Earth's Surface

A present-day orange demosponge (Agelas oroides) can be found off the coast of Corfu, Greece. Research suggests sponges may have lived on Earth 890 million years ago.

This Sponge Fossil May Be the Earliest Record of Animal Life

The 890-million-year-old relic predates periods of extreme cold and the planet’s second oxygenation spike

To investigate how these glowing clouds form, Richard Collins a space physicist, and his team in 2018 launched a suborbital rocket filled with water, known as NASA's Super Soaker Rocket, into the Alaskan sky to try and create an artificial polar mesospheric cloud.

To Study Night-Shining Clouds, NASA Used Its 'Super Soaker' Rocket to Make a Fake One

In summer months above the North and South Poles, glowing clouds occasionally form naturally at sunset under the right conditions

InSight was sent on a mission to answer questions about the Red Planet's crust, mantle and core, known as the "inner space."

Mars InSight Lander Offers a Sneak Peek at the Red Planet's Inner Layers

The robotic explorer was sent to Mars to study its formation—and the data is now making its way back to Earth

Did a 1964 Earthquake Bring a Dangerous Fungus to the Pacific Northwest?

A new study posits that tsunamis triggered by the Great Alaska Earthquake washed Cryptococcus gattii onto the shore

“Re:Frame,” a video web series produced by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, investigates the compelling role graphite has played in the history of art—and in Teresita Fernández’s work.

Re:Frame

How Artist Teresita Fernández Turns Graphite, the Stuff of Stardust, Into Memories

A new episode of the Smithsonian’s ‘Re:Frame,’ explores the origin of graphite, a material artists have used for centuries

Of the 9 billion tons of plastic the world has produced, only nine percent is recycled.

Humans Have Produced Nine Billion Tons of Plastic and Counting

Over half of that material was created in the last decade

Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency photographed the Rocky Mountains from his vantage point in low Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station.

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NASA Puts Earth Up for Adoption

Pockmarks, wrinkles, and all

Here's what Earth looked like on January 15.

Check Out Breathtaking Images From NOAA’s Newest Satellite

In a word: wow

Electronic waste, shown here, is just part of the "technosphere," which comprises the totality of the stuff humans produce.

Age of Humans

Humans Have Bogged Down the Earth with 30 Trillion Metric Tons of Stuff, Study Finds

The authors say this is more proof that we are living in an Age of Humans—but not all scientists agree

Mount Etna, Italy, erupts at night.

The Innovative Spirit fy17

Predicting Chaos: New Sensors Sniff Out Volcanic Eruptions Before They Happen

How volcanologists brave lung-singeing fumes to monitor eruptions with cutting-edge sensors

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Journey to the Center of Earth

How Earthquakes and Volcanoes Reveal the Beating Heart of the Planet

The Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program has stitched together a visual archive of the world’s earthquakes and volcanoes

A man fills up buckets with dirt while hunting for diamonds at Crater Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

American South

Finders, Keepers: Five of the Best Places to Go Gem Hunting in the U.S.

From diamonds to emeralds, the United States is full of buried bling

Hutton, as painted by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1776.

Journey to the Center of Earth

The Blasphemous Geologist Who Rocked Our Understanding of Earth's Age

James Hutton was a leading light of his time, but is rarely talked about today

Journey to the Center of Earth

This 340-Million-Year-Old Ocean Crust Could Date Back to Pangaea

Researchers believe they've found the world's oldest ocean crust

A drone shot of a researcher collecting data on cryoconite holes on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Journey to the Center of Earth

The Tiny World of Glacier Microbes Has an Outsized Impact on Global Climate

Microbes living on glaciers collectively cover an area the size of New Hampshire—and they could have a big influence on global climate

Giant sauropods' feet didn't just leave footprints for future paleontologists to find, but changed landscapes entirely.

Journey to the Center of Earth

Dinosaurs Literally Reshaped The Planet

Dinos didn't just leave behind footprints and fossil bones—they also changed the landscapes in which they lived

A 2.7-billion-year-old micrometeorite extracted from limestone found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Journey to the Center of Earth

Ancient Spacedust Reveals Surprising Twist in Evolution of Earth’s Early Atmosphere

Mini fossil meteorites are providing new insights about how our ancient atmosphere evolved into its current state

This brittle star, Sigsbeia oloughlini, was found the coast of Esperance, Western Australia.

Journey to the Center of Earth

Meet the Diverse and Bizarre “Stars” of the Deep Sea

As human activities encroach on remote oceans, scientists work to map the denizens of the deep

Water spreads like inky-blue fingers into mangrove forests along the shore of Australia's Ord River (top). The sediment load in the water shows up as yellow and orange while mudflats stick out like a light blue bull's-eye on the lower left.

Journey to the Center of Earth

These Stunning Satellite Images Turn Earth Into Art

These images illustrate the brutal beauty geologic processes carve into our planet

Journey to the Center of Earth

What Are You Flying Over? This App Will Tell You

Flyover Country uses maps and geology databases to identify features of the landscape as a plane flies over them, no Wifi necessary