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Above: Mr. Bear goes for a stroll near the Kamchatka volcano. Credit: Richard Li


Hello, everyone!

Welcome to the June 2021 issue of Cool Things! Each month, we want to bring you news on scientific discoveries, historical information, and other interesting finds from across the internet. We have a lot to share today, so let's dive in!


No Place Like Home: A Self Portrait of Earth

Earth as seen from the Apollo 17 mission
Above: Crescent Earth as seen from Apollo 17. Digital restoration by Toby Ord.
The Apollo missions of the 60s and 70s were supplied with the best technology of the time and cutting edge machines to get them safely to and from the Moon. While the rockets, capsules, and computers are amazing, perhaps the most impactful thing they carried was a camera.
Toby Ord was struck with the images brought back by the Apollo astronauts. They were one of a kind views of our planet; a unique self portrait made far from home. As beautiful as the subject matter was though, their age showed. Ord made it his mission to create digital restorations of the original scans and bring out the best of the photographs as well as the best of planet Earth. You can view his gallery for the full collection and learn how he was inspired here. You can also learn more about the amazing efforts behind the Apollo Program on our website and collect your own piece from the missions.
A World Beneath Our Feet
A prehistoric landscape of mastodons, ancient rhinos, and other extinct mammals
Above: The world 23 million years ago!
For Ranger Greg Francek, it had started out as an ordinary day. There was no way he could know that he was about to discover an entire prehistoric ecosystem beneath his feet. Last summer, Francek stumbled upon an amazing petrified forest was found in the Sierra Nevada mountains. These fossilized trees dated back 23 million years to the Eocene, a time when the mountains didn't even exist.
After excavation began something even more amazing was found: the first of many fauna fossils. Mastodons, rhinoceroses, camels, horses, birds, fish, tortoises, and tapirs were all part of the ancient ecosystem uncovered. Check out the full report here!
Supersonic Back in Action!
A model of the upcoming United Boom Jet
Above: Concept art of United's upcoming supersonic plane. Reminds us an awwwful lot of the Concorde 🤔
The Concorde Jet was introduced in 1976 as the world's first supersonic civilian plane, sending passengers across the globe at over twice the speed of sound. The program was discontinued in 2003, but according to United Airlines there are new plans to bring supersonic passenger flight back to the skies.
The "Overture," a jet designed by Boom Supersonic, is planned to be the first supersonic airline available since the Concorde. It's not expected to be operational until 2029, but in the meantime you can check out a piece of the original Concorde here. United might have the newest, but nothing beats the original. 😏
A Meteorite in Magma
A beam of light that appears to be emitted from a volcano
Above: If we're quick enough maybe we'll find some Star Bits... Wait this isn't Zelda!
It might look like a way-point in a video game, but this is real life. This amazing photograph from @gunarto_song on Instagram shows the path of a meteorite above the active Indonesian volcano, Mount Merapi. Gunarto explained that he was preparing to shoot the mountain when the light fell from the sky. The long exposure setting the camera was set to caused it to appear as a brilliant beam coming from above!
Zombified Cicadas!
A cicada infected with fungus attached to a stick
Above: A cicada infected with a mind control fungus!
Brood X is out in full force and if you're on the East Coast you're surely familiar with them by now! Beside their massive numbers though, something quite strange is going on with these bugs. A white fungus known as Massospora has infected a fair number of the brood, giving off a very peculiar effect. 
The fungus grows inside the genitals of the bugs and produces chemicals to put the cicadas into a mating frenzy. It eventually bursts through the exoskeleton and replaces their abdomen, allowing it to further spread through mating. The cicadas affected don't seem to be in any sort of pain or even know that they're being controlled by the fungus. Massospora isn't known to be especially dangerous to humans, but it still might bug you out a little! 🐛
That's all for now but we'll leave you with a winner of our #mymuseum contest! You can enter yourself by posting a pic to Instagram with #mymuseum or by emailing us at! Winners are chosen every week and get a $30 gift code!
This entry comes from Alan! It looks like our Plesiosaur found a buddy, not to mention the beautiful betta fish hanging out too! Thanks for sharing Alan!
A plesiosaur tooth fossil featured with a toy plesiosaur. A betta fish can be seen behind it.
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