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Rocks sculptured by erosion, richly tinted mudstone hills and canyons, luminous sand dunes, and lush oases populate Death Valley National Park. Native Americans, most recently the Shoshone, found ways to adapt to the more recent and forbidding desert conditions that exist here now. Thickly clumped stems of arrowweed (Pluchea sericea) form the "corn shocks" of the Devil's Cornfield in Death Valley National Park. A popular nearby area is the Devil's Golf Course, a rocky, salt-encrusted area where "only the devil could play golf." A road sign spells it out for drivers on a lonely stretch in Death Valley National Park: You're well below sea level here. The park is known for extremes: It is North America's driest and hottest spot and it has the lowest elevation on the continent.

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view Death Valley National Park Photos as presented by: National Geographic


The death toll has risen to 139 following the tornado that ripped into Joplin, Mo., destroying or damaging homes, a hospital and commercial buildings in its path. Oklahoma and Texas were also hammered by damaging twisters. Joplin, Mo. ó Beverly Winans hugs her daughter Debbie Surlin while salvaging items from the Winans' devastated home. Winans and her husband rode out the EF-5 tornado by hiding under a bed in the home. The tornado tore through much of the city Sunday, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses and killing at least 122 people. President Obama greets residents affected by the devastating tornado that hit the small Midwestern city a week ago. Obama travelled to Joplin also to participate in a memorial service for those killed, estimated at 139 people. The Rev. Bill Pape prepares for an outdoor church service after Peace Lutheran Church was destroyed in the massive tornado.

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view Tornadoes plague the Midwest as presented by: Los Angeles Times


For many people, Memorial Day Weekend includes a visit to the cemetery. It's John Peterson's mission to make sure those cemeteries are ready for the holiday. Peterson is the creator and owner of the Twin Cities business Grave Groomers. Some families hire Peterson to tend to graves of recently deceased loved ones. Others want him to care for the burial sites of those who passed away long ago. John Peterson washes a monument in Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minn., on May 7, 2011. Peterson started Grave Groomers, a cemetery maintenance and beatification service, in 1999. His customers hire him to do everything from polish the headstones of their loved ones to lay flowers on their graves. John Peterson puts a fresh coat of paint on a large urn that serves as a grave marker. "I like seeing the cemeteries around Memorial Day. I like seeing how all the hard work turned out," says Peterson. "And I like knowing that people care that their families' graves look good." Some families hire John Peterson to tend to graves of recently deceased loved ones. Others want him to care for the burial sites of those who passed away long ago.

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view Preparing graves for Memorial Day as presented by: Minnesota Public Radio



Kent Williams, owner of New Fishall Bait Company, looks into the mouth of a 1,323.5-pound Mako shark at the company's headquarters in Gardena, Calif., on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Jason Johnston of Texas caught the potentially record-setting 1,323-pound shark off Huntington Beach on Monday after a 2 1/2-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported. "I've hunted lions and brown bears, but I've never experienced anything like this," said Jason Johnston of Texas, who caught the 1,323-pound shark off Huntington Beach on Monday after a 2 1/2-hour battle, "It felt like I had a one-ton diesel truck at the end of the line, and it wasn't budging." If the catch is confirmed and meets conditions, it would exceed the 1,221-pound record mako catch made in July 2001 off the coast of Chatham, Mass., said Jack Vitek, world records coordinator for the Florida-based International Game Fish Association. It takes about two months for the association to verify domestic catches

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view Massive Shark Caught Off California Coast Could Be Record as presented by: Photoblog on NBC News


John Moore, senior staff photographer at Getty Images, recently traveled across the heart of central Iran in correlation with the 25th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini. Mooreís photographs offer a unique perspective into the daily life of Iranians. The following is an essay on his experience. ortraits of the late Ayatollah Khomeini (L) and Iranís current supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei hang over shoppers in the historic Bazar-e Bozorg on June 2, 2014 in Isfahan, Iran. Isfahan, with itís immense mosques, picturesque bridges and ancient historic bazaars, is a virtual living museum of Iranian traditional culture. Itís also the Iranís top tourist destination for both Iranian and domestic visitors. On June 4 Iran marks the 25th anniversary of the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his legacy of the Islamic Revolution. In the background of the photo is the Imam Mosque, known as the Shah Mosque before the revolution.

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view John Moore in Iran, 25 years after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini as presented by: Denver Post


Visiting other planets is a dream that most of us alive today will have to experience vicariously through probes like the plucky NASA Mars rovers, which have sent a thousand photo albums' worth of snapshots back to Earth. But here's what most people don't realize: you can get a feel for visiting other worlds just by going to certain places on our own planet. Another extreme, but surprisingly lively, environment can be found in Antarctica's Dry Valleys, which are some of the most inhospitable places on Earth: temperatures have fallen as low as -90 degrees Fahrenheit, and winds can blow up to 200 mph. They still host hardy organisms like lichens, mosses, and nematodes that can survive the brutal conditions. Scientists believe that, like the lifeless Atacama, these valleys resemble the environment on Mars; studying how creatures nevertheless manage to survive there could give insight into how life might exist on the Red Planet. Engineering projects intended for interplanetary travel, like this six-legged rover meant to carry heavy loads across the surface of a distant moon or planet, can also be found gallivanting across Earth's deserts. The desert outside Flagstaff, Arizona, was the proving grounds for this rover, called ATHLETE--All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer--which someday might transport living quarters for astronauts. Deserts are not the only otherwordly places on Earth. Astronauts can train for space missions in underwater environments like the enormous Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, located in NASA's Johnson Space Center. But these huge bathtubs do not always accurately simulate the trials of space missions: for instance, astronauts can't live in modules at the bottom of these tubs for days on end. That's when NASA turns to the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory. Located 60 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean near Key Largo, it lets spacewalkers work with support crews and a mission control. These particular astronauts are participating in NEEMO 15, the latest NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations voyage; they are helping NASA determine the best way to send a manned crew to an asteroid.

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view Where Earth Is Unearthly: Exotic Places That Resemble Alien Planets as presented by: Discover Magazine


Well that came as a surprise: Russia's city Sochi became an abandoned ghost town just a few weeks after the Olympics 2014. A nice addition to the list of other abandoned Olympic areas in the world.

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view Sochi Has Already Turned Into A Ghost Town as presented by: GigaPica


Are you enjoying the warm weather this summer has to offer for us? We made a gallery wit pictures relating the ongoing heatwaves around the world. Children cool down in a channel during a hot day in Minsk. Car mechanic Neil Watson takes dog Max paddle boarding during the hot, sunny weather on Brighton beach in southern England. Haugen, Dunbarand Fernandes from Rosamond, California, cool off in the Pacific ocean during a heat wave in Santa Monica.

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view Heatwaves Around the World as presented by: Totally Cool Pix



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