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Turkey vulture

The turkey vulture is the most widespread of the New World vultures. One of three species in the genus Cathartes, in the family Cathartidae, it ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America, inhabiting subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts. Like all New World vultures, it is not related to the Old World vultures of Europe, Africa, and Asia, but looks nearly identical to them because of convergent evolution, in which unrelated animals adapting to the same conditions are similarly shaped by natural selection. The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by decaying animal corpses. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a vocal organ, its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks. It has very few natural predators, and has legal protection in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. (Full article...)

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Five spheres, one of which is only partially visible, all evincing complex patterns of red, orange, yellow, white, and black all of different sizes dispersed over a black background

There are 67 confirmed moons of Jupiter (partial montage pictured). This gives it the largest retinue of moons with reasonably secure orbits of any planet in the Solar System. The most massive of them, the four Galilean moons, were discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and were the first objects found to orbit a body that was neither Earth nor the Sun. From the end of the 19th century, dozens of much smaller Jovian moons have been discovered and have received the names of lovers, conquests, or daughters of the Roman god Jupiter, or his Greek equivalent, Zeus. The Galilean moons are by far the largest and most massive objects in orbit around Jupiter, with the remaining 63 moons and the rings together comprising just 0.003 percent of the total orbiting mass. Eight of Jupiter's moons are regular satellites. The Galilean satellites would be considered dwarf planets if they were in direct orbit about the Sun. There are 17 recently discovered irregular satellites of Jupiter that have not yet been named. (Full list...)

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Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle is a fortress located on the south shore of the Firth of Forth near Blackness, Scotland. Built by Sir George Crichton in the 1440s, the castle passed to King James II of Scotland in 1453. During its more than 500 years as crown property, the castle has served as a prison, artillery fortification, and ammunition depot. The castle is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, in the care of Historic Scotland.

Photograph: John Wells

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