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Photo of phosphorescent streaks in the sky above a beach in Montezuma Costa Rica.

These phosphorescent streaks were found above a beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

Photograph by John Williamson, National Geographic Your Shot

Jane Lee

National Geographic

Published January 31, 2014

The ocean glows an eerie blue and stars leave streaks across the sky in a photograph taken on a beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica, on January 25.

Often, microscopic algae are responsible for creating these beautiful light shows in the ocean. Physically tumbling around in ocean waves can trigger the production of this kind of illumination.

A Chilly Blanket

Satellite image of arctic air as it surged into the southern United States.
Photograph by NOAA/NASA GOES Project

Major parts of the U.S. have suffered under the chilly embrace of Arctic air, courtesy of the polar vortex—a mass of freezing cold air blown south from Canada.

Residents of the Gulf Coast states and those up the Eastern Seaboard have been treated to snowstorms and temperatures that wouldn't seem out of place in Alaska. (See "Editor's Pick: Best Photos From the Southern Snowfall.")

This especially frosty winter manifests in the clouds and snow that blanket much of the U.S. East Coast in this NOAA satellite image taken January 28.

Star Trails

Photo of a frame that Hubble relayed back from an observing session showing colorful lines that look more like fine art.
Photograph by NASA, ESAAcknowledgements: A. Sarajedini (University of Florida) and Judy Schmidt

Usually, when people get lost they end up flustered, sweaty, and late. When Hubble gets a little lost, we get abstract art.

This is an actual image, released January 27, taken by NASA's famous eye in the sky. But it was an accident.

When Hubble calibrates its position before making observations, it locks on to a fixed point in space—called a guide star—in order to make any corrections.

For some reason, Hubble locked on to a bad star—perhaps a binary star—which caused an error in its tracking system, resulting in the image above.

The red streaks are star tracks from globular cluster NGC 288.

Rover Selfie

Photo of the sun emitting a solar flare.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/SDO

Our sun emitted a midlevel solar flare (left) on January 30, captured in this image taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

But the moon sneaks its way into the image as well, as seen in the curved bit of negative space on the lower right.

Sun and Moon

Self-Portrait by Opportunity Mars Rover.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ

This self-portrait of the Mars rover Opportunity reveals the lone robot looking a little dusty, perhaps a little creaky.

But after a decade roaming the red planet, Opportunity is still kicking. Its handlers took images of their rover and combined them into a self-portrait, which they released January 23—Opportunity's ten-year anniversary. (See "NASA Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary of Mars Rover.")

A Fan of Ice

NASA radar maps the winter pace of Iceland's glaciers.
Photograph by NASA/JPL/Caltech

A part of the Hofsjökull ice cap in Iceland dominates the left side of this image, released on January 28. The fan of ice in the upper left corner is a glacier called Mûlajökul.

Ultramassive Black Hole

Photo of one of the most powerful black holes known.
Photograph by NASA/CXC/Stanford/J.Hlavacek-Larrondo et al, Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/M.Postman & CLASH team

A monster lurks at the purple heart of this image, released January 23. That beast is one of the most powerful black holes known to science, as observed in this composite image from NASA's Chandra x-ray observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The purple cloud, seen through Chandra, is actually hot gas surrounding galaxy cluster RX J1532. The black hole at the center is sending out supersonic jets so powerful, they're tearing holes the size of the Milky Way galaxy in the cloud. (See "No Black Holes Exist, Says Stephen Hawking-At Least Not Like We Think.")

Northern Lights

Photo of the northern Lights on Reykjanes Peninsula Iceland.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FLOSI P., NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

The northern lights swirl above a building on Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland. Flosi P. uploaded the image to National Geographic's Your Shot community on January 25. (See "Aurora Pictures: Best Fall Photos of Northern Lights.")

Follow Jane J. Lee on Twitter .

12 comments
Seb Dixon
Seb Dixon

Woops, Mars and solar flare's captions are the wrong way around!

Shebani Hiwat
Shebani Hiwat

the northern lights are the rendevouz d’amour between heaven and earth :) wow!

Traveler Lvr
Traveler Lvr

Love the Costa Rica and Iceland pics. What a beautiful and mysterious planet we have!

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