“Moonbows” as they have come to be called are a lot like normal rainbows. However, they occur less than 10% as often as rainbows. Essentially, the moonbow is just an optical phenomenon caused by light streaming through the atmosphere. That light is then reflected and refracted by water droplets in the air, which then results in the appearance of what seems like a rainbow occurring at night. Some might wonder, why are moonbows or lunar rainbows so rare if it rains and clears up at night just like they can during the day. Basically, the amount of light available even under the brightest full moon is nowhere near the light produced by the sun. Thus, moonbows are often faint and rarely seen. Therefore, you could have one happening nearby but you just cannot see it.
The Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina has been studying a lot of very important things over the years. Yet one of the most important has to be their work on cosmic rays. Discovered by Victor Hess in 1912, which would later lead to him winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936, cosmic rays have proven to be quite important. They are high-energy particles or, well, clusters of particles that move through space at nearly the speed of light. Usually, they are represented by protons or atomic nuclei. Cosmic rays can come from various sources, such as from our own Sun, from outside the solar system in our own galaxy, as well as from distant galaxies. The image you see above shows what happens when they make contact with Earth’s atmosphere, as they shower down secondary particles, with some reaching the surface.
You might think this image was doctored or colored in some way, but we assure you this is a real thing you can go and see for yourself. Found in Antarctica, this place goes by the smartly named “Blood Falls.” We bet you cannot figure out why! It was discovered in 1911 by Australian geologist Thomas Griffith Taylor, the glacier it is on and the entire valley itself is named after him. The Blood Falls is essentially an outflow of an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater. This flows into the Taylor Glacier, onto the ice-covered surface of West Lake Bonney in Taylor Valley. The iron-rich water seeps from the glacier, giving it a reddish appearance…making it look a lot like blood.
There have been many attempts to see just one atom at a microscopic level, but this hadn’t been done until 2018. David Nadlinger and a team of researchers at the University of Oxford managed to capture one using an ion trap. They used an electron microscope & DSLR camera and titled the image: “Single Atom in an Ion Trap.” It actually won the overall science photography prize conducted by UK’s Engineering & Physical Science Research Council. The curious Ph.D. candidate at the time was fascinated by the idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye and came up with this concept. Giving us one of the most mind-blowing science photos ever.
Up next in our article on the most mind-blowing science photos is the Tardigrade. If you’re not familiar with tardigrades, these little microscopic animals are absolutely incredible. Some believe if we discover life on Mars, it could be tardigrades. There has even been some discussion regarding taking them to the planet to see if they can actually survive. We’ve already taken them to the International Space Station to test them in various conditions. Tardigrades have also been frozen and super-heated, yet still somehow managed to survive everything done to them. The fact that this species can survive in such extreme conditions has made them important to science.
We suppose it’s possible you’ve seen something like this before, but it is probably more common for those who have been on the water on a clear night during a sunrise or sunset. Known as the “Green Flash” by most, this is a rare meteorological optical phenomenon that only occurs when conditions are perfect. One will see a distinct green spot that’ll be briefly visible just above the Sun’s upper limb. The green portion might only last for a few seconds, but it’s clearly there. Sometimes, you might get lucky and see a big green flash that looks like a green ray shooting up. The reason mind-blowing science photos like this can be found is that the Earth’s atmosphere causes light from the Sun to separate (or refract) into different colors.
If there is one of the most mind-blowing science photos we all need to see, it’s the Giant Red Spot on Planet Jupiter. This is an area of persistent high pressure in the atmosphere of the planet. It has produced an anticyclonic storm, that is the largest in our Solar System by a wide margin. It’s roughly 22 degrees south of Jupiter’s equator and produces wind speeds of up to 268 mph. It is thought that we first observed the storm from 1665 to 1713, meaning this storm has existed on Jupiter for over 350 years now. This makes sense as we recorded more observations in the 1800s that found similar results. With more coming in the 1990s and 2000s.
If you want to see something amazing, you can visit a few areas in the world where there are some special plankton that does something incredible. You too will be able to take some mind-blowing science photos when you check out Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico, Sam Mun Tsai Beach in Hong Kong, & Toyama Beach in Japan. Another key area to check out is Vaadhoo Island that’s part of the Maldives. There you’ll see what you see above, a “Sea of Stars” as they call it. Plankton here, known as Redhan, are bioluminescent and will light up any area where the water is being touched or moved through. This would be the perfect place to check out on a kayak or canoe!
This is a gas crater that has been burning for decades. Known as the “Door to Hell,” it does have a normal name too, the Darvaza Gas Crater. Of course, the name comes from its location as it’s found in Darvaza, Turkmenistan. This place was not always like this, however. Geologists claim we only saw a collapse into the present-day crater in the 1960s while others say Soviet engineers created it by accident in 1971 while trying to create an oil field. Yet everyone agrees that poisonous gases could come out, which led to lighting it up in the 1980s to prevent those gases from spreading out. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow wanted to limit the crater’s influence on natural gas fields in the area as far back as 2010. In 2022, he discussed plans to extinguish the crater due to its negative effects on the environment.
While it is possible you have seen something like this, trust us when we say that Diamond Dust is not like normal snow. This meteorological phenomenon usually forms under clear or nearly clear skies, which could be why many call it “clear-sky precipitation.” Also called “ice crystals,” it is most commonly seen in Arctic territories along with Antarctica. However, you can still have the chance to see diamond dust anywhere temperatures are well below freezing. There are some places, such as the polar regions, where diamond dust snowfall could go on for several days without stopping. While beautiful, it can be dangerous.
The Hubble Space Telescope has given us some of the most mind-blowing science photos of all time. One or well, several of those have to do with the evolution of stars throughout the universe. While we’d like to show you Hubble’s major timelapse of star formation, that would equate to several photos rather than one. Instead, we’re showing you the star formation images that Hubble collected with the help of the Mark McCaughrean of the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, C. Robert O’Dell of Rice University, and NASA. The image shows lots of planetary formation, but that all begins with the stars that allow for those planets to even form at all.
If you want to see some really cool and mind-blowing science photos, try looking into bullets piercing through water or water droplets. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find when you do. There was one YouTuber who decided to shoot through some water he colored so that we could see the piercing take place easier. The Dreaming Robots channel managed to capture several high-speed bullets as they cut through the water he used. You can see one of his incredible images above. This shows what the bullet managed to do as it cut through the water. It moved through so fast that the water had not even had the chance to form back up yet!
Normally when we see lava, we expect red, yellow, and even orange coloring for this. It would be odd to ever expect the color blue, right? Well, technically that is the case most of the time, yet blue is possible. On Earth, blue lava is the result of sulfur burning, giving us what appears to be an electric-blue flame. It looks like lava, but “technically” isn’t in spite of its name. Sulfur will burn when it comes in contact with hot air temperatures above 680 degrees Fahrenheit, which then produces energetic flames but not real lava. However, there is such a thing as “true blue lava,” which takes temperatures exceeding 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is unlikely we’d ever see that type of lava naturally on Earth.
It is possible that some of you have experienced this. Perhaps you like to climb large mountains or maybe even went on a hiking trip that took you pretty high up. It really does not matter which it is, because you can possibly see a “sea of clouds” either way. This is a meteorological phenomenon where an overcast layer of clouds, as viewed from above, has a relatively uniform top that shows undulations of very different lengths. Those lengths look sort of like waves on the open sea. Yet in one of the most mind-blowing science photos we attached above, the image was taken in a mountain range. Which allows the mountain peaks to almost like look islands.
Several years ago, Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov wanted to take extreme close-ups of various things. This led him to build a relatively inexpensive rig that could take extreme close-ups of pretty much whatever he wanted. What led him to start taking mind-blowing science photos like what we see above? Alexey was fascinated by the website “Snow Crystals.” This was run by CalTech Physics Professor, Kenneth Libbrecht. Their design was essentially the study of snowflakes, and Alexey wanted to either recreate some of those or take some new-look images. Considering the claim “no two snowflakes look alike” was out there, it did make sense. Plus it gave us this!
Possibly one of the coolest images you’ll ever see, lightning sprites are one of the most amazing phenomena on the planet. They are large-scale electric discharges that occur within the mesosphere, usually high above the thunderstorm clouds (or cumulonimbus clouds). This gives us the visual shapes flickering in the night sky. Those come thanks to discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground. These sprites can get pretty huge too, often 31 to 56 miles. One of the most mind-blowing science photos ever taken of a lightning sprite can be seen above. It’s called the Jellyfish Lightning Sprite, and we’re sure you can see why.
Sometimes called a “mock sun,” Sun Dogs are a notable atmospheric optical phenomenon. They consist of a big bright spot in the middle (the sun itself) then on either one or both sides, you’ll see bright spots too. If there are two sun dogs, they’ll typically flank the Sun roughly within a 22-degree halo. Sun dogs are part of a specific family of halos that are caused by a refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere. The coolest part is that sun dogs are not just found in one region of the planet. You can see them anywhere during any season. Of course, sometimes they will not be as obvious as one of our mind-blowing science photos above that displays twin sun dogs.
Given its name by the obvious hand-like structure, the Pillars of Creation comes from the Eagle Nebula in the Serpens constellation. It is roughly 6,500 to 7,000 lightyears from Earth, which is quite a distance for any telescope to see it properly. Discovered by John Charles Duncan in 1920 with the Mount Wilson Observatory 60-inch telescope, he found what looked like a hand of creation. It is comprised of elephant trunks of interstellar gas and dust that managed to be shaped perfectly. While the Hubble Space Telescope grabbed the best image in 2014, the James Webb Telescope topped it in 2022. The latter comes from James Webb and is certainly mind-blowing!
If you’ve ever seen something known as a “superhydrophobic surface,” you might know how this stuff works. Also known as ultra hydrophobic, any surface that is like this will be extremely difficult to wet. Usually, the contact angles of water droplets on any superhydrophobic material exceed 150 degrees. That is essentially the lotus effect, which refers to the self-cleaning properties of a lotus plant. A droplet that strikes one of these surfaces will fully rebound, sort of like an elastic ball. The interactions of bouncing drops can be further reduced using special superhydrophobic surfaces like what you see above.
If you thought fires and tornadoes were already destructive on their own, imagine seeing them together. This can and has happened at times, and it is incredibly scary when it does for those close by. They have many other names such as fire whirl, fire devil, fire twister, and many more. They happen when a whirlwind is induced by a fire and is at least partially composed of flame or ash. Firenadoes start with just a whirl of wind, usually made visible by smoke. Often rising heat and turbulent wind conditions make them more likely, resulting in whirling “eddies” of air. Those eddies create a tornado-like vortex and suck in debris and combustible gases. Once they get out of control and large, the eddies turn into larger tornado-like vortexes. Usually, they do not leave the area they are within most of the time though.
A Moon Halo is technically known as a 22-degree halo, as the light creates a radius of exactly 22 degrees around the Sun or Moon. This will depend on the one you’re seeing at the time when the halo is around them. The Moon Halo forms when moonlight is refracted by millions of hexagonal ice crystals that are suspended in the atmosphere. Usually, most measure the radius for this by the length of an outstretched hand at arm’s length. Due to ice crystals being involved, most assume you will only see these halos during cold times of the year or in cooler climates. Yet they can happen anywhere, especially because nighttime temperatures are often cooler anyway.
In Hawaii, you’ll find the National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. It has been studying the Sun and space weather for quite a while now. In 2020, it managed to capture the highest resolution image of the Sun’s surface ever taken. It almost looks like popcorn, right? Essentially, what you’re seeing is turbulent boiling gas that of course is covering the entire Sun. The telescope captured one of the most mind-blowing science photos in history, as we’re literally seeing cell-like structures of the Sun here. Each individual cell is about the size of the state of Texas and shows absolutely violent motions that send off heat from the surface.
The “Glory” phenomenon can offer us some of the most mind-blowing science photos ever. It is not hard to see how this phenomenon managed to get its name. You’ll see what seems like a rainbow but is further extended out to give a heavenly glow that is absolutely beautiful. They are caused by sunlight (sometimes moonlight) interacting with tiny water droplets that comprise mist or clouds. Normally, these optical phenomena will consist of one or more concentric rings, that get successfully dimmer as they grow outward. Usually, you’ll see a bluish center with a red outer section, but the outside can also sometimes contain a bluish appearance too.
In many ways, a supercell thunderstorm is something you probably do not want to see in person. They are potentially harmful storms that could turn into tornadoes pretty easily but are technically not a tornado themselves, in spite of what you see above. They come from the presence of a mesocyclone, which is a deep, persistently rotating updraft. That could be why these are also known as rotating thunderstorms. There are three forms of supercell thunderstorms: classic, low-precipitation, and high-precipitation. LPs are usually found in more arid environments, particularly in the United States. Where HPs are found in more moist climates.
Possibly one of the most beautiful things you can see in person, the “Northern Lights” are absolutely tremendous. Of course, we’ve probably seen dozens of images relating to this area. Yet each one seems to be among the most mind-blowing science photos because it seems like they can never get old. The real name of the area is the Aurora Borealis, and the reason these lights exist at all is pretty compelling. Solar winds come toward Earth all the time in space but our magnetosphere protects the planet from being affected by them. However, in doing so, that gives off these incredible, stunning colors and patterns.
When we talk about some of the most mind-blowing science photos, we really do not realize how much effort goes into making them. Photographer Andrew McCarthy wanted to show a solar explosion, but how he’d do so would be tough to know. There was a 1 million-mile-long jet of plasma rockets coming out of the sun, which was an epic timelapse image that McCarthy had to form. This led him to create a composite image by stacking hundreds of thousands of individual shots one on top of the other for roughly six hours. In the end, he managed to get the image you see above, showing the evolution of a coronal mass ejection.
Perhaps one of the most amazing images ever taken, the Cosmic Cliffs are from an area in space called the Carina Nebula in the Milky Way Galaxy. This nebula is roughly 2,600 parsecs or 8,500 lightyears from Earth. Thus, seeing all the way to it is amazing enough. Considering this area has a complex amount of bright and dark nebulosity. The darker side makes it hard to get any visible wavelengths to come back in images but the Hubble Space Telescope managed to get a great photo. However, it is the James Webb Telescope that gave us one of the most mind-blowing science photos in history. This telescope could pick up light that Hubble could not and gave us an incredible photo as a result.