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Wildlife photography can change the way we see our planet

By Ashley Strickland, CNN

“This is planet Earth, you’re looking at planet Earth.”

So go the lyrics of Duran Duran’s first hit single. While not strictly an Earth Day song, it nevertheless inspires you to think of new beginnings.

The holiday in honor of our world cannot be separated from the climate crisis, as CNN’s Bill Weir noted. But it’s heartening to see planet-positive changes taking place.

Cities across the country are embracing clean solar energy — and you can see where your city ranks on a new list. And Hollywood may shift to focus more on the climate crisis, thanks to a thoughtful new playbook released this week that recognizes the impact of films such as “Don’t Look Up.”

If you’re looking to connect with nature this weekend, set out for a forest bath. The sensory experience of walking through a forest and listening to wind ruffling through the leaves is not only soothing — it’s good for you, according to science.

And forest bathing doesn’t even have to take place in a forest for you to reap the benefits.

Once upon a planet

Wildlife photographer Emma Gatland documents moments that connect us with some of the most precious life on our wild planet.

Born in Zimbabwe, Gatland grew up appreciating the “the rawness, the beauty, the vastness (and) the quietness” of the outdoors in neighboring South Africa.

Now, she captures images of animals such as threatened white rhinos. In one striking image, we see a rhino suspended in the air as it is airlifted from a game reserve to receive health care. The hefty animal is upside down to open its airways.

Gatland hopes her images can convey “what conservation is” and draw attention to the issues animals face.

Fantastic creatures

If you’re not a fan of millipedes, you may want to shake it off — but this insect named for Taylor Swift will never go out of style.

Nannaria swiftae, or the Swift twisted-claw millipede, was named by a self-proclaimed Swiftie who wanted to honor the singer. It’s a “pretty” millipede with a chestnut brown color and reddish-orange spots on its sides, so entomologist Derek Hennen hopes the singer takes it as a compliment.

Identifying new species is a bright spot as parts of the world head for an insect apocalypse due to the climate crisis. Insects are disappearing at alarming rates that could threaten human health and food security, but there are things we can do to help our pollinator friends.

Other worlds

We promise the above image is not of a potato — it just looks like one.

The Perseverance rover was in the right place at the right time to capture video of an eclipse as the tiny Martian moon Phobos passed between the red planet and the sun. Phobos is doomed to crash into Mars eventually as every orbit brings the spud-shaped lump closer and closer to the planet.

Meanwhile, astronomers were all about ice giants and ocean worlds this week.

New recommendations were made to NASA to prioritize and send missions to explore Uranus and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. And scientists studying the Greenland ice sheet discovered similar features on Jupiter’s moon Europa that may suggest it’s habitable for life.

A long time ago

It may be the oldest example of animation ever discovered.

Early humans carved art on rock tablets and placed them near flickering fires to provide the illusion of movement in the images, according to new research.

Archaeologists studied stone plaquettes engraved with animals such as horses, reindeer, bison and wolves by hunter-gatherers 15,000 years ago. The stones’ edges bore signs of heat damage, indicating they sat close to a fire.

To get to the heart of this mystery, researchers created their own prehistoric-style camp and watched the animals “pop to life” by the light of the dancing flames.

Wild kingdom

The Barabaig people of central Tanzania have dangerous neighbors: about 800 lions.

But as the populations of these vulnerable big cats dwindle, conservationists are partnering with the tribe to protect the fearsome predators rather than hunt them.

About 18 young men have taken up the task to become Lion Defenders, warriors who have excellent tracking skills and a desire to protect their community as well as the resident lion population.


Take these for a spin:

— Like to eat your Oreo cookies a certain way? Some snacky researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who enjoy splitting them open devised an Oreometer in an attempt to create the perfect twist.

— Astronomers have discovered a new kind of star explosion called a micronova that burns through “around 3.5 billion Great Pyramids of Giza” of material within a few hours.

— Pterosaurs, which ruled the skies during the age of dinosaurs, were covered in colorful feathers similar to those of modern birds — and they used their plumage to communicate with one another.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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