indians light clay oil lamps, known as diyas or deepas, in celebration of the third day of diwali. known as the festival of lights, diwali, which begins this year on october 21 (a day earlier in south india), lasts for five days. 

what originated as a festival to mark the last harvest of the year and seek the divine blessing of lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, has over the centuries become a national festival enjoyed by most indians regardless of faith. (consider that india is the second most populous muslim nation on the planet)

photos by (click pic) amit daveajay verma, arif alipiyal adhikary, kevin frayer, altaf qadri, sanjeev gupta and shakil adil. the diyas in the first photo have been arranged to spell “happy diwali” in hindi. 

on thin ice. with a warming climate, polar bears have less ice time and area to hunt for seals. notes andrew derocher, professor of biological sciences at the university of alberta, who has spent his decades long career studying polar bears, “we probably won’t have polar bears in churchill once we get out to midcentury… they could be gone in a couple of years.” 

churchill and the hudson bay is home to about two thirds of the estimated 20 to 25 thousand polar bears in the world. but derocher adds, “if we had a very early melt, and a very late freeze, we could see up to 50 percent mortality in a single year.”

photos by (click pic) keenan ward, thomas d. mengelsen, and the late michio hoshino on the hudson bay. also note the 22º radius halo and parhelia in the fifth photo.

The spiritual stars rise nightly, shedding down
A private beam into each several heart.
Daily the bending skies solicit man,
The seasons chariot him from this exile,
The rainbow hours bedeck his glowing chair,
The storm-winds urge the heavy weeks along,
Suns haste to set, that so remoter lights
Beckon the wanderer to his vaster home 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

(photos by royce bair, derelict compostionsphilipp häfeliknate myersmichael shainblumben canalesphilipp häfeli, dave morrow)

researchers who followed fourteen different elephant herds in western namibia for seven years have concluded that the animals have the ability to sense thunderstorms up to 186 miles away — most likely from rain system generated infrasound — and can predict approaching rain up to twelve days before it occurs.

western namibia is a vast expanse of land with a protracted dry season, and different herds in disparate locations, which desperately need the water and the vegetation that comes with it, will simultaneously change their migratory path, and pace, to head towards rain that is pending or falling great distances away.

this discovery could have major implications for conservation efforts, helping wildlife officials to better predict the location and movement of elephant herds sought by poachers. more than 100 thousand african elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012, and with many experts estimating there to be no more than 400 thousand left, the animal could be extinct within the decade. 

photos by (click pic) paul goldstein, mike nichols, christina krutzmichel denis-huot and beverly joubert in masai mara. study published in PLoS ONE 

migaloo, one of only two known all white humpback whales, was photographed off the northern coast of new south wales as he made his annual migration north from antarctica. migaloo lost claim to being the only all white humpback in 2011, when an all white calf was spotted in these waters. most believe migaloo, now 35, to be the father. though often described as albino, migaloo has brown eyes and is more likely leucistic or hypopigmented. 

photos by (click pic) jenny dean, jonas liebschner and ray alley

photos by per andre hoffmann in antarctica of polar stratospheric clouds, so named because they form fifteen miles above the earth, a hight which, given the curvature of the planet, allows them to be illuminated after sunset by light reflected from below the horizon. 

where the stratosphere is usually much too high for water molecules to remain stable and form clouds, the temperature in the antarctic winter season drops to such an extent that what sparse water molecules are present in the upper atmosphere condense from the pressure drop, forming wide stretches of thin clouds.

unfortunately, these clouds also contain nitric acid, which reacts violently with chlorine released into the atmosphere by industrial processes elsewhere on the planet, causeng holes to form in the ozone layer.  (see also: ann hawthorne

hammer time. schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks photographed in the galapagos by (click pic) alexander safanovmontgomery gilchrist, eric h cheng, norbert wu, franco banfi, todd aki, chris newbert and larry gatz.  

scalloped hammerhead populations have declined by over 95 percent in the past thirty years, largely due to the shark fin trade. this summer, scalloped hammerheads became the first species of shark to be protected by the u.s. endangered species act, one of the world’s strongest wildlife conservation laws. 

photos of indonesia’s mount sinabung volcano erupting between october 5 and 8, by (click pic) yt haryonosutanta adityabinsar bakkara, and ivan damanik. though dormant for over four hundred years, the volcano has erupted six times in the last four years. 

some of the more economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods tend to be the most colourful. photos by (click pic): shyami das in sikkim, west bengal; rachel tobias in valparaiso, chile; becky caplice in guanajuato, mexico; adelino alves in favela da rocinha, rio de janeiro, brazil; christian haugen in lima, peru; raul arboleda in medellin, colombia; dieu nalio chery in petionville, haiti; alain gavage in belo horizonte, brazil 

during the autumn rutting season, red deer stag find themselves with elaborate bracken crowns from having rubbed their heads against the ground, which they do to strengthen their neck muscles so as to help them in battle with those competing for the affections of the does. photos by (click pic) mark smith, toby melville, luke millward and greg morgan in london’s richmond park. (see also: more autumn rut in richmond park)