Our Favorite Earth Images NASA Dropped in 2017

Meltwater in crevasses in southern Greenland captured from NASA Icebridge aircraft on May 11. Photo: John Sonntag/NASA

I’m not saying we’d be blind to the beauty of our planet without NASA, but damn would we be missing out. Every year, the space agency’s satellites, planes, climate models, and astronauts produce some of the most jaw-dropping images of Earth. This year was no exception.

From Antarctica to Libya to Tonga, NASA brought the goods that show our planet in amazing detail. This year’s total solar eclipse also offered a chance for NASA to show how the interaction of celestial bodies can make for cool images here on Earth.

Beyond the wow factor, NASA images have a major science role to play. The planes that NASA Icebridge flies over the poles are loaded with sensors that provide key data for scientists to understand how much ice climate change is melting. The powerful climate models NASA runs not only simulated this year’s violent hurricane season in intimate detail, but gave us clues as to what future hurricane seasons could look like. And without satellites, we wouldn’t have as much data to feed those models.


The whole enterprise is interconnected, you see. ☝️

Without further ado and in no particularly order, here are some of the best images of our glorious Earth NASA dropped in 2017.

Crazy polar happenings

Acquired on Nov. 29 by during a flight to Victoria Land, this image shows an iceberg floating in Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound. Photo: Operation IceBridge
Wildfire smoke from British Columbia drifts over the North Poie on Aug. 14. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
Cloud streets over the Sea of Okhotsk off eastern Russia. Image: Jeff Schmaltz/NASA 
An extremely rare wildfire burns in Greenland on Aug. 3. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
Iceberg A68, the Delaware-sized hunk of ice that captivated the world this year, slowly drifts away from the Larsen C ice shelf in an image captured in mid-September. Image: NASA Earth Observatory

Modeling our planet

NASA satellites and supercomputers combined to track this year’s destructive hurricane season. There’s a whole video you should really check out of the wild weather that afflicted the U.S. from summer to fall. Image: NASA
Digital elevation model showing the topography of Iceland’s Surtsey island (left) and Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai (right). The latter has a really cool backstory. Image: NASA

Earth as art

Fields in East Oweinat, one of Egypt’s driest areas. The fields draw on fossil water stored in the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer. That water is non-renewable so enjoy images like this while it lasts. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
An algae bloom on Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
A false color image of the Maldives, a small island nation composed of more than 1,200 coral islands and atolls. Eight percent of the country is within a meter of current sea level and climate change is currently on track to doom most of the islands. Image: NASA Earth Observatory
Astronauts on the International Space Station captured agricultural plots in eastern Libya. Image: NASA Earth Observatory

The eclipse was amazing

The Bailey’s Beads effect is seen as the moon makes its final move over the sun during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 above Madras, Ore. Photo: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA
A composite image shows the International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second during a partial solar eclipse Aug. 21 near Banner, Wyo. Photo: Joel Kowsky/NASA
NASA wasn’t just observing the eclipse from Earth. Its Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera situated on the Deep Space Climate Observatory caught the view from 930,000 miles away.

Supermoon mania

A plane taking off from Ronald Reagan National Airport passing in front of the Moon as it rises on Dec. 3. Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA

And last but not least, a reminder of our place in the solar system

The last shot of Earth captured by the Cassini spacecraft on April 13 before it began the final part of its mission flying into Saturn’s atmosphere where burned up on Sept. 15. Yup, that’s us. That little speck right between Saturn’s rings. Even from 870 million miles away, it looks like a pretty special place amidst the inky black nothing of space. Image: NASA Earth Observatory

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