Enormous Butterfly Swarms, Saharan Duststorms, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week

Also: one of the first times humans encountered the microscopic world.

Wet Planet

This artist’s illustration depicts HAT-P-11b, a Neptune-sized extrasolar planet, passing in front of its parent star. Recently, exoplanet scientists revealed that HAT-P-11b has clear skies and water in its atmosphere. They identified the water when they measured how starlight changed as it moved through the atmosphere of the planet. This is the smallest wet planet identified so far.

Underwater Landscape

The team searching for missing Malaysian flight MH370 has released detailed 3-D images of the volcanos, depressions, and other detritus that dot the southern Indian Ocean floor. The data was collected as a byproduct of the mission, and the search for the plane continues.

Icelandic Lights

A rare volcanic light pillar, seen in the background of this image, shines in Iceland. The pillar is caused by glowing lava reflecting its light on ice in the atmosphere. Above, a green aurora shimmers in the sky.

That’s No Cloud

A swarm of monarch butterflies caused some confusion last week, when the insects appeared as a strange, shifting cloud on radar screens. “A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape!” the National Weather Service in a statement. “NWS St. Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!”

The Pythagorean Universe

An illustration of the Ancient Greek concept of a universe made of perfect spheres, from artist Caitlin Russell’s ongoing series, “The Outer Sun.” Russell’s project explores scientific, fictional, and historical ideas about the Universe.

Stunning Sahara

Astronaut Alex Gerst shot this image of a dust storm rolling over the Sahara from the International Space Station. Saharan can block or reflect sunlight, leading to changes in cloud formation. This can actually influence Atlantic water and soil in the Americas.

Liquid Battery

This room-temperature liquid battery was made with mercury, salt water, and steel foam. High temperature liquid batteries could one day efficiently store solar and wind energy.

Dunes Bugging

This image of the Martian surface from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals strange sand dunes. Scientists do not yet know what process formed the dusty ridges..

Oddball Leaf Ball

This strange volcanic plant grows on Mount Haleakalā in Hawaii. Called a silversword, this type of plant is a rare sight, and climate change is threatening their already limited numbers.