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Nature: Most Striking Scientific Images You Must See in 2013

In 2013, our Universe continued to surprise and delight as it was probed and prodded by scientists. In this year, researchers’ gaze ranged near and far, from the vast to the minuscule, offering stunning insights of space and capturing images of the very bonds that connect molecules together. The following images are Nature’s selection of 13 must-seen scientific images of the year that highlight science’s and nature’s triumphs.

Far out

 Far out

*Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Please carefully look at the lower right of the image and you may be able to spot the tiny dot that is Earth, seen from more than a billion kilometers away. The vista of Saturn’s famous rings backlit by the Sun was assembled from 141 individual pictures taken by NASA’s Cassini probe after it moved into the shadow of Saturn in July.

Fire in the sky

 Fire in the sky

*Image source: Marat Ahmetvaleev

The huge fireball was made by the largest meteor known to crash on Earth since the Tunguska rock hit Earth in 1908. Russia again was the unlucky recipient: the meteor exploded about 30 kilometers above Chelyabinsk in the Urals and shone brighter than the Sun.

Visual link

 Visual link

*Image source: Xiaohui Qiu/Science/AAAS

Chemists have been used to see images of individual atoms. However, using atomic force microscopy skillfully, researchers from Beijing managed to capture the first image of hydrogen bonds, seen here as faint lines between four molecules of 8-hydroxyquinoline.

Mind reader

Mind reader

*Image source: Kwanghun Chung & Karl Deisseroth/HHMI/Stanford Univ.

This is the first “transparent brains” made with CLARITY, a neuroimaging approach that renders brains – in this case a mouse hippocampus – transparent by stripping away lipids with detergent. This technology reveals neurons three-dimensionally instead of conventional two-dimensional slices.

Magic moment

 Magic moment

*Image source: Satoshi Takeuchi

This image seems to be an art installation, however, it is actually γ-ray detectors in Japan evidencing that calcium atoms with 20 protons and 34 neutrons are stable, suggesting 34 as a “magic number” of nuclear stability.

Flower power

Flower power

*Image source: Dominic Clarke/Science/AAAS

These images demonstrate faint electric fields around an idealized flower. UK scientists discovered that bees sense these fields: one bee leaves a positive charge behind and the others can use this cue to decide whether the flower worth visiting or not.

Small and mighty

Small and mighty

*Image source: Dimitry Papkov/Joel Brehm/Yuris Dzenis

These nanofibers are made of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and they seem to defy logic – the thinner the fibers, the stronger and tougher they are. Fabricated by electrospinning, in which a tiny charge draws fibers from a liquid, their slim build allows them to become ten times stronger than thicker versions currently used in electronics and optics.

Solar station

Solar station

*Image source: Jamey Stillings

The image shows the solar-power installations at the Ivanpah Dry Lake in California, where the Sun’s rays boil water to drive a turbine. The number and size of such installations are growing in 2o13 and some predicts that this source of energy will overtake wind power soon. Such sci-fi-esque scene provides a glimpse of the future.

Brought to light

 Brought to light

*Image source: Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures/FLPA

The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) was a rare species: a new land-mammal discovered in the forests of the Andes. As a member of the raccoon family, this creature was formally described in August after a search prompted by previously misidentified museum specimens – although it turned out that an olinguito had been previously kept in US zoos.

Blowing in the wind

 Blowing in the wind

*Image source: Erik Rosolowsky/ALMA Radio Telescope

Each year, a mass equivalent to nine Suns is blown out from the galaxy NGC 253 by a powerful space wind. Chile’s ALMA radio telescopes imaged the carbon monoxide in the wind in unprecedented details and revealed the extent of the ejection. The red areas are regions of low emission intensity while those blue-purple areas represent high intensity.

Ancient young

 Ancient young

*Image source: Aaron LeBlanc

The bone shown in cross-section comes from an embryo of a dinosaur, dating to about 195 million years ago. It’s one of around 200 such bones sampled from a bone bed in China. The rare discoveries offered fresh data on dinosaur development.

Old flames

Old flames

*Image source: Jose Jacome/EPA/Corbis

Tungurahua in Ecuador has been erupting almost continuously since 2010, and sporadically since at least 7,750 BC. The volcano has offered a wealth of scientific data, including s research this year illustrating that local settlements were devastated in an eruption in 1,100 BC, making it the site of one of the oldest-own volcanic disasters in the Andes.

Bonus online-only editor’s choice

 Bonus online-only editor’s choice

*Image source: Kirsten Faurie/Kanabec County Times/www.MoraMinn.com

Although this image did not make into the end-of-year print piece, it captivated Nature’s selection team. In the image, Terry Headley, a volunteer with the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, is rescuing an injured bald eagle in April.

Source:Nature

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