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Wonders of the World

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Ancient, modern and natural, we’ve got your wonders covered.

Wonders of the World

How much do you know about these amazing sights?

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The northern lights, aurora borealis, is an event that occurs mostly at night at high northern latitudes. The show forms when charged particles, "solar wind," from the sun enter the Earth's magnetic field. The particles crash into the earth's upper atmosphere above the polar regions causing the atmosphere to emit a radiant, multicolored glow.

The scientific name, aurora borealis, means "red dawn of the north" in Latin and was first used by scientist Galileo Galilei.

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Off the eastern coast of Australia the Great Barrier Reef is the Earth's largest natural feature. It is actually a whole ecosystem of over 3000 individual reefs and 900 islands. It's so big it can be seen from outer space! The Reef holds one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems but over-fishing, oil drilling and pollution are threatening its health.

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Don't stand too close to the edge! The Grand Canyon is the largest gorge in the world averaging one mile deep and 290 miles long. It was created by the Colorado River and is located in northern Arizona.

President Teddy Roosevelt said of the Grand Canyon, "Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American should see."

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The falls are 5600 feet long-- that's more than 15 football fields! It is known as the biggest single curtain of falling water in the world. Flowing from the Zambezi river, the waterfall straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa and attracts more and more tourists each year.

Fun Fact: Although she was its namesake, Queen Victoria of Britain never saw Victoria Falls in person.

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On the eastern coast of Brazil, the bustling city of Rio de Janeiro joins the Guanabara Bay, mountains and Atlantic ocean to create this breathtaking view. "Rio de Janeiro" means "River of January" in Portuguese, named because explorers who found the bay thought they had reached the mouth of a great river.

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The tallest mountain in the world, Everest towers over Nepal and is part of the Himalayan mountain range.

Scientists believe Everest was formed 60 million years ago and naturally rises a few milimeters each year. Hundreds have lost their lives attempting the summit, which was first reached by Sir Edmund Hilary in 1953.

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One of only two modern volcanoes, this Mexican pile of lava is said to have sprung up in a a farmer's cornfield in 1943. The farmers noted rumbling and a deep gash in the ground that very quickly gave way to a real volcano, complete with lava spewing out.

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Where: Originally located in Giza, part of modern-day Cairo, Egypt.

Why: A tomb constructed by Egyptian Pharoah Khufu in 2560 B.C.

Wonder: The great pyramid of Giza remained the tallest structure on Earth for more than 4,000 years. The pyramid is believed to have been built over two decades period, which includes its architectural planning and the placement of more than 2 million stone blocks. The structure stands 481 feet tall, and is said to contain enough rock to build a 1 foot wall around the country of France.

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Where: Originally located on the banks of the River Euphrates, 30 miles from present-day Baghdad, Iraq.

Why: Nebuchadnezzar II (ruled Babylon from 604-562 B.C.) built the hanging gardens as a gift to his wife.

Wonder: What made it amazing? Ask Strabo and Philo of Byznatium, two Greek scholars who described the gardens: "The hanging garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators."

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Where: The Aegean seaside city of Bodrum, in southwest Turkey.

Why: King Maussollos of Caria constructed it as his royal tomb.

Wonder: The mausoleum was completed in 350 B.C., three years before Maussollos' death. It sat 140 feet high and was topped by the statue of a chariot. Beyond the stone walls, gold-adorned alters and statues carved by Greek sculptors Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas, and Timotheus, decorated the massive catacombs. The structure maintained for 16 centuries before crumbling during an earthquake. In 1494, raiders used the stones for construction and by the beginning of the next century, most of the mausoleum had been destroyed. Today, only the foundation remains.

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Where: Ephesus, the ancient city, lies near the modern town of Selcuk, Turkey.

Why: The temple was built in tribute to the Greek gods of the 6th century.

Wonder: Supported by 127 columns, the "great marble temple" stood 260 feet, and housed several works of priceless art, including four large ancient bronze statues, acting as the city's religious and cultural center. Partial reconstructions have been successful, but archaeologists can only speculate about the temple's true artistic design.

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Where: The ancient city of Olympia, on the western coast of Greece.

Why: A gift to Zeus, the god of all the Greek gods.

Wonder: Athenian artist Pheidias was commissioned to design the godly statue in 5th century B.C. Standing at a height of 40 feet (about the size of a four-story building), the statue was erected using wooden planks, and then wrapped in gold. The statue was completely destroyed by a fire in 462.

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Where: Originally located in Rhodes, Greece.

Why: A celebratory statue, erected following a military victory.

Wonder: After the Antigonid siege was lifted in 304 B.C., Rhodians built the Colossus--the design, a tribute to their sun god Helios, and the size, a tribute to their wealth. Standing 110 feet tall and constructed out of bronze, marble and iron, the giant warrior statue took 12 years to complete (comparatively, the Statue of Liberty stands one foot taller).

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Where: Originally located on the ancient island of Pharos; later removed to Alexandria, Egypt.

Why: Constructed in homage to Alexander the Great

Wonder: Pharos, a small island off the city's coast, was connected to Alexandria's mainland though small, hard-to-navigate canals. To warn incoming ships, the lighthouse was erected to guard sailors against the city's dangerously-concealed double harbor.

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