This historic image is the first ever taken from a spacecraft in orbit about <a href="/mercury/mercury.html&edu=high">Mercury</a>, the innermost planet of the solar system.  Taken on 3/29/2011 by <a href="/space_missions/robotic/messenger/messenger.html&edu=high">MESSENGER</a>, it shows numerous craters across the <a href="/mercury/Interior_Surface/Surface/surface_overview.html&edu=high">surface</a> of the planet.  Temperatures there can reach over 800F because Mercury is so close to the Sun and rotates so slowly.  MESSENGER entered orbit around Mercury earlier in March 2011.<p><small><em>NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington</em></small></p>March 2012 marks the first anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude <a href="/earth/geology/quake_1.html&edu=high">earthquake</a>, <a href="/earth/tsunami1.html&edu=high">tsunami</a>, and resulting nuclear accident in Japan on <a href="/headline_universe/march112011earthquaketsunami.html&edu=high">11 March 2011</a>.  The tsunami did massive damage, wiping out entire villages and killing ~16,000 people, and leading to one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history.  This image shows before and after photos of the area north of Sendai, where 10,000 people were lost.<p><small><em>Photos by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/13/world/asia/satellite-photos-japan-before-and-after-tsunami.html?hp">GeoEye/EyeQ</a>.</em></small></p><p>Something on Earth is always burning! NASA's Earth Observatory tracks wildfires across the world with <a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/GlobalMaps/view.php?d1=MOD14A1_M_FIRE" target="_blank">maps available for viewing</a> from 2000-present. Some wildfires can restore <a href="/earth/ecosystems.html&edu=high">ecosystems</a> to good health, but many can threaten human populations, posing a natural disaster threat.</p>
<p>Check out the materials about natural disasters in <a href="/earth/natural_hazards/when_nature_strikes.html&edu=high">NBC Learn Videos</a>, and their earth system science connections built up by the related secondary classroom activities.</p><p><small><em>NBC Learn</em></small></p>The massive 9.0 magnitude <a href="/earth/geology/quake_1.html&edu=high">earthquake</a> off of Honshu, Japan on <a href="/headline_universe/march112011earthquaketsunami.html&edu=high">11 March 2011</a> generated a <a href="/earth/tsunami1.html&edu=high">tsunami</a> that exceeded 10 meters on the coast near the epicenter.  This image shows model projections for the tsunami wave height in cm which are in good agreement with the observed waves. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were lost, and their families, as we remember this event.<p><small><em><a href="http://blogs.agu.org/wildwildscience/files/2011/03/680_20110311-TsunamiWaveHeight.jpg">NOAA Tsunami Wave Height Projections image</a></em></small></p>As permafrost thaws, the land, atmosphere, water resources, ecosystems, and human communities are affected. Coastal areas and hillsides are vulnerable to erosion by thawing of permafrost.  Thawing permafrost also causes a positive feedback to global warming, as carbon trapped within the once-frozen soils is released as <a href="/physical_science/chemistry/methane.html&edu=high">methane</a>, a powerful <a href="/earth/climate/cli_greengas.html&edu=high">greenhouse gas</a>.
Watch the NBC Learn video - <a href="/earth/changing_planet/permafrost_methane_intro.html&edu=high">Thawing Permafrost and Methane</a> to find out more.<p><small><em>Image courtesy of the    USGS</em></small></p>Anti-crepuscular rays are beams of sunlight that appear to converge on a point opposite the sun. They are similar to crepuscular rays, but are seen opposite the sun in the sky. Anti-crepuscular rays are most frequently visible near sunrise or sunset. This photo of anti-crepuscular rays was taken at sunset in Boulder, Colorado. Crepuscular rays are usually much brighter than anti-crepuscular rays.<p><small><em> Image Courtesy of Carlye Calvin</em></small></p>

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA