An impactful day
We'll be the ones to drop the news on you: It's Asteroid Day! Today you're invited to explore a realm of science usually encountered only through white-knuckle action flicks: Asteroid impact avoidance, or the study of what the heck we do if we spot a big chunk of space junk hurtling right at Earth. That's right, don't worry: People somewhere are coming up with plans for this.
Good thing, because as our photo shows, asteroid impacts do happen. Manicouagan Crater, aka the 'eye of Québec,' was formed by a 3-mile-wide meteorite that hit Earth about 215 million years ago. Much more recently, an explosive meteoroid leveled 800 square miles of Siberian forest in what's called the Tunguska event. It was 113 years ago today, and Asteroid Day's date was chosen in recognition.
So, if you find yourself casting paranoid glances at the sky today, maybe do a little searching on how scientists are learning to prevent potential impacts. Proposed plans involve everything from altering an asteroid's course via a gravitational field, to delaying its approach by attaching rocket thrusters, to good old-fashioned blowing it up. Yay science!
The scent of summer
These fragrant purple blooms are a quintessential summer sight - and not just in Provence. Once a favourite in Victorian gardens, homegrown lavender production has seen a renaissance in recent decades, with many small-scale producers growing it and producing lavender-based goods, from creams and oils to cider and chocolate. There are more than 40 different types but Lavendula angustifolia, also known as English lavender, is particularly popular here, especially with bees.
Lavender, which comes from the same family as mint, has been long been a popular plant, associated with cleanliness (the name is thought to have its roots in the Latin verb ‘lavare’ to wash), as well as relaxation and healing. The Ancient Egyptians are thought to have used it in the mummification process, while the Ancient Greeks used it for minor ailments and the Romans used it to clean their clothes. It’s not native to the UK and it is not certain when exactly it arrived on these shores, but it has been popular here for centuries. Lavender is said to have been Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite perfume, posies of lavender were carried and scattered before her to fend off bad smells. More than 200 years later, it was still a royal favourite - Queen Victoria is said to have had a taste for lavender jelly served with roast mutton.
An island hopper's paradise
Welcome to the sunny and sultry Seychelles, a tropical island nation just south of the equator in the Indian Ocean, roughly 900 miles off the eastern coast of Africa. The gorgeous beach you see here is the Anse Source d'Argent on the island of La Digue, one of 115 islands that make up this tropical republic. Anse Source d'Argent has long been a favorite of photographers, who are drawn to its contoured, dark granite boulders, pristine white sand, and turquoise-colored water. Beachcombers and sun worshippers also flock to the Seychelles because of the islands' consistently great weather—daily high temperatures almost always stay within a comfortable range of between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.
Most any day is a day worth celebrating in the Seychelles, but today is cause for double celebration: June 29 is Independence Day in the Seychelles, commemorating the nation's 1976 independence from centuries of colonial rule under the French and British. It also happens to be the UN's International Day of the Tropics, a day of special recognition for the Seychelles and other locales within the zone between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. That accounts for about 36% of Earth's land mass and close to 40% of its population. The intent of International Day of the Tropics is twofold: as a celebration of the extraordinary diversity of this zone while also highlighting the challenges facing the region, like poverty, climate change, deforestation, urbanization, and demographic shifts.
A celebration of Maltese culture
That mighty fortress at the top of the hill is called the Cittadella—it's a medieval fortified city at the geographical center of the island of Gozo. Gozo is the second-largest island in the Maltese archipelago (after the island of Malta itself), and despite all appearances it's the less densely populated of the two.
On both Gozo and Malta, today marks the start of a two-day celebration of Maltese culture called Mnarja (sometimes spelled Imnarja). The national festival dates from the 16th century and is dedicated to the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. During Mnarja, centuries-old Maltese customs and traditions are on full display. The streets come alive with traditional folk songs called ghana, as well as dancing, and horse and donkey races, some of which feature jockeys riding behind in chariots. Malta's national dish, a rabbit stew called fenkata, is served at nearly all Mnarja events. During the festival's medieval origins this was the only time of year when ordinary Maltese people were allowed to eat rabbit, which was usually reserved for the knights that then ruled the islands. To wash down the rabbit stew? Maltese wine, of course. Saħħa! ('Cheers!')
Spectacular views below!
When residents of the bustling metropolis of Beijing, China, need a break from their daily grind, many will head about 45 miles north of the city to take in the sights at the Shilinxia Scenic Area. Meaning 'Gorge of Stone Forest,' Shilinxia is a protected 7-and-a-half mile gorge which, since 2016 has featured an amazing main attraction—one of the world's largest glass sightseeing platforms.
If you're scared of heights, this platform may not be for you, as it sits roughly 1,300 feet above the valley floor and juts out nearly 108 feet from the tallest point in the gorge. But don't worry: Even though it may inspire a bit of vertigo and has been known to sway a bit with the wind, the platform is perfectly safe—the glass floor is reinforced by titanium alloys. Once out on the platform, viewers can look down through glass into the rugged sandstone rocks and forest of the Shilinxia gorge below. It's easy to also catch a glimpse of some local landmarks, including the nearby Huangsongyu reservoir, Diaowo Village, and the Shilin River.
"Kamikochi" Nagano Prefecture
Kamikochi, located in the valley of the Northern Alps, is a large plateau with abundant greenery. The original kanji is "Kamigakiuchi", and it was named because the deity of Hotaka Shrine, Hotaka Mikoto, descended to Mt. It was. It is also a hot spring resort, and there is also a hot spring inn where you can take a day trip bath ...
At an altitude of 1500 meters, the area has a wet continental climate, with cool summers and cold winters. It is blessed with a variety of vegetation because it extends from the mountainous area to the subalpine zone. The snowy landscape and the fresh green of early summer are wonderful, but the autumn leaves are also wonderful. Forests and lakes are inhabited by ancient Japanese creatures such as Japanese macaques, mallards, and chars.
The call of the wild in Alaska
Most visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska come with a checklist for the 'big five' mammals that live here: Grizzly bears, moose, wolves, Dall sheep, and caribou like this small group walking along a ridge. These are barren-ground caribou, a migratory subspecies of caribou found across the arctic band of North America to western Greenland. Barren-ground caribou migrate in large herds, some traveling over 600 miles one way, between their summer and winter ranges. But the Denali herd, today which numbers around 3,000 animals, generally stay on the park's 6 million acres. For good reason, too—they're the only large herd that aren't hunted.
A firefly frolic
You might be crashing the biggest party in Japan's least populous region. Each summer, fireflies turn this forest in rural Tottori prefecture into their own glitzy nightclub. There's no telling which fireflies are the males in this shot, but be assured they'll spend mating season trying to flicker their way into the females' hearts.
The buzzkill here is that fireflies' heyday each June and July amounts to their entire two-month adult lives—so when the rave dies, the flies shortly follow. Fortunately, that's plenty of time for the reveling bugs to produce countless eggs, soon to hatch into larvae who'll emerge from their pupae next summer and kick off the light show once again.
Land of the midnight sun
Here we are in the land of the midnight sun, just after the summer solstice. These days of seemingly endless sunlight are especially dramatic here at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall on the south coast of Iceland. The famous waterfall is less than a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, Iceland's capital city. Intrepid explorers, hopefully kitted out in good traction shoes and raincoats, can explore the walkways behind and surrounding the raging walls of water.
The peak of Iceland's famous midnight sun occurs in the days around the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky. This time of year, the sun never seems to set here, delivering up to 21 full hours of sunlight and 3 hours of twilight. Iceland experiences the long days of midnight sun between mid-May and mid-August. Then the days become shorter, with the entire country plunging into a dark polar night around winter solstice in December.
Surf's up—Down Under
It's International Surfing Day! Here in the US we may be welcoming summer tomorrow, but these Aussie surfers are saying g'day to the rad waves of winter. Though peak surf season is autumn (that is, our spring) here in the Gold Coast area of Queensland, these tropical beaches offer world-class breaks all year long.
We Americans usually think California when we think surfing, but the sport's history runs deeper here in the South Pacific. Fijians, Tahitians, Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders have been riding waves for several hundred years at least. It wasn't until the early 1900s that Hawaiian Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku demonstrated the sport for both US and Australian officials, creating a wave of popularity that has yet to break.