butterfly. Here the insect’s coiled tongue seen with 60-times magnification by Kata Kenesei and Barbara Orsolits of the Institute of Experimental Medicine – Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Danger and beauty

Credit: Mr. Zhang Chao | Couresy of Nikon Small World.
Battery leakage crystal. Polarized Light at 25X.

Floating and flying

Credit: Mr. Marek Mis | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Micrasterias Americana (algae). Polarized Light at 50X.

Flowing and light

Credit: Mr. Harald K. Andersen | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Citric acid and tartaric acid. Polarized Light at 60X.

Texture and color

Credit: Dr. Pedro Barrios-Perez | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Cracked/wrinkled photoresist. Brightfield at 200X.

Simple beginnings

Credit: Mr. Zhong Hua | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Peripheral nerves in E11.5 mouse embryo. Confocal at 5X.

Delicate beauty

Credit: Mr. Julian Gray | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Vauxite mineral crystal cluster from Llallagua, Bolivia. Reflected Light, Image Stacking at 50X.

Smooth and shine

Credit: Mr. Bert Siegel | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Titanium shavings at 100X.

Colorful ribbons

Credit: Mr. Laurie Knight | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Urania ripheus (Madagascan Sunset moth). Focus stacked, twin flash front illumination at 20X.

Tiny camoflauge

Credit: Mr. Sebastian Konrad | Courtesy of Nikon Small World.
Expression of a fluorescently labeled protein in Tobacco leaf epidermal cells. Confocal at 63X.

Image Gallery: Einstein’s Brain

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Image Gallery: Einstein’s Brain

Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer

Albert Einstein

Credit: NASA
When Albert Einstein died at age 76 in 1955 of an abdominal aneurysm, the pathologist who autopsied him, Thomas Harvey, kept his brain.

Slides of Einstein’s Brain

Credit: Evi Numen, 2011, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Harvey sliced hundreds of thin sections of brain tissue and placed them on microscope slides, some of which he revealed in the years following his death

Extraordinary Gray Matter

Credit: Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, MD
However, Harvey kept secret 14 photographs of the brain, which were recently discovered.

More Folds, More Brain Power

Credit: From Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, Courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine
A new analysis of those photos suggests Einstein had unusual levels of folding across his cerebral cortex, the gray matter responsible for conscious thought.

Beautiful Asymmetry

Credit: Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine
Einstein had asymmetric parietal lobes, which may have super-charged his spatial abilities. A 1999 study in the Lancet found that one brain region was completely absent in Einstein, allowing his parietal lobe to take up more space.

Naturally Brainy

Credit: From Falk, Lepore, and Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine
The physicist had an extra fold in the frontal lobe, an area of the brain needed for sophisticated tasks such as abstract thought and prediction.

Abstract Genius

Credit: From Falk, Lepore, and Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine
Here, an illustration by the the authors of the new paper shows the four frontal lobe ridges (labeled 1 through 4) as opposed to the three typically found in the human brain.

A Brain Dissected

Credit: From Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine
The red shaded region marks a spot where Harvey accidentally cut through Einstein’s brain during the autopsy procedure.

Amazing Folds

Credit: From Falk, Lepore, and Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine
Einstein was probably born with many of the brain differences that contributed to his genius.

Another View of Einstein’s Brain

Credit: From Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine
However, a lifetime thinking about physics likely also shaped his brain.

Sistine Chapel: Facts, History & Visitor Information

Posted in The Most Beautiful Church around the world and in Indonesia with tags , on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Sistine Chapel: Facts, History & Visitor Information

By Jessie Szalay, LiveScience Contributor   |   October 30, 2013 12:32am ET
‘The Creation of Adam’ is one of the nine ceiling panels in the Sistine Chapel depicting scenes from the book of Genesis. 

Credit: Vlad G /

The Sistine Chapel is a large chapel in the Vatican City. It is renowned for its Renaissance art, especially the ceiling painted by Michelangelo, and attracts more than 5 million visitors each year.


The Sistine Chapel stands on the foundation of an older chapel called the Capella Magna. In 1477, Pope Sixtus IV instigated a rebuilding of the chapel, which was then named for him.

The chapel is 40.23 meters long, 13.40 meters wide, and 20.70 meters high (about 132 by 44 by 68 feet) — reputedly, the dimensions of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in A.D. 70. The chapel’s exterior is simple and unassuming, giving little hint to the splendid decoration inside.

Pope Sixtus IV commissioned celebrated painters, including Botticelli and Rosselli, to decorate the chapel. At this point, the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was painted like a simple blue sky with stars.

In 1503, a new pope, Julius II, decided to change some of the Sistine Chapel’s decoration. He commanded artist Michelangelo to do it. Michelangelo balked, because he considered himself a sculptor, not a painter, and he was hard at work sculpting the king’s tomb. But Pope Julius insisted, and Michelangelo began work on his famous frescoed ceiling in 1508. He worked for four years. It was so physically taxing that it permanently damaged his eyesight.

More than 20 years later, Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the giant fresco “The Last Judgment” behind the altar. The artist, then in his 60s, painted it from 1536 to 1541.

Michelangelo’s paintings


At the highest part of the ceiling, Michelangelo depicted nine scenes from Genesis, including “The Separation of Light From Darkness” at the altar end of the chapel to “The Drunkenness of Noah” at the other end. The most famous panels are “The Creation of Adam” and “The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise.” Images of prophets and pagan sibyls surround the panels, and twisting (and originally controversial) male nudes decorate the corners.

'The Last Judgment'
Michelangelo painted a fresco titled ‘The Last Judgment’ on the wall behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel. 

Credit: | Shutterstock

The Last Judgment

This fresco depicts the second coming of Christ, who is judging all mankind. The blessed are on the right and heading to heaven, while the damned are on the left and being sent to hell and tortured by demons. Major Biblical and Catholic characters appear in the scene, including Eve and several saints.

Secret images

In 1990, some physicians suggestedthat the flying-seat shape and figure of God in “The Creation of Adam” makes up an anatomically correct image of the human brain. In 2010, it was asserted that “The Separation of Light From Darkness” panel contains a human brain stem. Other theorists have suggested that Michelangelo depicted kidney imagery on the ceiling.  As a sculptor, Michelangelo was fascinated by the human form. He studied cadavers to get a better sense of anatomy, and would have been familiar with the human brain.

Painting the Sistine Chapel was an exhausting task, and Michelangelo’s relationship with the Catholic Church became strained doing it. Perhaps to depict his unhappiness, he hid two miserable-looking self-portraits in “The Last Judgment.”He painted his deceased face on Holofernes’ severed head and his ghoulish visage on Saint Bartholomew’s flayed skin.

Restoration efforts

A serious restoration of the Sistine Chapel began in 1980. Restorers spent 14 years reattaching fresco and cleaning it. They also removed some of the “modesty drapes” that had been added to Michelangelo’s work.

The restoration was extremely controversial. Some critics claim that the restoration removed an intentional second layer of paint, and that Michelangelo had intentionally used darker, more shadowy hues to give the figures depth. Others say that the restoration was essential for keeping the masterpiece intact and reviving the brilliancy of Michelangelo’s palette.

Papal use

The chapel is more than an artistic masterpiece; it is a place of crucial religious activity.  Since 1492, the chapel has been the site where the College of Cardinals gathers to elect a new pope.  The chapel has a special chimney that is used to broadcast the cardinals’ voting status. White smoke indicates that a new pope has been elected, while black smoke signals that no candidate has received a two-thirds majority.

An aerial view of the Sistine Chapel.
An aerial view of the Sistine Chapel. 

Credit: Banauke | Shutterstock

Visiting the Sistine Chapel

Tickets: To visit the Sistine Chapel, one must purchase an admission ticket to theVatican Museums. As of 2013, adult tickets are 16 euros ($22). There are reduced options for youth, students, clergy and some others. There are selected free admission days throughout the year, including the last Sunday of each month. Because lines can be extremely long, it may save time to purchase a ticket online.

Hours: The Vatican Museums are open Monday through Saturday and the last Sunday of each month. Typically, the ticket office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the museums close at 6 p.m.

Restrictions: There are a variety of restrictions at the Vatican Museums, including no alcoholic drinks, immodest clothing, flash photography, or touching the works of art. All photography and filming is forbidden in the Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel Photos – Vatican

The Sistine Chapel has beautiful Architecture

Sistine Chapel ceiling

Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel

Sistine chapel

Sistine Chapel

From the outside

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 1

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 2

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 3

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 4

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 5

The chimney connected to the stove used to burn ballot papers during the upcoming Vatican conclave reaches the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Saturday, April 16, 2005. Starting Monday, April 18, 115 Cardinals from all over the world will hold closed-door meetings in the Sistine Chapel, decorated by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, in background, to elect the next head of the Roman Catholic Church

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 6

Doors open to the Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel Photo – Vatican – 7

Doors open to the Sistine Chapel

Pope John Paul II celebrates a Mass April 8, 1994

at the end of 14 years of restoration work on

Michaelangelo’s frescoes on the alter wall and ceiling

of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican


Forbidden City: Home to Chinese Emperors

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on October 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2603

Forbidden City: Home to Chinese Emperors

By Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor   |   October 29, 2013 01:15am ET
Forbidden city
An aerial view of the Forbidden City shows many of the buildings that are part of the palace complex.
Credit: ChameleonEye | Shutterstock

The Forbidden City (also called Zijin Cheng) is a 72-hectare (178 acres) palace complex in Beijing that was used by the emperors of China from A.D. 1420 to 1911.

In total, 24 emperors occupied the Forbidden City, so named because it could only be accessed by the emperor, his immediate family, his women and thousands of eunuchs (castrated male servants) and officials. It was renovated constantly throughout its 600-year history.


Glazed building decoration at the Forbidden City

The complex consists of about 980 buildings, mainly in yellow and red colors, surrounded by a wall 32 feet (10 meters) high and a moat 171 feet (52 meters) wide. The city is configured on a north-south axis that aligns with the pole star, emphasizing the emperor’s position as the son of heaven. “The whole palace context is built along a central axis, the axis of the world,” said University of Sydney professor Jeffrey Riegel in a 2008 BBC/History Channel documentary, “everything in the four directions suspend from this central point represented by these palaces.”

File:Gugun panorama-2005-1.jpg

The Forbidden City, viewed from Jingshan Hill to the north

The southern portion, which is also called the outer court, ends in the Hall of Supreme Harmony (the largest building) and tended to be where official business was carried out. The northern portion, which is also known as the inner court, had the residences of the emperor and his family as well as the harem where his concubines were kept.

It was difficult for an ordinary male to enter the Forbidden City, said Chen Shen, the curator of a Forbidden City exhibition set to open at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum in 2014, at a recent media presentation. He said that for a common man to enter he would likely have to become a eunuch, having his genitals cut off.  Even then “you still have to work your way up for many, many, many years before you get close to the emperor and his women.”

Shen added that the Forbidden City is, today, a major tourist destination attracting millions of visitors each year. On a single day in 2013, October 2, “the Forbidden City welcomed 175,000 visitors making it the most visited World Heritage destination in the world.”


File:Forbidden city map wp 1.png

Plan of the Forbidden City. Labels in red are used to refer to locations throughout the article.

– – – Approximate dividing line between Inner (north) and Outer (south) Courts.

A. Meridian Gate
B. Gate of Divine Might
C. West Glorious Gate
D. East Glorious Gate
E. Corner towers
F. Gate of Supreme Harmony
G. Hall of Supreme Harmony
H. Hall of Military Eminence
J. Hall of Literary Glory
K. Southern Three Places
L. Palace of Heavenly Purity
M. Imperial garden
N. Hall of Mental Cultivation
O. Palace of Tranquil Longevity

File:Beijing city wall map.jpg

Location of the Forbidden City in the historic centre of Beijing

The palace complex was ordered built by Zhu Di (the Yongle Emperor) who lived A.D. 1360-1424. He was crowned emperor in 1402 after forcefully overthrowing his nephew. After his ascension, he decided to move the imperial capital from Nanjing to his power base in what was then called Beiping, renaming the city Beijing “the northern capital.”

Moving the capital and building a new palace complex was an immense operation that meant expanding China’s canal system and mobilizing about 1 million workers to cut down trees, quarry rocks, make bricks and transport supplies, among the many other necessary activities.

The emperor felt that heaven had turned against him when, in 1421, lightning strikes resulted in three of his palaces burning down. “I am frightened to the very core of my being and I don’t know what to do …” said the emperor in a document quoted by Riegel in the documentary. Despite Zhu Di’s bad fortune the Forbidden City continued to be used by China’s emperors in both good times and bad.

Hall of Supreme Harmony, dragons

The roof of the Hall of Supreme Harmony is decorated with dragons.
Credit: Jorge Sanchez | Shutterstock

Entering the City

The Meridian Gate, which towers as high as 125 feet (38 meters), is located in the south and serves as the formal entranceway to the city. It leads visitors through a series of courtyards that end in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the central and largest building where the emperor would conduct business.

Officials had to wait outside the Meridian Gate at about 3 a.m. to be admitted for their work, the gateway also serving public ceremonial purposes, writes Geremie Barme, a professor at the Australian National University, in his book “The Forbidden City” (Profile Books, 2008). “From the gate’s parapets, emperors presided over military ceremonies and victory parades, as well as the annual proclamation of the calendar which determined agricultural and ritual activities throughout the empire.”

File:Sign of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.JPG

The sign of the Hall of Supreme Harmony

The Hall of Supreme Harmony sits on a dais and stands about 115 feet (35 meters) tall, writes Marilyn Shea, a professor at the University of Maine, in a 2009 online article.  “At the top of the building, at each end of the roof ridge, are two dragons facing one another,” she writes noting that each dragon is more than 11 feet (3 meters) long and weighs close to five tons.

Barme notes that in later times, after a line of rulers from Manchuria formed the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), another building known as the “Hall of Mental Cultivation” took over, in practice, as the main workplace of the emperor.


The Hall of Supreme Harmony

Change of dynasties

One of the most important events to happen in the Forbidden City occurred in 1644. In that year, a rebel army attacked Beijing, forcing the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Youjian (the Chongzhen emperor) to commit suicide.

A Manchu army from Manchuria was invited by the remaining Ming supporters to march on Beijing and kick the rebels out. They succeeded but the price of their success was the founding of a new, Manchu-led, dynasty known as the Qing. Their rulers would go on to rebuild Beijing, and much of the Forbidden City, after the devastation brought by the rebel forces. They incorporated Manchu customs into the daily life of the city while continuing to respect earlier Ming customs. The Qing Dynasty would be the last imperial dynasty of China, ending in 1912 with the abdication of the 5-year-old Puyi.

An emperor’s retirement abode

The Qing Dynasty reached the height of its power under Hongli (the Qianlong emperor) who reigned 1736-1795. In 1795, after ruling for 60 years, he officially retired as emperor so that the length of his rule would not surpass that of his grandfather.

In doing so, he built a retirement palace called Ningshougong (Tranquility and Longevity Palace) in the northeast part of the Forbidden City, writes Nancy Berliner in an article published in the book “The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City” (Peabody Essex Museum, 2010). It included a “twenty-seven pavilion garden” spanning two acres that “would reference nature and inner harmony, with places for leisurely contemplation, poetry writing, Buddhist meditation, and delighting in the visual arts,” Berliner writes.

In practice, the Qianlong emperor was never able to fully enjoy this palace or his retirement, retaining unofficial power up until his death in 1799. His rule would represent the height of the Qing Dynasty, the 19th century being one of decline.


The throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony

The two Dowagers

In the 19th century, the Dowagers, mothers of the emperors, would gain greater influence. Dowager Cixi, who lived 1835-1908, would gain great power when her 5-year-old son, the Tongzhi Emperor, ascended the throne in 1861. For a time, she ruled literally “behind the screen” along with Dowager Ci’an (who died in 1881), telling Tongzhi and his successor what to do.

This period of rule was one of decline for the Qing Dynasty, something which some authors have tried to blame on the Dowagers, Cixi in particular. A major problem the Qing had to deal with was the relative decline of their own military in comparison to that of the Western powers. Barme notes that after the failed 1900 Boxer Rebellion, a foreign army occupied Beijing, looting the Forbidden City.

File:Palace Museum 6.jpg

The throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity

The imperial throne did not last long after Cixi’s 1908 death. In 1911, an uprising forced the 5-year-old emperor Puyi and his Dowager mother to flee the Forbidden City. He formally abdicated the following year and China would never have an emperor again. The Palace Museum was founded in the Forbidden City in 1925. Today this museum has about 1.5 million artifacts from the city under its care.

File:Forbidden city 05.jpg

The Hall of Central Harmony (foreground) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Forbidden City under Mao

Even without the emperors, there was still much history left to be made in the Forbidden City. In the Chinese civil war that broke out after World War II, the retreating Nationalists moved about 600,000 treasures, originally from the Forbidden City, to Taiwan, where they are now part of a Palace Museum in Taipei.

When the communists under Mao took control of Beijing, they didn’t know what to do with the Forbidden City. Barme notes in his book that the palace complex, with the opulence it afforded the emperor, seemed at odds with Mao’s way of thinking and plans were proposed to tear it down. They were never put into action, however, and when Richard Nixon made his groundbreaking trip to China in 1972, he visited the Forbidden City.


The Palace of Heavenly Purity

Unexplored history

Today, there are still many more stories waiting to be told about the Forbidden City. The Palace Museum in Beijing has more than 1.5 million artifacts from the city, including many which have yet to be published despite a program that has produced 60 volumes in the last few decades.

Chen Shen told LiveScience in an interview that when his team was putting together the new exhibition they made a week-long trip to the vaults where many treasures of the emperors and their families are being stored, including their textiles, bronzes, paintings, silver and gold utensils, documents, thrones and personalized cups among many other objects. Of the 250 artifacts his team selected for the Toronto exhibition, about 50 have never been published and 80 had never left the Forbidden City at all.

File:Forbidden City Imperial Guardian Lions.jpg

A gilded lion in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity

For educators and documentary makers, telling the numerous stories about the Forbidden City is also a challenge. Recently the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation supported a 100-episode documentary co-produced by CCTV9 and the Palace Museum that tells as much of the story as possible.

Today the importance of the Forbidden City is again undisputed. Whatever doubts Mao had about the Forbidden City had when he first entered it have been swept aside and today it is recognized as one of the greatest heritage sites in China and indeed the world. “This building still stands today as the symbol of the Chinese people and their great and glorious history,” said McGill University professor Robin Yates in the BBC/History Channel documentary.


File:China qing two blue ceramics.JPG

Two Qing Dynasty ”blue porcelain” wares

File:China ming blue dragons.JPG

A blue and white porcelain vase with cloud and dragon designs, marked with the word “Longevity”, Jiajing period of Ming Dynasty


Interior of the Palace Museum

File:The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback.jpg

Equestrian painting of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796) by Giuseppe Castiglione

File:Jade cabbage closeup.jpg

The Jadeite Cabbage, formerly at the Palace Museum and now at the National Palace MuseumTaipei

— Owen Jarus

Editing : Yappy

England’s Atlantis: Images of a Lost Medieval Town

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on October 30, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2602

England’s Atlantis: Images of a Lost Medieval Town

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

St. Peters Church

Credit: University of Southampton
This three-dimensional reconstruction shows the ruins of St. Peters Church in the sunken city of Dunwich.

Saint Nicholas Church

Credit: University of Southampton
The abandoned ruins of medieval Dunwich’s Saint Nicholas Church likely slid into the ocean around the year 1700.

Saint Katherine’s Chapel

Credit: University of Southampton
These ruins may belong to medieval Dunwich’s Saint Katherine’s Chapel, which likely fell into the sea between 1550 and 1650 after the city was abandoned.

Saint Katherine’s Mortar

Credit: University of Southampton
Mortar blocks from what may be the medieval chapel of Saint Katherine in Dunwich, seen resting on the seabed.

Dunwich Map

Credit: University of Southampton
University of Southampton researchers have built the most detailed map of the sunken city of Dunwich ever.

Map of Dunwich

Credit: University of Southampton
The medieval port city of Dunwich was partially flooded and swept to sea beginning in the 1200s. This map shows where the ruins sit now, in relatively shallow water off the Suffolk coast.

Eroding Dunwich

Credit: J. C. Docwra Collection and the EA Shoreline Management Group.
As coastal erosion ate away at Dunwich, the town was gradually abandoned. The ruins of the medieval town’s All Saints Church eventually fell into the sea as the cliffs nearby crumbled.

The Real Atlantis?

Atlantis is a legendary “lost” island subcontinent often idealized as an advanced, utopian society holding wisdom that could bring world peace. The idea of Atlantis has captivated dreamers, occultists, and New Agers for generations. Here, a 1669 map by Athanasius Kircher places Atlantis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The map is oriented with south at the top.

‘Lost’ City of Atlantis: Fact & Fable

Benjamin Radford, LiveScience Contributor

Atlantis is a legendary “lost” island subcontinent often idealized as an advanced, utopian society holding wisdom that could bring world peace. The idea of Atlantis has captivated dreamers, occultists, and New Agers for generations.

In the 1800s, mystic Madame Blavatsky claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Tibetan gurus; a century later, psychic Edgar Cayce claimed that Atlantis (which he described as an ancient, highly evolved civilization powered by crystals) would be discovered by 1969. In the 1980s, New Age mystic J.Z. Knight claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit who speaks through her. Thousands of books, magazines and websites are devoted to Atlantis, and it remains a popular topic.

Unlike many legends whose origins have been lost in the mists of time, we know exactly when and where the story of Atlantis first appeared. The story was first told in two of Plato’s dialogues, the Timaeus and theCritias, written about 330 B.C.

Though today Atlantis is often conceived of as a peaceful utopia, the Atlantis that Plato described in his fable was very different. In his bookFrauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, professor of archaeology Ken Feder summarizes the story: “a technologically sophisticated but morally bankrupt evil empire — Atlantis — attempts world domination by force. The only thing standing in its way is a relatively small group of spiritually pure, morally principled, and incorruptible people — the ancient Athenians. Overcoming overwhelming odds … the Athenians are able to defeat their far more powerful adversary simply through the force of their spirit. Sound familiar? Plato’s Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of Star Wars.”

Statue of Plato at Academy of Athens, Greece
Credit: Anastasios71 |shutterstock 

As propaganda, the Atlantis legend is more about the heroic Athens than a sunken civilization; if Atlantis really existed today and was found, its residents would probably try to kill and enslave us all.

It’s clear that Plato made up Atlantis as a plot device for his stories because there no other records of it anywhere else in the world. There are many extant Greek texts; surely someone else would have also mentioned, at least in passing, such a remarkable place. There is simply no evidence from any source that thelegends about Atlantis existed before Plato wrote about it.

The ‘lost’ continent

Despite its clear origin in fiction, many people over the centuries have claimed that there must be some truth behind the myths, speculating about where Atlantis would be found. Countless Atlantis “experts” have located the lost continent all around the world based on the same set of facts.  Candidates — each accompanied by their own peculiar sets of evidence and arguments — include the Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, Bolivia, Turkey, Germany, Malta and the Caribbean.

Plato, however, is crystal clear about where Atlantis is: “For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles,’ (i.e., Hercules) there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together.” In other word it lies in the Atlantic Ocean beyond “the pillars of Hercules” (i.e., the Straits of Gibraltar, at the mouth of the Mediterranean). Yet it has never been found in the Atlantic, or anywhere else.

No trace of Atlantis has ever been found despite advances in oceanography and ocean floor mapping in past decades. For nearly two millennia readers could be forgiven for suspecting that the vast depths might somehow hide a sunken city or continent. Though there remains much mystery at the bottom of the world’s oceans, it is inconceivable that the world’s oceanographers, submariners, and deep-sea probes have some how missed a landmass “larger than Libya and Asia together.”

Furthermore plate tectonics demonstrate that Atlantis is impossible; as the continents have drifted, the seafloor has spread over time, not contracted. There would simply be no place for Atlantis to sink into. As Ken Feder notes, “The geology is clear; there could have been no large land surface that then sank in the area where Plato places Atlantis. Together, modern archaeology and geology provide an unambiguous verdict: There was no Atlantic continent; there was no great civilization called Atlantis.”

Myth from misinterpretation

The only way to make a mystery out of Atlantis (and to assume that it was once a real place) is to ignore its obvious origins as a moral fable and to change the details of Plato’s story, claiming that he took license with the truth, either out of error or intent to deceive. With the addition, omission, or misinterpretation of various details in Plato’s work, nearly any proposed location can be made to “fit” his description.

Yet as writer L. Sprague de Camp noted in his book Lost Continents, “You cannot change all the details of Plato’s story and still claim to have Plato’s story. That is like saying the legendary King Arthur is ‘really’ Cleopatra; all you have to do is to change Cleopatra’s sex, nationality, period, temperament, moral character, and other details, and the resemblance becomes obvious.”

The Atlantis legend has been kept alive, fueled by the public’s imagination and fascination with the idea of a hidden, long-lost utopia. Yet the “lost city of Atlantis” was never lost; it is where it always was: in Plato’s books.

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of six books including Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His Web site


Image of the Day

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on October 30, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2601

Image of the Day

by Tom Chao, Producer   |   September 25, 2013 12:00am ET

Mad Solar

Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory
Monday, Oct. 28, 2013: A magnetic filament of solar material erupted on the sun in late September 2013. The 200,000 mile long (322,000 kilometers) filament tore the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, marking it with something appearing like a canyon of fire. The canyon outlines the channel where magnetic fields held the filament up before the violent outburst. The sun does not consist of fire, but actually contains plasma, a gas-like substance of charged particles that interacts with magnetic fields. This image were captured on Sept. 29-30, 2013, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The Shield

Credit: ESA/M. Pedoussaut
Friday, Oct. 25, 2013: Gaia spacecraft’s Deployable Sunshield Assembly (DSA) underwent deployment testing in the S1B integration building at Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Oct. 10, 2013. The shield has two purposes: to shade Gaia’s telescopes and cameras, and to provide power. Gaia spacecraft represents ESA’s billion-star surveyor, designed to provide a precise 3D map of the Milky Way galaxy in order to understand its composition, formation and evolution. The previously scheduled launch date for Gaia has been pushed back from Nov. 20, 2013, to the next available launch window from Dec. 17 to January 5, 2014.

How Many Pixels in the Milky Way?

Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013: A giant screen in NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, CA, displays the center of the Milky Way galaxy (our home) as imaged by Spitzer Space Telescope. The high definition LCD science visualization screen stretches 23 feet (7 meters) in width and contains a quarter of a billion pixels. [See our Spitzer Space Telescope image gallery.]

Glow World

Credit: Auroramax
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013: Auroramax automated camera photographed this auroral display in Canada’s Northwest Territory on Oct. 7, 2013. For more information about auroras, see our aurora reference page and our aurora infographic.

It All Looks Fine to the Naked Eye

Credit: Babak Tafreshi
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013: Beneath a starry southern hemisphere sky stands one of the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of Chile. At the left side of the image, at about the level of the top of the telescope, shines Messier 31, or the Andromeda Galaxy, visible as a bright smudge. Up and to the right of Messier 31, the bright star Beta Andromedae (Mirach) glistens. Following the line created by the star and the galaxy leads to Messier 33 galaxy, almost at the top frame line. Messier 31 and Messier 33 may have interacted in the past, forming a bridge of hydrogen gas spanning the gap between them.

The Best and the Rest of Vesta

Monday, Oct. 21, 2013: This mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the DAWN spacecraft possessed of the giant asteroid Vesta. Right now, NASA’s DAWN spacecraft continues travelling to its next destination, dwarf planet Ceres, but the spacecraft studied Vesta from from July 2011 to September 2012. A towering mountain at the south pole, more than twice the height of Mount Everest, stands visible at the bottom of the image. The three craters known as the “snowman” lie at the top left of the asteroid. These images represent the last in Dawn’s Image of the Day series during the cruise to Dawn’s second destination, Ceres.


Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Friday, Oct. 18, 2013: Tansen crater represents one of Mercury’s smaller named craters at just 17 miles (27 km) in diameter. The ejecta rays formed by the impact appear prominently in this color mosaic, as does the fresh crater ejecta deposit at the top of the image. MESSENGER spacecraft acquired this image as a targeted high-resolution 11-color image set. Acquiring 11-color targets began recently, in March 2013, and the campaign utilizes all of the Wide Angle Camera’s 11 narrow-band color filters. Researchers can only target features of special scientific interest for imaging in all 11 colors, owing to the large data volume involved. The crater was first seen by the Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974, but has not been featured on MESSENGER’s gallery until now. (The image was obtained on Sept. 9, 2013, but owing to the partial government shutdown it did not appear on NASA’s website until Oct. 17, 2013.)


Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013: NGC 7723 is a barred spiral galaxy that lies in the constellation of Aquarius. It has an apparent magnitude of 11. Adam Block of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter (University of Arizona) created the image in September 2013.

Howling at the Moon

Credit: Christopher Georgia
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013: Astrophotographer Christopher Georgia sent in a photo of a single moon dog in the sky taken on Oct. 9, 2013. He writes in an e-mail message to “Have you ever witnessed a moon dog before? A moon dog or a ‘paraselene’ is a rare phenomena formed in a similar fashion to a moon halo. Bright moonlight refracting through hexagonal ice crystals in high atmospheric clouds, particularly cirrus and cirrostratus clouds, form these halos and moon dog(s). They generally form at 22 degrees around the moon. This image was pulled from a static time lapse as the moon set over a pond in Thornton, New Hampshire … “

Mighty Clouds of Joy

Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ Survey/N. Wright
Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013: Super star cluster Westerlund 1 glows in a new picture from the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory. This extremely bright cluster lies about 16,000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Ara (The Altar). The cluster emcompasses hundreds of very massive and brilliant stars, all very young, just a few million years old. Our view of this cluster struggles with gas and dust preventing most of the visible light from the cluster’s stars from arriving at Earth.Astronomers discovered something unexpected in this cluster. One of the stars — known as W26, a red supergiant (possibly the biggest star known) — features clouds of surrounding glowing hydrogen gas, shown as green features in the new image. These clouds represent the first ionized nebula discovered around such a star. W26 itself doesn’t possess enough heat to make the gas glow. The ionizing radiation may either come from hot blue stars in the cluster, or possibly a fainter, but hotter, companion star to W26. 

Sleep Beneath the Stars

Credit: Buddy Secor
Monday, Oct. 14, 2013: A tent glows with an inviting light under a dazzling spray of stars. Sky watcher Buddy Secor sent in a photo of the Milky Way over Bear Rocks on Dolly Sods in the Canaan State Park, WV, taken on Sept. 28, 2013. He writes to in an e-mail message that it was “a crystal clear night in beautiful dark sky country.”

Star Formation

Credit: Jeff Johnson
Friday, Oct. 11, 2013: Astrophotographer Jeff Johnson sent in an image of M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, which he produced with data obtained in 2012 and 2013 from his home in Las Cruces, NM. Johnson tells in an e-mail that he combined H-alpha (Ha) data taken recently on Sept. 23, 2013, with LRGB data collected last year to show (in red/pink) areas of hydrogen emissions, indicating exploding stars and/or areas of star formation in M33.

Try to Detect It

Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Brammer
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013: The center of the Milky Way (towards the constellation of Sagittarius) glows with many objects in this infrared image made by Hubble Space Telescope. This represents the best infrared image of this region ever taken with Hubble, using infrared archive data from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, taken in September 2011. One thing that Hubble cannot see in this image remains hidden: the huge black hole called Sagittarius A* in the center of the galaxy. Astronomers have observed stars spinning around this supermassive black hole (located directly at the center of the image), and the black hole consuming clouds of dust with its enormous gravitational pull.

Paranal Lines

Credit: John Colosimo (
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013: The night sky over Chile appears filled with star trails, the result of the Earth’s rotation during a camera’s long exposure. Beneath the light streaks lies the Paranal Residencia which houses staff and visitors to the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, located high on Cerro Paranal in the Chilean desert. The four-story building, completed in 2002, sits with most of its structure buried underground. If the residence looks familiar, you may have seen it in the 2008 James Bond movie, “Quantum of Solace.”

Life in a Northern Town

Credit: Mia Stålnacke (via Flickr as AngryTheInch42)
Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013: Amateur photographer Mia Stålnacke sent in a photo of an auroral display taken in Kiruna, Sweden, on Oct. 2, 2013. Kiruna lies at the highest latitude of any city in Sweden, 67.86° N., 90 miles (145 kilometers) above the Arctic Circle.

Blue Haze

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgements: Luca Limatola, Budeanu Cosmin Mirel
Monday, Oct. 7, 2013: Planetary nebula NGC 2452 lies in the southern constellation of Puppis. After a star like our sun has depleted all its fuel, it emanates a blue haze like that shown here. The core of the star loses stability and releases energetic particles that blow the star’s atmosphere into space. At the center of the blue cloud sits what remains of the nebula’s progenitor star. A pulsating white dwarf, this cool, dim, and extremely dense star varies in brightness over time as gravity makes waves that pulse throughout the small star’s body. (Sir John Herschel created the term “planetary nebula” to describe NGC 2452 in 1847, when early telescopes did not possess enough power to establish these objects do not consist of planets.)

Blow Out

Credit: SDO/AIA
Friday, Oct. 4, 2013: An eruptive prominence grew unstable on the sun, and blew out into space over a 5-hour period on Sept. 24, 2013. The orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory observed the event in extreme ultraviolet light.

I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

Credit: NASA/ESA, Jeffrey Kenney (Yale University), Elizabeth Yale (Yale University)
Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013: Galaxy NGC 4438 lies in the Virgo Cluster, 50 million light-years from Earth, from where it blows huge bubbles of hot gas into space. Known as a peculiar galaxy because of its unusual shape, NGC 4438 contains at its center a supermassive black hole that consumes material swirling around it in an accretion disk, seen here as the white region below the bright bubble. Some of this material spews from the disk in opposite directions. The twin jets of matter sweep material out of their paths, slamming into a wall of dense, slow-moving gas travelling less than 223,000 mph (360,000 kph), producing the glowing material in the collision. The bubbles will continue to expand, eventually dissipating.

Locked Out

Credit: NASA
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013: This undated file photo shows NASA Headquarters at Two Independence Square in Washington, DC. On Oct. 1, 2013, the agency went dark as a result of the government shutdown. Visitors to the website received a notice stating, “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. For information about available government services, Coincidentally, Oct. 1 also represented NASA’s 55th anniversary. [Read the full story.]

The Autumn Moon Lights My Way

Credit: Göran Strand/
Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013: Astrophotographer Göran Strand sent in a photograph of the moon in Sweden seen between tree branches. He writes in an e-mail to “The autumn has really started here in northern Sweden. The trees are full of colors, and the air is starting to get cold and clear. Here’s a shot … when the moon was behind a tree full of autumn colors. I think the crescent moon is at its best when visible during daylight against the blue sky.” Image taken Sept. 28, 2013.

Image of the Day Archives

Credit: NASA, ESA and Orsola De Marco (Macquarie University)
For older Image of the Day pictures, please visit the Image of the Day archives. Above: NGC 2467.