The end of the world is near—December 21, 2012, to be exact—according to theories based on a purported ancient Maya calendar.
Scientists, though, are tripping over themselves to deflate the ballooning hype, as we reported in January. (NASA itself recently felt compelled to issue a comprehensive 2012 fact check.)
In some 2012 doomsday prophecies, the Earth becomes a death trap as it undergoes a "pole shift," courtesy of an asteroid impact (illustrated above), a rare alignment with the center of the Milky Way, and/or massive solar radiation destabilizing the inner Earth by heating it. (Related: "End of World in 2012? Maya 'Doomsday' Calendar Explained.")
Pinpricks of light on the shore seem to mirror stars on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives.
The biological light, or bioluminescence, in the waves is the product of tiny marine life-forms called phytoplankton—and now scientists think they know how some of these sea beasts create their brilliant blue glow, we reported in March.
A camera-equipped submersible robot filmed species such as barnacles, crabs, anemones, and even an octopus, all of which are mostly colorless and live in utter darkness at depths of 7,875 feet (2,400 meters), according to a January study.
A shark was caught on camera making a meal of another shark along Australia's Great Barrier Reef in February. The pictures show a tasseled wobbegong halfway through swallowing a brownbanded bamboo shark.
"The first thing that caught my eye was the almost translucent white of the bamboo shark," Ceccarelli said in an email. Expecting to find the front part of the bamboo shark hidden under a coral ledge, Ceccarelli swam closer—and the highly camouflaged wobbegong materialized. (Related pictures: "Sharks Taught to Hunt Alien Lionfish.")
Match-tip tiny, Brookesia micra (juvenile pictured) is the smallest of four new chameleon species found on the island country of Madagascar, scientists reported in February.
With an average adult length of just over an inch (2.9 centimeters) from snout to tail, B. micra is among the tiniest reptiles in the world. But the diminuitive critter turned out to be huge on the Web—this was the most visited gallery of 2012. (Related: "Record-Breaking Chameleons Live Only a Few Months.")