Welcome
the top 50 pictures of the year






Enjoy!


50. A SEAHORSE INSPECTS A DIVER’S WATCH


In this remarkable capture, a seahorse checks out a diver’s watch (and own reflection) underwater. Given the clarity of the clouds in the reflection, this was likely taken quite close to the surface. A reverse image search on Tineye and Google did not identify a valid source for this photograph, if you know more please let us know (update: Many thanks to Hoss Cartwright for the help)! Since there’s not much additional information here are some facts about seahorses:
- Seahorse is the title given to forty-seven species of marine fish in the genus Hippocampus
- They are mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world, and prefer to live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, estuaries, coral reefs, or mangroves
- Seahorses range in size from 0.6 to 14 inches (1.5 – 35.56 cm). They are named for their equine appearance
- Although they are bony fish, they do not have scales but rather thin skin stretched over a series of bony plates, which are arranged in rings throughout their body
- The male seahorse is equipped with a brood pouch on the ventral, or front-facing, side. When mating, the female seahorse deposits up to 1,500 eggs in the male’s pouch. The male carries the eggs for 9 to 45 days until the seahorses emerge fully developed
- According to Guinness World Records 2009, H. zosterae (the dwarf seahorse) is the slowest moving fish, with a top speed of about 5 feet (150 cm) per hour


49. AN ILLUMINATED SNOW TUNNEL IN RUSSIA


In this incredible photograph by Michael Zelensky, we see the entrance to an amazing snow tunnel that’s almost a kilometer long. Michael says the tunnel is located under snow fields in the deep ravines at the end of the summer thaw (translated from Russian, may not be exact). Apparently it is fairly close to the nearby Mutnovsky Volcano in southern Kamchatka, Russia. The person holding the torch is a nice touch and really helps to illuminate the awesome texture of the snow tunnel. Although I really hope the heat from that torch doesn’t put them at risk of any type of tunnel collapse

48. THE HONEYBEE’S FINAL STING


If you’ve ever wondered why honeybees tend to die after stinging someone this picture says it all. In an incredible capture by Kathy Keatley Garvey, a UC Davis Communications Specialist in the Department of Enomology, we see a bee stinging a person’s arm and then attempting to fly away as the stinger remains lodged in the victim. That trail of goo you see? It’s actually the bee’s abdominal tissue. The remarkable capture netted Garvey the first-place gold feature photo award in an Association for Communication Excellence competition.
On the fortunate timing, Garvey said she was walking with a friend and a bee came close to him and started buzzing in a high-pitch. She said that’s normally a telltale sign that a bee’s about to sting, so she readied her camera and snapped four photos.


47. EVERYBODY WAS KUNG FU FIGHTING


On June 9, a grand martial arts performance was staged to celebrate China’s seventh Cultural Heritage Day in Tagou Wushu School in central China’s Henan Province. In 2005, the Chinese government established a national ‘Cultural Heritage Day’ to be celebrated annually on the second Saturday of June in order to promote the protection of its rich cultural resources. ‘Cultural Heritage Day’ was first celebrated on June 10, 2006.
The Daily Mail purports this is a display of approximately 10,000 students but commenters on Reddit tend to have more conservative estimates around 3000-3500. Regardless, it’s an impressive coordinated display and reminiscent of the incredible performance China put on for the Olympics in Beijing. Paging Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa, Chuck Norris and Beatrix Kiddo!


46. STREET ARTIST SAINER GOES BIG IN POLAND


Amazing street art in Lodz, Poland by street artist Sainer from the Etam Crew. Gotta respect the sheer scale of this amazing piece. Love how she’s just looking down on the cars and street below. The bird (with hat), those earrings, that hair, the birdfeeder! It’s all very excellent.

45. MOUNT RAINIER CASTING A SHADOW ON CLOUDS


This rare and remarkable phenomenon only happens when the sun rises farther to the south as Winter solstice approaches. At the right place and time, Mount Rainier blocks rays of morning sunlight, casting a shadow like you see above. When the cloud coverage is just right, you get this incredible scene, wonderfully shot by Komo News contributor, Nick Lippert.
This particular image was shot on the morning of October 26th, 2011. You can find more pictures in the gallery on Komo News.
Mount Rainier is a massive stratovolcano located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle in the state of Washington, United States. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft (4,392 m). Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could potentially produce massive lahars that would threaten the whole Puyallup River valley
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44. FIRST CONTACT


In this wonderful photograph by Chirstoper @ CMGW Photography, we are witness to an amazing encounter between a little girl and a manatee. You can really feel the wonderment this little girl must be experiencing. The contrasting size and age between these two really makes for an interesting composition. An awesome capture of one of life’s precious moments.

43. THE IRISH SKY GARDEN CRATER


Located at the Liss Ard Estate Gardens in Cork County, Ireland; the James Turrell Irish Sky Garden Crater is an amazing sculptural land art installation by famed artist James Turrell. The Irish Sky Garden Crater is open from April to November and measures about 25 meters (82 ft) in length, dipping almost 13 meters (42ft) at it’s lowest depth.
The man-made hollow is accessed via a dark concrete tunnel flanked by Liscannor stone, featuring a white marble stone that reflects the light from the rim of the crater during the day. The design is based on a birthing scenario, where visitors walk through the dark tunnel into the light. “It’s about rebirth and optimism, its experiential and it nurtures the desire to walk towards the light [into the crater]. It evokes powerful reactions in people,” says Arthur Little, the manager of Liss Ard estate. [Source: The Irish Times]
The space has been constructed to view the sky while lying on large stones placed in the centre of the crater. The crater’s edge, hovering in your peripheral vision, perfectly frames the infinite and endlessly changing sky. “The most important thing is that inside turns into outside and the other way around, in the sense that relationships between the Irish landscape and sky changes,” says artist James Turrell of his work


42. MOON BRIDGE IN DAHU PARK, TAIPEI


In this breathtaking photograph by bbe022001 on Flickr, we see a beautiful ‘Moon Bridge’ in DaHu (Big Lake) park in Taipei, Taiwan. I was unable to find out much additional information on this amazing photograph. I used Google translate on the photographer’s description in Chinese below, hopefully some of it adds some detail into the process that went into capturing this painting-like image:
[Translated by Google]
- On a foggy morning, including the Great Lakes Lake Park photographed scenery
1. Shooting mode: aperture light decision, F11, the metering I remember is that the matrix metering, shooting NEF files
2. Second, due to the part of the sun’s map in the top right of the sun is too bright, the mountain was too black, it will result in the dynamic range is too large, the photos will not show all. When finished post-production, it is clear part of the sun and can not figure significantly light next to the sky is pale one, but the mountain and the lake is exposed just. So I decided to use the LR gradient filters reduce the brightness of the sky and the sun. Adjust this one, regardless of exposure or angle should be very careful, because believe it will cause significant dividing line of light and dark, it would be false. When moderately above the horizontal plane made ??from dark to light from top to bottom gradient, and then below the horizontal plane with a way to do a bottom-up from dark to bright gradient, up and down a little range of the horizontal gradient filter does not affect the scope of (relative light). Horizontal upper and lower fog will be more intensive.
3. Third, backlit film, so the color will be destroyed and rendered more like a gray background. So I decided to add a little blue LR split tone part of the shadow in order to meet the morning blue color temperature (In fact, the sun already high color temperature part has not bluish). Saturation do not adjust too high would be more natural. The bright part of the Ministry will not move him, to maintain the original color. Re-adjust the exposure and brightness, but I did not move the contrast and black, because I’m afraid the mountain gradient will disappear. In order to maintain the tone of the whole shoot, so I so photos all synchronization processing (the color of the part) and then fine-tuning.


41. FLIGHT OF THE DEVIL RAYS


The phenomenal picture above was taken in 2009 in the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Baja California in Mexico. It was the winner of ‘Underwater World’ category at the 2010 Environment Photographer of the Year awards organized by CIWEM.
German photographer Florian Schulz said the scope of the ray congregations was unknown until he and a pilot happened upon the gathering while searching for migrating whales. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Munk’s devil rays as near threatened, due in part to their vulnerability to gill nets—hard-to-see “curtains” of netting
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40. GÁSADALUR VILLAGE IN THE FAROE ISLANDS


Gásadalur is located on the west-side of Vágar, Faroe Islands, and enjoys a panoramic view over the island of Mykines. The tiny village (of 17 in 2007) is surrounded by the highest mountains on Vágar and lies at 62°6’44′N 7°26’5′W. [Source]
The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The islands form a self-governing country under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. The total area is approximately 1,400 km² (540 sq mi) with a 2010 population of almost 50,000 people.
The Faroe Islands has been a self-governing dependency of Denmark since 1948. Over the years, the Faroese have taken control of most domestic matters. Areas that remain the responsibility of Denmark include military defence, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs. The Faroe Islands also has representatives in the Nordic Council as members of the Danish delegation


39. WORLD’S EDGE


Beachy Head is a chalk headland on the south coast of England, close to the town of Eastbourne in the county of East Sussex, immediately east of the Seven Sisters. The cliff there is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 m (530 ft) above sea level. The peak allows views of the south east coast from Dungeness to the east, to Selsey Bill in the west. Its height has also made it one of the most notorious suicide spots in the world.
The chalk was formed in the Late Cretaceous period, between 65 and 100 million years ago, when the area was under the sea. During the Cenozoic Era the chalk was uplifted (see Cenozoic Era). When the last Ice Age ended, sea levels rose and the English Channel formed, cutting into the chalk to form the dramatic cliffs along the Sussex coast.
There are an estimated 20 deaths a year at Beachy Head. The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team conducts regular day and evening patrols of the area in attempts to locate and stop potential jumpers. Workers at the pub and taxi drivers are also on the look-out for potential victims, and there are posted signs with the telephone number of Samaritans urging potential jumpers to call them. Deaths at the site are well-covered by the media; Ross Hardy, the founder of the chaplaincy team, said this encouraged people to come and jump off. Worldwide, the landmark’s suicide rate is surpassed only by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aokigahara Woods in Japan, according to Thomas Meaney of The Wall Street Journal.



38. THE CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE IN VANCOUVER


The Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses the Capilano River in the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The current bridge is 136 metres (446 ft) long and 70 metres (230 ft) above the river. It is part of a private facility, with an admission fee, and draws over 800,000 visitors a year.
The bridge was originally built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and park commissioner for Vancouver. It was originally made of hemp ropes with a deck of cedar planks, and was replaced with a wire cable bridge in 1903. In 1910 Edward Mahon purchased the Capilano Suspension Bridge. “Mac” MacEachran purchased the Bridge from Mahon in 1935 and invited local natives to place their totem poles in the park, adding a native theme. In 1945, he sold the bridge to Henri Aubeneau.
The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956. The park was sold to Nancy Stibbard, the current owner, in 1983. Annual attendance has since increased, and in May 2004, Treetops Adventures was opened. This new attraction consists of seven footbridges suspended between old-growth Douglas Fir trees on the west side of the canyon, forming a walkway up to 30 metres (98 ft) above the forest floor


37. FRACTAL PATTERNS IN DRIED OUT DESERT RIVERS


This incredible aerial photograph by Adrian Franco was selected as National Geographic’s Picture of the Day for April 9, 2012. In it we see the incredible fractal patterns rivers (now dried out) have made as they spread into the salt flats of the Baja California Desert in Mexico.
These patterns are nearly identical to the Lichtenberg Figures that result from an electrical discharge (e.g., scars from people struck by lightning have the exact same patterns).


36. MEDITATING MONKS AT PONGOUR FALLS


A simply breathtaking shot of mediating monks at Pongour Falls in Dalat, Vietnam by photographer Dang Ngo. Also known as the 7 layers waterfall, Pongour Falls is located just outside of Dalat (Lam Dong province) and is the largest waterfall in the region. The water drops about 30 meters (98.5 ft), and flows dramatically over 7 ‘layers’ into a big pool at the bottom.
While details on the shot are sparse, it appears to be a composite of a long exposure shot with a separate shot of the meditating monks


35. HANGING OUT ON THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE, 1914


The New York City Municipal Archives just released a database of over 870,000 photos from its collection of more than 2.2 million images of New York throughout the 20th century. Their subjects include daily life, construction, crime, city business, aerial photographs, and more. The Atlantic’s In Focus has just published a post with 53 incredible shots from this archive. The Sifter will do a compilation as well as soon as the site is back up and running! It’s been down for the last few days…
In the amazing photograph above, we see a group of painters suspended on cables of the the Brooklyn Bridge. The photo was taken on October 7, 1914 by Eugene de Salignac
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34. A SUNSET ECLIPSE


In this beautiful capture we see two children gazing at a partial solar eclipse over Manila Bay in the Philippines back in 2009. As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. This can happen only during a new moon, when the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth. In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon. In partial and annular eclipses (like the one above) only part of the Sun is obscured.
The Sun’s distance from the Earth is about 400 times the Moon’s distance, and the Sun’s diameter is about 400 times the Moon’s diameter. Because these ratios are approximately the same, the Sun and the Moon as seen from Earth appear to be approximately the same size: about 0.5 degree of arc in angular measure. The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is an ellipse, as is the Earth’s orbit around the Sun; the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon therefore vary.
As it is dangerous to look directly at the Sun, observers should use special eye protection or indirect viewing techniques.


33. BORA BORA FROM SPACE


This dramatic aerial photograph of Bora Bora was taken by France and Italy’s recently launched Pleidades-HR Satellite in January of 2012. The satellite orbits the Earth at an altitude of 694 km (431 miles). Pleiades is made of two “small satellites” (mass of one ton) offering a spatial resolution at nadir of 0.7 m and a field of view of 20 km. [Source]
Bora Bora is an island in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the Pacific Ocean. The island, located about 230 kilometres (140 mi) northwest of Papeete, is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, the highest point at 727 metres (2,385 ft).
Bora Bora is a major international tourist destination, famous for its aqua-centric luxury resorts. The island is served by Bora Bora Airport on Motu Mete in the north, with Air Tahiti providing daily flights to and from Papeete on Tahiti. The major settlement, Vaitape is on the western side of the main island, opposite the main channel into the lagoon. According to a census performed in 2008, the permanent population of Bora Bora is 8,880
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32. THE LARGEST RAFT OF CANOES AND KAYAKS IN THE WORLD


On September 24, 2011, over 2,200 paddlers showed up on the shores of the central Adirondack town of Inlet, New York (population, 400) to set a new Guinness World Record previously held by 1,619 boats in Pittsburgh. The official tally was 1,902 boats, forming the largest raft of canoes/kayaks in the world.
The event, called ‘the One Square Mile of Hope‘, was organized by Connie Perry, and the initiative helped raise over $80,000 towards Breast Cancer research. Not all of 1,902 boats can be seen in this incredible aerial photograph by Nancie Battaglia. See here for a more inclusive shot that is not framed as nicely as the one above.


31. ADAPTIVE ROOTS IN THE CONCRETE JUNGLE


In this fantastic sighting by photographer Horst Kiechle, we see the roots of a tree in Bangkok, Thailand (Lat Yao, Chatuchak to be exact) growing into the grooves and cracks of an interlocking sidewalk. Not only do the colour of the roots gradually fade into the pavement, but the path it takes through the sidewalk is slightly reminiscent of the fractal patterns of Lichtenberg figures, something we’ve posted about before

30. THE HAMILTON POOL NATURE PRESERVE


Although we’ve already featured this incredible place as the Picture of the Day on October 3, 2011, this second shot also by the talented Dave Wilson was too good to pass up. Offering a completely different yet equally dramatic view of the Hamilton Pool, find out more about this amazing place below.
Located approximately 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Austin, Texas, the Hamilton Pool Preserve is a historic swimming hole which was designated a preserve by the Travis County Commissioner’s Court in 1990. Located 3/4 mile upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River, Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50 foot waterfall as it plunges into the head of a steep box canyon. The waterfall never completely dries up, but in dry times it does slow to a trickle.
The pool’s water level however, stays pretty constant even during periods of drought. The preserve is home to the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, and a great variety of other birds. The diverse vegetation of Hamilton Pool ranges from semi-arid species in the uplands to riparian species in the canyon. The uplands of the preserve are a juniper and oak savannah with a variety of native grasses and wildflowers. Several rare plant species including canyon mock-orange, red bay (western-most colony of this eastern species), and chatter box orchid are known to occur in the canyon areas along Hamilton Creek.
A unique natural area surrounds this pool, collapsed grotto and canyon, formed by thousands of years of water erosion. Lush plant communities, a variety of wildlife species and natural shelter attracted the area’s first inhabitants. Cultural remains date back over 8,000 years
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29. ABOVE THE CANOPY


Photographer’s Description [Michael Nichols]: An old-growth redwood dwarfs younger redwood growth in California’s Bear Creek Watershed on the northwest side of Bear Creek Ridge. Peavine Ridge sits in the distance in Rockefeller Forest, the world’s largest continuous old-growth redwood forest, measuring more than 10,000 acres. [Source]
Through some incredible detective work, Reddit user mat101010 was able to find the exact location of this incredible tree. The coordinates are as follows: 40.411458,-124.026439


28. COLLIDING RIVERS IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND


In this incredible photograph we see the junction of the Rhone and Arve rivers in Geneva, Switzerland. The river on the left is the Rhone, which is just exiting Lake Lehman. The river on the right is the Arve, which receives water from the many glaciers of the Chamonix valley (mainly the Mer de Glace) before flowing north-west into the Rhone on the west side of Geneva, where its much higher level of silt brings forth a striking contrast between the two rivers.

27. THE STUNNING GREEN VINE SNAKE


The Green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta), is a slender green tree snake found in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is diurnal and mildly venomous, normally feeding on frogs and lizards. Green vine snakes are slow moving, relying on camouflaging as a vine in foliage to hunt.
The snake expands its body when disturbed to show a black and white scale marking. Also, they may open their mouth in threat display and point their head in the direction of the perceived threat. There is a widespread myth in parts of southern India that the species uses its pointed head to blind its human victims.
The species is viviparous, giving birth to young that grow within the body of the mother, enclosed within the egg membrane. Their venom is mild and causes swelling, with symptoms usually subsiding in three days


26. AURORA AUSTRALIS (SOUTHERN LIGHTS) FROM SPACE


In this incredible shot taken from the International Space Station on March 10, 2012 by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers, we see an absolutely breathtaking view of Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights) between Antarctica and Australia.
An aurora (plural: aurorae or auroras) is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere). The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and, on Earth, are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field into the atmosphere.
In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. Its southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the southern lights), has almost identical features to the aurora borealis and changes simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral zone and is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America, New Zealand and Australia.


25. MOUNT KILIMANJARO FROM ABOVE


This incredible aerial photograph of Mount Kilimanjaro was posted yesterday to Reddit, by user ninjao. He states the shot was taken by his friend who has now been identified as the very talented, Kyle Mijlof (thanks Mark!)
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania, and the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak). It is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 5,895 m (19,341 ft); Mawenzi 5,149 m (16,893 ft); and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim.
Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago


24. THE AMAZING STRENGTH OF AN ANT


Photographer Yu Wu took this incredible close-up of a small ant biting a branch whilst holding up a rock. The location was only described as ‘beside a river in China’. According to Discovery.com, ants are capable of not only lifting, but carrying up to fifty times their own body weight! We should be thankful they aren’t any bigger!

23. YARN BOMBING A BUS IN MEXICO CITY


In this crocheted masterpiece, artist Maga Sayeg yarn bombs an entire bus in Mexico City. Considered to be the mother of yarn bombing, Magda did her first solo exhibit in Rome at La Museo des Esposizione in the summer of 2010. She continues to lead community-based projects and works on commissions around the world with companies such as Absolut Vodka, Madewell, Insight 51, Mini Cooper, and Smart Car as well as participating in shows at Milan’s Triennale Design Museum, Le M.U.R. in Paris, and the National Gallery of Australia, among others.
Her installations have also been featured prominently at American monuments to contemporary culture, such as The Standard Hotel, South By Southwest, and the Austin City Limits Festival. Magda has most recently expanded her artwork to encompass new mediums and techniques as with her solo show in Rome which explored the usage of lighting with knitted material. She continues to expand her boundaries by joining integrated media company 1stAveMachine as one of their directors which will serve as a platform for new types of experimentation and collaboration
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22. FELIX BAUMGARTNER JUMPS FROM 71,580 FEET


On March 15th, 2012, Austria’s Felix Baumgartner jumped out of a space capsule from an altitude of approximately 71,580 feet (21,818 meters) as the Red Bull Stratos project moved forward into the manned flight stage in New Mexico. The 42-year-old rode the space capsule attached to a giant helium balloon above the so-called “Armstrong Line.”
At precisely 9:50 a.m., Felix Baumgartner landed with his parachute in the New Mexico desert nearly 30 miles away from Roswell, wearing a spacesuit as he safely completed a journey towards the edge of space. Just 1 hour and 40 minutes earlier the extreme athlete from Austria had lifted off from Roswell on board a space capsule attached to a 165-foot-high helium balloon that brought him to an altitude of nearly 71,580 feet.
The goal of this expedition towards the edge of space was to fly over the so-called “Armstrong Line” and to do tests under real conditions for the first time. That is the area in aerospace where earthly boundaries and laws disappear. It is an inhospitable region for humans where liquids begin to vaporize and temperatures plunge to minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Humans could not survive in this zone without a spacesuit to protect them from the forces of depressurization and lack of oxygen. To get there, Baumgartner first had to make it through another “death zone” closer to earth. During the first 1,000 feet of his ascent there would be no chance of escape in the event of a crash because there would be no time to get out of the capsule or open the parachute.
The ascent and his exit from the capsule went exactly as planned. Baumgartner plunged back towards earth at a speed of nearly 365 miles per hour (587 km/h). He said later the most difficult part was the extreme cold he encountered. “I could hardly move my hands. We’re going to have to do some work on that aspect,” he said. The Austrian added that he also needs to work on getting accustomed to the extraordinary dimensions of space. “I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while, but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000 feet,” he said.
Even though it was only a test jump for his forthcoming leap from an altitude of nearly 23 miles, Baumgartner still managed to make it into the record books. He became only the third person to leap from that altitude and survive. The only people to successfully jump from greater heights were Russia’s Eugene Andreev and American Joseph Kittinger, both of whom accomplished their feats in the 1960s. Kittinger, a living legend now 83 years old, is serving as a mentor for the Red Bull Stratos project and was heading Baumgartner’s test flight from Mission Control in Roswell. Kittinger is on the team of nearly 100 top experts recruited from the fields of science, medicine and aerospace for the mission. Technical director Art Thompson was involved with the construction of the Stealth Bomber, and medical director Dr. Jon Clark served as the crew surgeon for six Space Shuttle flights.
After the seasonally windy conditions pass, there will be another test from the altitude of 90,000 feet before Baumgartner and the team will attempt to break the record later this year
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21. THE MOST INCREDIBLE AURORA OF 2012


In this absolutely incredible image by Jónína Óskarsdóttir, we see an aurora spotted on March 8, 2012, shimmering over snow-covered mountains in Faskrudsfjordur, Iceland. Geomagnetic storms due to coronal mass ejections (CMEs) earlier in the week have increased in strength, and are now rated a G3 on a scale from G1 to G5.
This space weather is due to the March 7 activity from the sun that caused rapid changes to the shape of Earth’s magnetosphere – the bubble of protective magnetic fields surrounding the planet — resulting in a geomagnetic storm. As of March 8, the storm was fairly mild since the magnetic fields from the CMEs were partially aligned with Earth’s own and thus slid around the magnetosphere.
However, the geomagnetic storm has increased because the magnetic fields of the CMEs have now changed direction such that they can more easily deposit magnetic energy and radiation into Earth’s environment. To read more about the recent geomagnetic storm,



20. THE WATERFALL ISLAND AT IGUAZU FALLS


This stunning rock formation is located at Iguazu Falls. Apparently this particular view can be seen from the lookout on San Martin Island on the Argentinian side of the falls.
Iguazu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Brazilian State of Parana and the Argentine Province of Misiones. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The Iguazu River originates near the city of Curitiba. It flows through Brazil for most of its course. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Brazil and Argentina.
The total height of the falls is about 60-82 meters (200-269 ft). There are approximately 275 different drops and the total width of the falls is a staggering 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles)
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19. OVERGROWN RAILROAD TRACKS IN THE FOREST


Jiancing Historic Trail, like many other trails in Taipingshan National Forest, was built along the old logging railway. The elevation of 2000m is the height at which clouds form and linger. Jiancing (見晴) actually means the wish for a clear day. For a photographer, however, there's nothing better than hiking all day in the impenetrable white mist.

18. A POD OF SLEEPING SPERM WHALES


Spotted off the coast of the Azores in Portugal, this incredible image shows a pod of sleeping sperm whales. Back in 2008, Patrick Miller, a senior researcher fellow at the University of St. Andrews Gatty Marine Research Institute, and his colleagues affixed suction cups with data-logging tags onto 59 sperm whales at various open-water locations worldwide. The tags allowed the scientists to monitor the whales’ movements 24/7.
The researchers, whose study was published in Current Biology, noticed the whales performed the mesmerizing drift dives 7.1% of the time, usually between 6 p.m. and midnight. The scientists observed two types of drift dives. The first, head-up drift dives, happen when a whale’s rear end slowly sinks into the water from a horizontal posture. During the second type, head-down, the whale descends slowly with its head directed toward the ocean floor. It travels downward about one or two body lengths in depth before flipping back upward toward the water’s surface. The researchers think the whale’s internal buoyancy causes this natural upward motion, similar to how a sinking apple eventually bobs back to the surface.
“Because the drift dives are quite short (averaging around 12.7 minutes in duration) and are broken by the need for the whale to move to the surface to breathe, it seems that they sleep over short interrupted periods,” said Miller


17. 7 HOURS IN ONE IMAGE


In a similar concept to Eirik Solheim’s incredible image of one year in one image, we see a fantastic capture of Porto, Portugal at the mouth of the Douro River. Apparently each vertical strip represents one hour in the day. A search in the comments on Reddit and Tineye did not reveal the photographer of this beautifully stitched image. Please let us know in the comments below if you are aware of where this image came from!
Seeing the progression of the day from morning to sunset in one image really shows us the wonderful colours nature produces. It’s like a natural colour palette!


16. PIXEL PEOPLE PERFECTION


In this awesome artwork by Craig Alan, people are the pixels in this tribute to the iconic portrait of Audrey Hepburn. Why do the red lips cast red shadows? Probably because staying true and having black shadows would ruin the famous red lips. This work was featured at the International Art Expo in New York as a 48×60 print on canvas

15. GALACTIC MONSOON


The incredible photograph above was recently featured as the Earth Science Picture of the Day. It shows the Milky Way stretching across the desert sky and a distant monsoon thunderstorm on the horizon. It was captured just outside of Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. The photo was taken on August 27, 2011. To learn more about the shot and settings,

14. STRIKING ARTISTRY OF MULTIPLE TAKEOFFS AT HANNOVER AIRPORT


Update Feb. 18, 2012: @flyingwithfish has done a very intriguing analysis that proves this image is a work of art vs a multiple exposure, our apologies. From the actual planes/airlines seen in the picture, to the takeoff positioning relative to the airport; @flyingwithfish’s post is a worthwhile read.
A few additional reasons below (updated Feb. 22, 2012):
- The size of the planes are all relatively the same in the image but not in real life (e.g., Boeing 747s and 777s)
- Several of the airplanes/airlines do not serve Hannover (e.g., Air NZ Link ATR-72-500)
- An actual multiple exposure shot so many times for each aircraft shown in this image would result in overblown white field (and things in background like cloud formation would likely have changed)


13. SAILING LIKE A BOSS


In this seemingly implausible photo we see Alex Thomson performing what he calls the ‘keel walk’, a stunt that has become infamous in the sailing world thanks to this photograph. As his 8-tonne carbon fibre yacht, Hugo Boss, sails on edge, Alex pulls up in a 255-horsepower ski jet and leaps onto the keel of the boat. Be sure to check out the embedded video below for proof of this epic feat. Alex Thomson, the Sifter salutes you

12. A SEA OF PURPLE IN THE BADLANDS OF UTAH


This is an incredible capture by photographer Guy Tal of a rare event in the badlands of Utah that occurs every few years when the conditions are just right and the arid lands burst into color with carpets of scorpionweed and beeplant.
A badlands (also badland) is a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. It can resemble malpaís, a terrain of volcanic rock. Canyons, ravines, gullies, hoodoos and other such geological forms are common in badlands.
As for Guy, well he explains best what he does in his own words:
It’s a strange business I’m in; one often misunderstood. There’s no real word for what I do and maybe it’s time to put a name to it. My job is to be inspired. I make my living conveying the inspiration I find to others, in various ways. I photograph, I write, I teach, I interact. What does that make me? My photography is not about making photographs; my writing is not about words; my teaching is not about facts; and my interactions are not about being social. There’s a higher ulterior purpose – the experience. Am I an experiencer?


11. PUTTING THE SIZE OF A WHALE IN PERSPECTIVE


Everyone knows whales are huge. In fact, the Blue Whale is the largest known animal to have ever existed (source). Roughly the length of a basketball court, these majestic creatures are a sight to behold.
In this startling image, we see a kite surfer likely unaware that this colossal mammal is right below him. The comments on Reddit and a search on TinEye did not turn up anything, please update us in the comments below if you know who the photographer is, or have any more information on this incredible aerial shot.
*Update: As updated by the photographer (Michael Swaine @ AbovePhotography.com.au), this is an aerial capture of a humpback whale not a blue whale as initially reported
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10. MEANWHILE IN SWITZERLAND


A boy sits in front of an ice covered car in Versoix, near Geneva, Switzerland, on February 5, 2012. Bitterly cold weather sweeping across Europe claimed more victims on Sunday and brought widespread disruption to transport services, with warnings that the chilling temperatures would remain into next week.

9. ONE BOAT AND 145 WATER-SKIERS


154 water-skiers from around the world gathers in Strahan, Tasmania to attempt to set a new world record. To qualify, the skiers had to stay upright for a full nautical mile. Unfortunately nine of the skiers were unable to complete the full distance, so the new world record was set at 145 skiers pulled behind a single boat. The previous record (set at the same location) was 114. There are tons more pics and info in the original article on Dailymail

8. SALAR DE UYUNI AFTER SOME RAIN


Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa) is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It is located in the Potosi and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, and is elevated 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above the mean sea level. The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50 to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, which is in the process of being extracted.
The large area, clear skies and exceptional surface flatness make the Salar an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of the Earth observation satellites. The Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and is a major breeding ground for several species of pink flamingos. Salar de Uyuni is also a climatological transitional zone, for towering tropical cumulus congestus and cumulus incus clouds that form in the eastern part of the massive salt flat during summer, cannot permeate beyond the salt flat’s considerably more arid western edges, near the Chilean border and the Atacama Desert.



7. OUTDOOR JACUZZI ON THE MATTERHORN


This outdoor jacuzzi is part of the Igloo Village, ‘Iglu-Dorf‘, in Zermatt. Guests sleep at an altitude of 2,727 meters (8.946 ft) at the Gornergrat, right next to Switzerland’s most famous mountain, the mighty Matterhorn. The Igloo village typically opens up in December with accommodations for up to 40 overnight guests (although it can handle more for dining and partying during the evening). The coolest feature is surely the two outdoor jacuzzis set directly in the snow covered landscape. Imagine the views you could soak in!

6. THE PRECIOUS BLUE MARBLE


NASA has proclaimed this image the most amazing high definition image of Earth ever. To see the colossal-super-mega high-resolution image, click here (it’s 8000px x 8000px and 16.4mb).
This ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth was taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.
Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth. Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS. To read more about NASA’s Suomi NPP go to: npp.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html
For all the haters online complaining about how the views of Planet Earth are typically ‘North American Centric’, check out the view of Earth below, also from NASA




5. MAELSTROM AT KAUAI, HAWAII


A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in danger and tsunami generated maelstroms may even threaten larger crafts. Tales like those by Paul the Deacon, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe are entirely fictional.
One of the earliest uses of the Scandinavian word was by Edgar Allan Poe in his story “A Descent into the Maelstrom” (1841). In turn, the Nordic word is derived from the Dutch maelstrom, modern spelling maalstroom, from malen (to grind) and stroom (stream), to form the meaning grinding current or literally “mill-stream”, in the sense of milling (grinding) grain


4. CAPSIZED CRUISE SHIP COSTA CONCORDIA FROM SPACE


In this startling satellite image by DigitalGlobe, the capsized cruise ship Costa Concordia can be seen near the island of Giglio in Italy on January 17, 2012. As of today, search has been suspended after the ship slipped. Twenty-three people are still missing and 11 and confirmed dead after the ship crashed into rocks on Friday.
Captain Francesco Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the Costa Concordia before evacuation was complete. The ship, carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, had its hull ripped open when it hit rocks late on Friday, just hours into a Mediterranean cruise
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3. Serenity Now


Sun, water, wave, surf. Oh and a rainbow. This gorgeous photograph by Zak Noyle was the winner of Surfer Magazine’s ‘photo of the year’ and it’s easy to see why. The image was taken with a fisheye lens at Teahupoo in Tahiti. The surfer is Christian Redongo.

2. BEAUTIFUL BERN FROM ABOVE


The city of Bern or Berne is the Bundesstadt (federal city, de facto capital) of Switzerland, and, with (as of December 2010) a population of 133,920, the fourth most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration, which includes 43 municipalities, has a population of 349,000. The metropolitan area had a population of 660,000 in 2000. Bern is also the capital of the Canton of Bern, the second most populous of Switzerland’s cantons.
The official language of Bern is German, but the main spoken language is the Alemannic dialect called Bernese German.
In 1983 the historic old town in the centre of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Bern is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life (2010)


1. FIRST RISING SUN OF 2012


The first rising sun of 2012 appears above Mt. Fuji, observed at Yamanashi prefecture on January 1, 2012. All Nippon Airways (ANA) had organized a rising sun observation flight with 137 passengers on New Year’s Day.



thank you very much for your visit