Bing Wallpaper Gallery
Feb 1, 2021
Reflecting on Black History Month
Join the Smithsonian as we celebrate Black History Month with the help of our National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). This stunning image of the museum looks out through its intricate, bronze-colored façade to the National Mall. The museum’s breathtaking exterior, a corona rising in three dramatic tiers, evokes the crowns found in the Yoruba art of West Africa, and its ornate design echoes the decorative ironwork found in the American South, often forged by African American slaves and freed Black Americans. The façade allows natural light to filter into the museum while also protecting artifacts on display from direct sunlight and glare.
Jan 31, 2021
A glittering diamond in the rough
Peering from this vantage point you may wonder, how in the world could anyone access this hut nestled in Germany"s Bavarian Alps? By hiking in, of course. There are well over 1,000 such huts dotting the Alpine landscape throughout Europe, most of them built and maintained by private social clubs devoted to climbing, hiking, and other activities in the mountains. These huts allow hikers to light out onto the extensive trail systems, sometimes for days, while carrying as little gear as possible. No need to pack cooking equipment, tents and sleeping bags when you have guaranteed shelter each night, with dinners, breakfasts, and, if you"re lucky, a hot shower, included.
Jan 30, 2021
Even nature needs a backup plan…
This glittering concrete monolith is a lot like that still-sealed emergency survival kit languishing in your basement since 1999: Reassuring to have around, but a bummer when you actually have to use it. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault—better known by its cute nickname, the "Doomsday Vault"—was established on this far-northern Norwegian isle in 2008 to archive frozen genetic copies of seeds already housed in seed banks around the world: a backup of all the backups. Kept at minus 0.4 degrees F within the seed vault, precious botanicals from food to fibers to flowers are safe from disasters, even of the apocalyptic variety. Lucky us: It"ll take a healthy diet of veggies to fight off the zombies.
Jan 29, 2021
So, how long till springtime?
Winter often brings cold and snow to the uplands of England"s Peak District National Park, as this wee European robin surely knows. Here we see it puffing up its plumage to insulate its body against the wintry weather. Unrelated to the American robin, the European robin is commonly known in the British Isles as the robin redbreast. But it"s more orange than red, you say? That"s because when British people first named it the redbreast, probably in the 1400s, the word "orange" had not yet been introduced as a color name in the English language. Animals and other things were often named "red" even when orange or tawny: the red deer, Red Planet, and robin redbreast are all examples. Whatever you decide to call our diminutive friend, we appreciate its bright splash of color on an otherwise bleak wintry day.
Jan 28, 2021
Avatars of the Wolf Moon
The Arctic wolf, or white wolf, is unique among wolves in its light coloring. Supremely adapted to the tundra where it lives, its coloration helps it blend into the landscape as it hunts the caribou, moose, muskox, and Arctic hare that make up its diet. A subspecies of the gray wolf, the Arctic wolf lives in the extreme north of Canada"s Queen Elizabeth Islands. It"s extremely cold there, but an advantage of this habitat is that the remoteness has kept the Arctic wolf population from being hunted extensively. It is currently the only wolf species not endangered or threatened. We"re featuring this handsome trio because tonight will be the Wolf Moon, traditionally the first full moon of the year. The name comes to us by way of the Algonquin people to denote the time of year that hungry wolves could be heard howling outside their settlements.
Jan 27, 2021
A dramatic view of Sicily
If you mistook this gorgeous, postcard-worthy image for one of the many coastal towns along Italy"s famous Amalfi coast, you wouldn"t be far off. However, the town seen here actually lies farther to the south, located on the eastern side of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean. Beginning in the late 19th century, sun-seeking tourists have come to the chic resort town of Taormina during the warmer months, looking to dine in its restaurants, relax on its beaches, and of course just to take in the exquisite scenery.
Jan 26, 2021
It s Australia Day
If this aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef is a reminder that you ❤ everything Australia, today"s your day. Australia Day commemorates January 26, 1788, when the first transplants from England said g"day to Australian shores, but you can just call it a day to celebrate all things Aussie. From the Barrier Reef to the rugged bush to the dry Outback, we invite you to join the diverse people of Oz in celebrating their island nation (well, we can almost join the Aussies—it"s tomorrow for them already, so they celebrated yesterday).
Jan 25, 2021
Struck by Southwestern beauty
It"s okay if this stormy shot stirs your spirit with holy awe: They call this wind-carved edifice Church Rock for a reason. Surrounded by an enchanting Southwestern landscape, it"s a sight that almost invites you to get lost out here—and if you look at a map of these parts, you"ll see that"s not too hard.
Jan 24, 2021
These patterns tell a story
Is it possible for an article of clothing to express the essence of an entire people? Well, not usually, but for the Indigenous Guna people of Panama, the colorful handwoven textiles seen here may be an exception. Molas, which means "clothing" in the Guna language, are traditionally displayed on both the front and back of women"s blouses. Even today, many Guna women prefer to wear them instead of modern attire. The textiles often feature abstract geometric patterns, as well as images from nature such as turtles, flowers, birds, and fish. Guna women of yesteryear were known to paint their bodies with those same geometric patterns and designs, and by the late 1800s they had begun weaving them onto cloth instead of painting themselves. Today, the production of molas is still generally done by women, who use an intricate process called reverse appliqué, where as many as seven layers of fabric are sewn together to form a panel, which is then hand-cut to create the vibrant designs.
Jan 23, 2021
A sleeping green giant
We"re looking down on Chu Dang Ya, an extinct volcano that last erupted millions of years ago. Located in Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, Chu Dang Ya means "wild ginger" or perhaps "tough ginger root" in the local Jarai language. The volcano provides fertile soil for crops such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, taro, and more. Among the best times to visit this rural gem is at the beginning of the rainy season, in late April and early May, and as the rains wind down in November. That"s when Chu Dang Ya takes it up a notch—its hillsides erupt with sunflower and other wildflower blooms along roadways, dirt paths, and fields.
Jan 22, 2021
Cold? What cold?
As the Scandinavian saying goes, "There"s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes." The adventurer seen here near the top of our image is conquering the New England chill on a stand-up paddleboard, a cold ocean removed from Nordic shores. But this watery winter excursion embodies the Scandie stamina distilled in the Norwegian word friluftsliv, literally translated as "free air life"—the notion that any time is a great time to be outdoors, weather be damned.
Jan 21, 2021
The tale of squirrels like Nutkin
If this picture looks right out of Beatrix Potter"s world, we"d say you have a good eye for a story. In 1903, Potter published "The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin," about a cheeky squirrel who taunts an owl with silly riddles until he pushes things too far—narrowly escaping with his life, minus a tail. Potter based Nutkin on the red squirrel, the only native squirrel species in the UK. The red squirrel population saw a steep decline here after humans introduced the larger nonnative Eastern gray squirrel in the late 1800s. But today in the UK, the red squirrel is a protected species, bolstering efforts to keep the gray numbers in check and preserve habitat. Estimates put the red squirrel population in the UK at fewer than 140,000, with the vast majority living in the woods of Scotland, like our little friend here.
Jan 20, 2021
Penguins can t fly!
Unlike most other birds, penguins can"t fly, though this one sure looks like it"s trying—or jumping for joy since today is Penguin Awareness Day. Actually, these gentoo penguins on Danco Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, were photographed leaping out of the water as they returned to their nests for breeding season, which starts in November.
Jan 19, 2021
The ruins of a Maya superpower
Deep in the jungle of southern Mexico lie the ruins of a city that thrived for centuries before it was abandoned more than 1,000 years ago. Calakmul was once one of the two dueling superpowers—along with Tikal—of the Classic Maya civilization. At its height, around 1,200 years ago, the city of Calakmul had a population of about 50,000 people, but the kingdom as a whole numbered more than 1.5 million. Archaeologists have uncovered 6,750 structures here—the largest is this pyramid temple, called, simply, "Structure 2." It"s one of the tallest and most massive remaining structures from that highly advanced culture. The ruins of the city proper cover nearly 8 square miles in the jungle and the kingdom once ruled over settlements as far as 90 miles away.
Jan 18, 2021
A step toward freedom
This inscription marks the spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, where civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. stood while delivering his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It was August 28, 1963, and King was addressing a quarter-million people spread across the National Mall during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King referred to written notes for most of the speech, but as he neared the end of his prepared remarks, he heard gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was standing nearby, shout out, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" King responded by partly improvising the rest of his message in a soaring, sermon-like delivery, punctuating his ideas repeatedly with that single phrase, "I have a dream." King"s dream for racial justice, so eloquently shared that day, would resonate through the crowd and across the nation, bringing passionate new energy to the civil rights movement. It still resonates today.
Jan 17, 2021
On the Route of the Waterfalls
Coursing down the steep slopes of the Andes, the Pastaza River meets the edge of the Amazon jungle when it"s forced through a narrow channel that concentrates the river"s power like a firehose. The roiling torrent then shoots over the edge of this mountainside, plunging 200 feet into a cauldron-shaped pool. Agoyán, better known as El Pailón del Diablo (The Devil"s Cauldron), is Ecuador"s tallest and most famous waterfall. It"s a highlight of the Ruta de las Cascadas (Route of the Waterfalls), a popular circuit of the many waterfalls and hot springs near the mountain town of Baños de Agua Santa.
Jan 16, 2021
Oh, to sleep under the northern lights
Perhaps there"s no better place to watch the northern lights dance above you than curled up in bed under the glass dome of a heated igloo here in Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland. There are other glass-domed hotels to choose from in Lapland, but the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, shown here, is the most famous. Visitors come to view the aurora borealis, or northern lights, and for various outdoor sports. There"s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, dogsledding, and even reindeer-drawn sleigh rides to keep you entertained during the short winter days. Evenings are spent dining (yes, reindeer may be on the menu), warming up in the sauna, and for some, sleeping under the stars and the swirling, hypnotic northern lights.
Jan 15, 2021
It s truffle season here in the Dordogne Valley
Perched high above the Dordogne River in France, the Château de Beynac is one of the best-preserved castles of the Périgord Noir region. This 12th-century fortress has been meticulously restored, showcasing for tourists such delights as a dungeon, 13th-century toilets, and magnificent views of the "Valley of the Five Castles" below.
Jan 14, 2021
Summer huts in winter
We"re getting chilly just looking at these snow-covered beach huts in England—and that cyclist slogging through the white stuff. But in the summer, these huts in Brighton and Hove (neighboring towns that share a local government) are in major demand. You can"t stay in them overnight, but they give you a place to change your clothes and stash your belongings, which makes a day at the beach less messy and generally more pleasant. The seaside resort area is also known for attractions like Brighton Palace Pier, which offers amusement park rides and fast food, and the i360 tower, which takes visitors 450 feet up for a 360-degree view across Brighton, the South Downs, and English Channel.
Jan 13, 2021
Strolling across the Red Lagoon
Let"s fly down to the Southern Hemisphere to enjoy a summer day at the Laguna Colorada in the southwestern corner of Bolivia. Also called the Red Lagoon, this 23-square-mile shallow salt lake sits at about 14,000 feet above sea level within the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in the Andes. At various times of the year, it can turn the shade of tomato soup due to microscopic red algae and sediments. During the rainy season from December to April, scores of flamingos flock to the area to dip their comb-like bills into the water to filter out delicious plankton and algae. You can find three of the six types of flamingos here—the Chilean, Andean, and the world"s largest population of the endangered James"s flamingo, once thought to be extinct.
Jan 12, 2021
Sailing on thick ice
New York"s Hudson River, winter of 2014: Temperatures were so cold for so long that sailors were able to take their antique wooden ice yachts out for a sail on this 20-mile stretch of thick ice. It was a rare sight for the area. Global warming meant that the Hudson River hadn"t frozen thick enough for safe iceboating in years.
Jan 11, 2021
At the gates of the ksar
At the eastern edge of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Aït Benhaddou stands suspended in time. The mud-brick "ksar" (fortified city) was first built roughly 1,000 years ago, catering to travelers along the former caravan route between the Sahara desert and the city of Marrakesh. As a prime example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture, Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It"s no longer teeming with the large numbers of people who once lived there. But there are small markets and a few families within the city who cater to the visitors who come to walk its historic streets. As a symbol of Morocco"s enduring history, Aït Benhaddou would be a fine place to reflect upon the events of January 11, 1944, when Moroccan nationalists issued a public proclamation calling for the independence of their country, an audacious action that sparked the movement that would end colonialism by 1956.
Jan 10, 2021
China s colorful terraced pools
While the sight of these gorgeous pools may make you want to don a swimsuit and plunge in for a refreshing soak, we don"t recommend it. The water may be fed by underground geothermal springs, but these are no hot springs—the water"s only about 41 F. We"ll take it all in from dry land. The terraced, travertine pools cascade downward for nearly 2 miles. Formed over thousands of years, calcite deposits give the water its unique, and welcoming, turquoise coloration.
Jan 9, 2021
The stylish Spanish shawl
Today we"re meeting one of a motley group of sea slugs called the nudibranchs (rhymes with "thanks"), known for their unique, often complex shapes and neon-bright colors that help discourage predators. The Spanish shawl"s fire-orange mane is made up of tendrils called cerata that mainly act as gills. But that mane also retains venom from the slug"s prey—sea anemones—treating any would-be devourers to a painful sting. Should a ravenous sea star disregard these defenses and get too close for comfort, the Spanish shawl has a Plan B: By flapping its whole 2- to 3-inch body like a gelatinous wing, the nudibranch can flutter into open water for a quick escape.
Jan 8, 2021
Take this for a spin...
In 1851, when French physicist Léon Foucault performed his pendulum experiment in Paris, he became the first to prove what many scientists of his day already suspected—that the Earth spins on an axis. He conducted his first experiments 170 years ago, in early January 1851, with a relatively small prototype in the cellar of his home. Just a month later, Foucault performed his most famous pendulum demonstration, using a 62-pound spherical weight attached to a 220-foot wire, which was hung from the dome of the Panthéon, a Parisian monument. As the pendulum swung back and forth in a fixed plane, the pointed end of the weight traced lines in a compass-like circle of sand below it. As time passed, the angle of these lines began to change, demonstrating to onlookers that the Earth itself was rotating underneath the pendulum, and by extension, everyone watching was rotating as well, spinning on the surface of the great blue marble around its axis.