Susan Friedenberg of New York takes a rat from Tanner, her border terrier, in lower Manhattan on April 26.
By Jennifer Peltz of The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Bodies tense and noses twitching, the dogs sniff the fertile hunting ground before them: a lower Manhattan alley, grimy, dim and perfect for rats. With a terse command — "Now!" — the chase is on.
Known with a chuckle as the Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society — parse the acronym — the rodent-hunters have been scouring downtown byways for more than a decade, meeting weekly when weather allows. Read full story
Craig Ruttle / AP
A group of dog owners gather in a lower Manhattan park April 26 before a hunt for rats that takes their various breeds into New York City alleys. Participants say the hunts are less about killing rats than giving dogs the experience of chasing them.
Craig Ruttle / AP
A dog named Paco, owned by Bill Reyna of Wayne, N.J., looks over a dead rat in a lower Manhattan alley on April 26.
Craig Ruttle / AP
A wire-haired dachshund named Vina, owned by Trudy Kawami of New York, carries a rat after catching it in a lower Manhattan alley on April 26.
Craig Ruttle / AP
A number of rats are displayed in a lower Manhattan alley, caught and killed by small hunting dogs, on April 26.
The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm resembles a deep red rose in this false-color image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second). This image was taken from a distance of 261,000 miles (419,000 kilometers) on Nov. 27, 2012, with filters sensitive to near-infrared light.
The eye of a super-hurricane at Saturn's north pole looks like a peaceful red rose in a fresh bouquet of pictures from NASA's Cassini orbiter. But don't be fooled: That rosy appearance is merely due to the false colors ascribed to infrared wavelengths.
This storm's eye measures 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) in diameter, about 20 times wider than the average hurricane's eye on Earth. The outer clouds at the hurricane's edge are traveling at 330 mph (530 kilometers per hour), which would be off the scale on our planet. The vortex whirls inside Saturn's mysterious hexagonal cloud pattern, and it's not going anywhere.
"We did a double take when we saw this vortex, because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth," Caltech's Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the Cassini imaging team, said in a NASA news release on Monday. "But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapor in Saturn's hydrogen atmosphere."
On Earth, hurricanes are fed by warm ocean water. But there are no oceans on Saturn — so what source drives this super-hurricane? Cassini's scientists want to find out, and whatever they find might add to our understanding of storm dynamics on Earth as well.
The Cassini team suspects that this storm has been active for years, but Cassini has only recently been able to watch it in visible light. When the bus-sized spacecraft arrived in 2004 to begin its $3.5 billion mission to study Saturn and its moons, the north pole was shrouded in winter darkness. Now spring is coming to the north, and Cassini has shifted to an orbit that makes it easier to see the increasingly sunlit storm.
In an email, Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco of the Colorado-based Space Science Institute said the hexagon-ringed vortex is "one of the most gorgeous sights we have been privileged to see at Saturn." But such sights won't last forever: Cassini's extended mission to Saturn is due to end in 2017 with a controlled plunge into Saturn's clouds.
A false-color image from Cassini highlights the storms at Saturn's north pole. The angry eye of a hurricane-like storm appears dark red, while the fast-moving hexagonal jet stream framing it is a yellowish green. Low-lying clouds circling inside the hexagonal feature appear in a muted orange color. A second, smaller vortex pops out in teal at the lower right of the image. The rings of Saturn appear in vivid blue at the top right. The colors are coded to show different near-infrared wavelengths, which are associated with different altitudes.
Andy Ingersoll, a member of the Cassini orbiter's imaging team, narrates a NASA video about a hurricane-like storm seen at Saturn's north pole.
Soon after Superstorm Sandy pushed a surge of water through the Queens, N.Y., neighborhood of Breezy Point, a fire engulfed more than 100 homes. A panoramic image taken on Nov. 1, 2012 (bottom image), shows the wrecked remains of a town that was both swamped and burned. While the Army Corps of Engineers has largely cleared the debris, little rebuilding has begun in this area (top image). Use the navigation buttons to move left or right or to zoom.( David Friedman and John Makely / NBC News)
While some neighbors are almost ready to move back home, others are still unsure how much of their property can be rebuilt following the storm.
The owner of the eight-story building that fell around more than 3,000 workers is still on the run. Police said several of his relatives have been detained to compel him to hand himself in, and an alert had gone out to airport and border authorities to prevent him from fleeing the country.
Technological advances aren't always kind to Mother Earth — witness the impact of nuclear waste, industrial emissions and plastic bottles — but high-tech environmental monitoring systems are also helping us get a handle on the state of our planet. It's good to remember that as Earth Week draws to a close.
Just in the past couple of years, NASA has added to the nation's fleet of Earth-observing satellites. In 2011, the $1.5 billion Suomi NPP satellite went into orbit, blazing a trail for a new generation of planet-watchers that can provide data about extreme weather as well as environmental indicators. Suomi's five sensor systems are tracking atmospheric and sea surface temperatures, biological productivity, ozone levels and much, much more.
This February, the $855 million Landsat Data Continuity Mission finally got off the ground, opening a new chapter for the 41-year-old Landsat Earth-monitoring program. LDCM will monitor surface temperatures around the planet and generate 400 images a day in visible and infrared wavelengths. Multi-wavelength observation is a key technology for monitoring the planet's health, because thermal infrared readings can tell you how vegetation is faring, how much heat the world's cities are putting out, and how the world is coping with climate change.
"If you want to deal with climate, you need observations, instead of just talking about belief or simulations," Compton Tucker, senior biospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told NBC News.
Even Earth's gravity field can provide insights into how the planet is changing: Readings from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, have traced the loss of ice from the world's glaciers and ice caps by measuring subtle changes in our planet's distribution of mass. "It's really a phenomenal source of information to study water on the surface," Tucker said.
For decades, observations from outer space — including data from NASA satellites such as Terra and Aqua, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather satellites and the Landsat constellation — have been helping scientists understand what's happening to our environment.
Suomi NPP and LDCM are continuing that legacy, but there are still concerns about the future: Last year, the National Research Council voiced grave concerns about America's aging Earth-observing system, saying that the projected loss of satellite capability "will have profound consequences on science and society, from weather forecasting to responding to natural hazards."
A giant foam head floats on the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Monday, April 22.
By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News
A huge foam and fiberglass head was discovered floating in New York's Hudson River by a college crew team earlier this week, and days later nobody knows where it came from.
The head, which is at least 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, was found Monday morning by the Marist College men's crew team.
"The coach, who is in a motorboat, took a quick spin out and investigated it, and was as baffled as anyone by what he saw," said Greg Cannon, spokesman for Marist College. "But because it was a navigation hazard, he felt it was his duty to haul it in. It took about 10 members of his team to haul it in."
Because it was waterlogged, it weighed "at least a couple hundred pounds," he said. The head -- which has a foam core but is covered in a fiberglass shell and has metal rods in it -- has had a home in front of the Marist boathouse since it was dragged from the water.
Tyler Sawyer / Marist College via AP
Members of the Marist college crew team stand by a giant foam head found floating in the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Monday, April 22.
It's attracted lots of visitors and theories as to where it came from, including one suggestion that it came from a Mardi Gras parade and floated to Marist, which is located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., overlooking the Hudson. But there have been no claims of ownership.
"It's not like someone just built it as a hobby, I don't think. It was definitely for an art installation, or a theater project," Cannon said.
The head, which has a gray shell and fleshy tones underneath, is missing some chunks, including its nose.
"It's kind of like a lost puppy," Cannon said. "If the owner shows up, we'll certainly return it, but I think the people will be sad to see it go."
President Barack Obama stands with, from second from left, former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas on April 25.
By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News
Giving a broad-strokes defense of his eight years in the White House, former president George W. Bush celebrated the dedication of his the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas on Thursday. In the audience were the nation’s three other former living presidents – George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter – as well as current commander in chief Barack Obama. Read full story
David J. Phillip / AP
From left, first lady Michelle Obama, former first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former first lady Barbara Bush and former first lady Rosalynn Carter arrive for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
Charles Dharapak / AP
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, center, shakes hands with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Former President George W. Bush's daughter Jenna Bush Hager is at right.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images
Former President George H. W. Bush, left, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush listen during a dedication ceremony at the George W. Bush Library.
Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama, left, and former presidents, from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter arrive on stage for the George W. Bush Presidential Library dedication.
The sun rises the morning that the live oak trees will be cut down by crews from the Asplundh tree service on April 23, 2013 at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Alabama.
Michael Chang / Getty Images
A member of the Asplundh tree service helps cut down an oak tree on April 23, at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Alabama.
Dave Martin / AP
Auburn University employee Dinah Decker, center, wipes tears from eyes as she watches as city workers cut down the poisoned oak trees at Toomer's Corner at the entrance to Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., on April 23.
Auburn University removed the dying oaks at Toomer's Corner Tuesday morning, after they were poisoned by a rival fan shortly following the 2010 Iron Bowl. Harvey Updyke Jr. is serving a jail term after pleading guilty to spiking the oaks with a powerful herbicide, and experts say they can't be saved. Workers used chainsaws and heavy equipment to remove what's left of the once-lush hardwoods at Toomer's Corner. Auburn fans traditionally roll the trees with toilet paper after a big victory, and tens of thousands rolled the trees after the spring football game last Saturday.
-- The Associated Press
Dave Martin / AP, file
Fans roll the poisoned oak trees at Toomer's Corner one final time following Auburn's A-Day spring NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on April 20, 2013. The tradition of "rolling" the trees at Toomer's Corner following a win by the football team is coming to an end.
Dave Martin / AP
A photographer uses his cell phone to photograph the oak trees at Toomer's Corner at the entrance to Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., Tuesday, April 23, 2013. City workers cut down the poisoned oak trees at the entrance to Auburn University.
Tents outside a hospital light up at night after Saturday's earthquake hit Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, on April 22. Hundreds of survivors of an earthquake that killed nearly 200 people in southwest China pushed into traffic on a main road on Monday, waving protest signs, demanding help and shouting at police. The Chinese characters on the tent read "Disaster relief".
AFP - Getty Images
Medical personnel work with a flashlight in a temporary settlement in Lingguan Middle School in Baoxing county of Yaan, southwest China's Sichuan province, on April 21.
How Hwee Young / EPA
Chinese soldiers cook breakfast in a rescue camp in Taiping town, Lushan County, Sichuan Province, China, on April 23.
How Hwee Young / EPA
Residents gather around a fire outside damaged homes in Taiping town, Lushan County, Sichuan Province, China, on April 23.
AFP - Getty Images
People gather at a power supply station in a temporary settlement in Lingguan Middle School in Baoxing county of Yaan, southwest China's Sichuan province, on April 21.
AFP - Getty Images
A man works in a shed at a temporary settlement in Lingguan Middle School in Baoxing county of Yaan, southwest China's Sichuan province, on April 21.
AFP - Getty Images
People fall asleep at the power supply station at a temporary settlement in Lingguan Middle School in Baoxing county of Yaan, southwest China's Sichuan province on April 22.
Campus School 2nd graders Hedwig Dodds, Amaria Anderson, Sofia Amis and Willow Mullins catch a stray butterfly during the University of Memphis Earth Day Event at U of M's Urban Garden on April 18, in Memphis, Tenn.
Monday, April 22, is Earth Day, a time to step back and appreciate our beautiful blue planet and the two-way relationship we have with it. All week long, we at NBCNews.com are collecting images to highlight how people are making a difference by helping the environment.
To participate, simply share your photos on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ShareandTell, or upload your pictures using the box below. We will feature some of your images here on this blog post and each day this week on the NBC News Instagram account.
Editor's note: All photos below provided by readers and have not been verified by NBC News.
Click images below to see photos larger.
This story was originally published on Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:19 AM EDT
The iconic nebula in the constellation Orion, about 1,500 light-years away, can be seen even through small telescopes. In visible light, it's a dark dust cloud in the shape of a horse's head, silhouetted against a backdrop of glowing hydrogen gas. But the Horsehead takes on a completely different look in the new view released Friday.
"This image was taken in the infrared," Joe Liske, an astronomer from the European Southern Observatory, explains in a video introducing the picture. "In infrared light, we can pierce right through some of the bulky plumes of dusty material which usually mask and obscure the inner regions of the Horsehead. The result is this rather fragile-looking structure, made of delicate, wispy folds of gas — very different to the nebula's appearance in the visible."
The infrared glow, captured by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, lights up the nebula's clouds from within. Liske says it's "a fitting celebration of an incredible 23 years of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope."
The Hubble team traditionally releases an eye-popping shot to celebrate the anniversary of the space telescope's launch on April 24, 1990. As part of this year's celebration, the Hubble Heritage Project asked astronomers around the world to send in their own Horsehead Nebula photos, and you can see the collection via Flickr and Tumblr.
Like a veteran racehorse, Hubble is hitting its stride — but that hasn't always been the case. The first couple of years of operation were hampered by a flaw in the telescope's main mirror. Equipment to compensate for the problem was installed during a crucial series of spacewalks 20 years ago, in 1993. The shuttle Atlantis paid a final servicing visit to Hubble in 2009, and the telescope has been working just fine since then.
Hubble operations have been extended through 2016 — and if the telescope remains in good working order, it's likely to continue being funded at least until 2018, when the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch. Eventually, Hubble will have to be sent down to a fiery doom. But who knows? Maybe the old telescope will hang around to experience life after 30.
Astronomer Joe Liske of the European Southern Observatory guides you through a new view of the Horsehead Nebula in a "Hubblecast" video from the European Space Agency's Hubble team.
The streets of Boston, Mass., were deserted today due to a widespread lockdown as police hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Photos of the empty city have been pouring in via social media.