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Origin of Antarctica’s eerie Blood Falls

Blood Falls pouring into Lake Bonney. A tent can be seen in the lower left for size comparison. Photo from the United States Antarctic Program Photo Library.

Blood Falls pouring into Lake Bonney. A tent can be seen in the lower left for size comparison. Photo from the United States Antarctic Program Photo Library.

The red color of Blood Falls in Antarctica was known to be caused by microbes living off sulfur and iron in what was surmised to be oxygen-free water trapped beneath the ice for nearly 2 million years. Recent work by Jill Mikucki at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, confirms that there are indeed zones of liquid briny water hundreds of meters below Blood Falls, likely harboring a hidden ecosystem of microbial life.

Pacific ‘blob’ is changing weather patterns

A pup lies with older sea lions at the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey, California March 17, 2015. Animal rescue centers in California are being inundated with stranded, starving sea lion pups, raising the possibility that the facilities could soon be overwhelmed, the federal agency coordinating the rescue said.  Photo credit: Reuters/Michael Fiala

A pup lies with older sea lions at the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey, California March 17, 2015. Animal rescue centers in California are being inundated with stranded, starving sea lion pups, raising the possibility that the facilities could soon be overwhelmed, the federal agency coordinating the rescue said. Photo credit: Reuters/Michael Fiala

What does this year’s odd U.S. weather have in common with a huge spike in hungry, stranded sea lion pups on California shores? Both are linked to a giant patch of warm ocean water.

This date in science: Dramatic space photos of Pavlof Volcano

Pavlof Volcano May 18, 2013 via ISS

Pavlof Volcano May 18, 2013 via ISS. The space station was about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano when astronauts aboard captured this beautiful, oblique view. Photo provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. Image taken by the Expedition 36 crew.

May 18, 2013. On this date astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured three beautiful views of Pavlof Volcano, part of the Aleutian Arc, with a handheld Nikon D3S digital camera. As the volcano poured out lava and shot ash 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) into the air, the astronauts managed to capture these seldom-seen oblique views of the volcano, which are very different from the top-down views of most unmanned satellites.

This date in science: Cataclysmic eruption at Mount St. Helens

Photograph of Mount St. Helens taken during the May 18, 1980 eruption. Image Credit: Oman/Combs, National Park Service.

Photograph of Mount St. Helens taken during the May 18, 1980 eruption. Image Credit: Oman/Combs, National Park Service.

On May 18, 1980 – 35 years ago today — a cataclysmic eruption occurred at Mount St. Helens. It was one of the most destructive volcanic events ever recorded in the history of the United States.

Do nano-sunscreens harm sea life?

Image via CNTraveler.com

Image via CNTraveler.com

Nano particles in sunscreens have been found to harm marine worms, crustaceans, algae, fish and mussels. A new study shows their negative effect on sea urchin embryos, too.

New moon falls on May 18

Image credit: Moon Viewer

Image via Earth and Moon Viewer

Few, if any, people around the world can expect to see the moon before sunrise or after sunset today, on May 18, 2015. Today is the day of the new moon, the time of month when the moon and sun reside on the same side of Earth. Today, the moon pretty much rises with the sun at sunrise, crosses the sky with the sun during the daytime and sets with the sun at sunset.

Mountain shadow on clouds

Mountain shadow on clouds, in Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands, by Roberto Porto.

Mountain shadow on clouds, in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, by Roberto Porto.

Barely above 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) in elevation, Roque del Conde – a tabletop mountain with a huge plateau on its top – is one of the landmarks of the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. On May 9, 2015, Roberto Porto caught sight of this mountain’s dramatic shadow cast onto the low clouds at sunrise.

Four quasars in a row

Image via

Image via Hennawl and Arrigoni-Battala.

Astronomers at Keck Observatory in Hawaii have found a quartet of quasars, embedded in a giant nebula of cool, dense gas. The odds of four of them being so closely packed purely by chance is about 1 in 10 million.

Find the Omega Centauri star cluster

2015-may-17-spica-omega-centauri-corvus-night-sky-chart

The sparkling blue-white star Spica can act as your guide to the Omega Centauri globular star cluster on these springtime nights. You can actually see this cluster with the unaided eye. Omega Centauri looks like a fairly faint (and possibly fuzzy) star. It’s a beautiful and very special star cluster, and Spica can help you find it.

Watch a moon shadow on Jupiter

View larger. | Composite showing the shadow of one of Jupiter's moons, moving across the face of Jupiter, submitted to EarthSky by John Nelson

Composite created by John Nelson at Puget Sound. Click in for a link to a larger image.

This composite represents about an hour of Jupiter-watching. Meanwhile, Jupiter spins on its axis in 9 hours and 56 minutes. Watch a moon shadow on Jupiter’s face, and see how far the Great Red Spot moves in that time.