The UN Operation to Disarm Mosul’s IEDs and Unexploded Bombs

Two Iraqi Federal Police walk through a water treatment plant in west Mosul, Iraq on August 7, 2017.

Munitions found during the UNMAS de-mining operations are lined up in a grid in east Mosul.

UNMAS contractors remove debris during a clearance operation in Mosul on August 29, 2017.

A UNMAS contractor watches over spot-clearance operations in a public park close to the Tigris River in east Mosul, Iraq on March 11, 2018.

This maternity clinic at Al Khansa Hospital in east Mosul was destroyed during the fighting between ISIS and the US-led international military coalition in 2016-17.

A young man climbs through rubble to retrieve family items from a home in the heavily bombed Old City in west Mosul on March 8, 2018.

Munitions found during UNMAS de-mining operations are lined up in a grid in east Mosul on August 29, 2017. Photojournalist Cengiz Yar photographed many ordnance-clearing missions in Iraq that produced stockpiles like this one.

A pedestrian path winds through a severely damaged [...]  read more

Space Photos of the Week: A Tribute to Voyager’s Twin Trippers

When Voyager 1 flew right at Jupiter in 1979, capturing image after image, the Great Red Spot was so large it could hold close to four Earths. Its winds blow and circle at around 400 mph, and their effects have been a magnificent beauty mark on the planet for at least 300 years.

As for Voyager’s twin, Voyager 2, when it flew past Jupiter, it looked back to snap this photo from 1.5 million kilometers away. The two orange bands on the left are the planet’s “Jovian” rings, while the blue and red streaks are the “limb,” or edge of the planet backlit by the Sun.

Before Voyager 2 arrived at Europa almost two years after it launched in 1977, we’d only glimpsed the dance of this Jupiter moon across the sky from Earth. Voyager’s flyby brought Europa into stunning detail, a body covered in dark scratches. What’s surprising about this icy moon is that there are no large mountains on the surface, suggesting the surface is young. Scientists now believe it’s actually a thick [...]  read more

Vintage Muscle Cars Take Flight in an Homage to Chase Scenes

Photographer Matthew Porter sends muscle cars flying in his new book The Heights.

Porter was inspired by classic car-chase films of the 1970s, ’80s, and so on.

The films often featured a car jump in which all four wheels leave the ground—an image that stuck with Porter.

Porter browses model-car websites, looking for die-cast replicas of vintage Pontiacs, Camaros, and other sports cars to make his images.

“Your mind is like this archive of images and pictures,” Porter says, “and only the most vivid, most spectacular survive.”

Scenes of cars flying down city streets in movies are typically costly and difficult to produce, involving everything from gas-driven catapults to CGI.

Porter wondered if there was an easier way to re-create those shots than the way Hollywood does it.

In 2005, at his kitchen table in Brooklyn, Porter strung up a toy Mustang, illuminated it with desk lights, and photographed it.

By combining that image with a deserted street scene, he [...]  read more

Space Photos of the Week: Chaotic, Gassy Mars

Happy Independence Day from space! These cosmic fireworks are located at the star system Eta Carinae. It’s hard to get bleacher seats to this particular show—it’s 7,500 light years away after all— so we brought the show to you. The gas and dust around this star was blown outwards into space after a large energetic burst around 1840. The result is this colorful sideways hourglass.

In 1994, pieces of the comet Shoemaker Levy spent a week crashing into Jupiter’s atmosphere and the collisions left dark scars. This was a very rare treat for astronomers and it changed much of their understanding of the outer solar system. Impacts like these were thought not to occur much anymore, but this comet-planet throwdown helped scientists learn more about the environment of the outer solar system. Because of this surprise event, scientists here on Earth realized they needed to have their own strategy for planetary protection.

Forty five million light years away is an object called Messier [...]  read more

You’ve Never Seen Skate Parks Like This Before

Photographer Amir Zaki grew up skating in Beaumont, California, but when he turned his camera on the skate parks of Southern California his interest was more in the parks than the skating.

“There’s a whole history of skateboard photography, but everything is focused on the performer,” Zaki says. “There are lots of photographers who do that, and they’re very good at it. But I wanted to do something different.”

To photograph empty skate parks, Zaki arrived around dawn, when the light was perfect for his visual aesthetic. “Skaters don’t wake up early,” he says.

After selecting a spot, usually deep inside the bowl of the park, he mounted his DSLR camera on a GigaPan motorized tripod head that allowed him to take dozens of high-resolution images that he later stitched together in postproduction.

The final images, several gigabytes each in size, can be printed as large as 60 by 75 inches without sacrificing detail.

The final images are [...]  read more

Space Photos of the Week: Here Comes the Sun

The Sun is constantly sending charged particles streaming into space. These highly ionized particles are better known as the solar wind, and its interaction with our atmosphere creates the aurora borealis. Examining how the Sun releases these particles is extremely important—the radiation affects our GPS satellites, as well as other spacecraft and even ground-based power systems—which is why NASA recently unveiled two new missions devoted to solar wind-driven weather.

This rainbow series of images actually shows two different galaxies, Messier 51 and NGC 5194/5195 Â?. (Yes, the circumflex and the question mark are part of the name.) Scientists look at galaxies in visible light (the image at far left) and also in various other wavelengths of light to learn everything they can about what’s out there. For example, the image at far right relies on long wavelengths of infrared light to reveal hot dust, seen in red. Spots in reddish white depict young star formation, which heats [...]  read more

Space Photos of the Week: Saturn’s Rings Are Feelin’ Groovy

You’ve had hot wings and hot peppers, but have you heard of burps of hot plasma? NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory keeps a close watch on our star, and in 2014 it captured these swirling, stunning solar flares. Scientists are using solar flare data to better understand how the Sun grew over time, as well as how the blasts might have affected other planets. “We didn’t know what the Sun looked like in its first billion years, and it’s super important because it likely changed how Venus’ atmosphere evolved and how quickly it lost water. It also probably changed how quickly Mars lost its atmosphere,” says NASA astrophysicist Prabal Saxena. “And it changed the atmospheric chemistry of Earth.”

Never enough space bling: This black and white close-up of Saturn’s rings, the crown jewels of our solar system, courtesy of Cassini, shows their remarkable variation in texture. The ring region seen here is called the outer Cassini division—named for Italian astronomer [...]  read more

Stunning Photographs Created With a Flashlight Lightsaber

Light painting saved Denis Smith’s life. A decade ago the native New Zealander was working as a Xerox salesman in Auckland, earning more than $300,000 a year but blowing it all on fast cars, expensive cigars, and copious quantities of alcohol. “I was killing myself working, trying to sustain that lifestyle,” Smith says. “It developed into an overwhelming sense of fear and depression.”

Smith and his wife resolved to make a clean break. They sold their house, cars, and most of their belongings and moved to Adelaide, Australia. Deciding he needed a hobby, Smith bought his first camera and began taking photographs during long walks through the wild Barossa Valley near their home. “I thought I was Ansel Adams,” Smith recalls, “but then I joined a few Flickr groups focused the Barossa Valley and realized that so many other people had taken exactly the same photos.”

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Space Photos of the Week: Salt of the Jupiter Moon

Europa, a moon in Jupiter’s orbit, is one of the most interesting places in the solar system. Below its thick crust of ice, the moon has an ocean layer that holds more water than we have here on Earth, making it is a prime spot to look for life beyond our planet. These two global photos of Europa show large regions that appear yellow—a coloration caused by sodium chloride, better known as table salt. The findings, based on visible-light spectral analysis from the Hubble Space Telescope, show that large regions of the surface are covered in plain, old salt, too. We’ve known that this moon’s ocean contained some kind of chemical salt, but the fact that it’s the salt that’s in our own seas raises the intriguing potential that there could be life there, too.

These are the golden years for galaxy NGC 7773. Hubble captured this spiral in great detail, and you can see a phenomenon that tends to occur in older galaxies: the bar of stars across the middle. Astronomers [...]  read more

The Life and Viral Fame of Virginia’s Two-Headed Snake

Late last summer in Woodbridge, Virginia, a woman wandered into her yard and found an eastern copperhead slithering through her flower bed. That’s not so unusual where she lives, as the region is home to a plethora of ophidians, from harmless corn snakes to venomous rattlers. But this one was different: It had two heads.

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It’s called dicephaly, a mysterious disorder occurring in just one out of every 100,000 snakes born in the wild and one out of 10,000 born in captivity. Affected snakes possess two brains with distinct personalities, though one head typically dominates the other, which might lack a trachea, esophagus, or even eyes. Scientists suspect it happens when an embryo in the early stages of development divides—possibly induced by sudden temperature changes, environmental [...]  read more