In general, humans tend to think of the Earth has a big place, but when seeing photos of it from space, the realization creeps in; The expanse that exists beyond Earth is vast. Although many individuals will never get the opportunity to see Earth from afar, space travel continues to advance, and the astronauts who are living onboard space stations have been afforded a fantastic opportunity to not just further their knowledge, but to also glance at the Earth from hundreds of miles away, and see it in a completely new light.
There have been many photographs taken by astronauts which capture the beauty of the world humans call home. Destinations that are arid and harsh like the Australian outback look eerily beautiful when photographed from space, while rivers and deltas are shown as a mesmerizing collection of colors. There are also man-made structures that are so big they can be photographed from afar, including Dubai’s Palm Islands. And, thankfully, NASA has chosen to share these photographs with the rest of the world.
Below are 25 photos of places on Earth, as seen from the International Space Station and satellites, all of which serve as a reminder of how beautiful the natural world is.
When you hear of the area known as the Australian Outback, someone is typically referring to the vast arid areas in the country and continent, which are mostly unpopulated and isolated.
Although living conditions in the outback are certainly not ideal, it looks like an incredibly appealing destination when photographed from space with its eerie reddish-brown landscape.
According to Zee News, the image credit goes to French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who snapped the photograph while onboard the International Space Station in 2016.
The Ganges Delta, or Brahmaputra Delta, is the largest river delta in the world and can be found in the South Asia area of Bangladesh and India, and according to Kiddle, it is one of the most fertile areas in the world. LiveScience also notes that more than 100 million people call this area home, and here they grow tea, rice, and other crops.
This beautiful image was taken by the European Space Agency, and according to Live Science was created by “combining three Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar acquisitions taken over the same area.”
The Amazon river is the largest river in the world, in terms of volumes of its flow, and it spans across at least 4,000 miles, Britannica reports. Yet from space, it looks so small.
This photograph, taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite in 2017, shows the Amazon river, which appears brown in color because of the sediment, Space Ref reports.
Surrounding the river is the vegetation, and the juxtaposition between the dense green, and areas of brown land show how the land has already been cleared for agricultural purposes.
We play games on checkerboards, but we definitely don’t expect to see a checkerboard pattern in nature, and this is one of the reasons that make this pattern, located alongside the Priest River in Northern Idaho, so fascinating. The second reason is it was taken from space.
According to Space, the pattern was created by pockets of snow covering areas where trees had been removed for logging, and Earth Observatory notes that the image was taken just before sunset in January of 2017, by an astronaut who was aboard the International Space Station.
The Earth is a remarkable place and we are reminded of this when we see photos from space, much like this one.
We are also reminded of just how small we are. This photograph was taken by the European Space Agency flight engineer, Tim Peake, Popular Science reports.
The photograph was snapped when the spacecraft flew over the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, and the image shows the beautiful glowing lights of the populated cities below -- it’s quite a mesmerizing sight.
The coral reef off the coast of Queensland in Australia is referred to as the Great Barrier Reef, and it’s a place of immense importance because it’s the world’s largest coral reef system and one of the seven natural wonders in the world.
This is a destination that is beautiful and diverse, but it’s also so big that it can be clearly seen from space.
The Great Barrier Reef has been photographed multiple times from space, but according to Armagh Planet, this image was taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station.
The French tropical island of Juan de Nova Island forms part of the Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean, and this particular island lies in the Mozambique Channel. It’s an island that has never had a permanent population, and according to Armagh Planet, the inhabitants are mostly a small group of scientists, meteorologists, and French military garrison.
The island, according to World Rover, is just seven times the size of The Mall in Washington, D.C. -- but it undoubtedly makes for a more interesting photo than any mall could.
The Earth is no stranger to natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, but while it’s one thing to see them from the ground, it’s quite something else to witness a storm unfolding from outer space -- although scary to be caught in the midst of a tropical disaster, it’s beautiful from above.
This image, according to Space, was taken in 2018 by the GOES-16 weather satellite and shows a macro-scale extratropical cyclone bringing snow into the northeastern part of the United States.
Another image taken from space that depicts a natural disaster is this image, showing Hurricane Florence. The hurricane hit in September of 2018, and caused severe damage to the United States East Coast, destroying multiple homes and resulting in an evacuation of 1.7 million people in the area, BBC reports.
This photograph was taken on Sept. 10, by astronaut Ricky Arnold, when the International Space Station flew over the storm, NASA reports. The astronaut later shared his image on Twitter.
This photograph taken from a space shuttle and belonging to NASA shows the Clearwater Lakes located in Quebec, Canada, and it has quite an eerie feel to it.
What makes these lakes even more interesting is the widely believed theory surrounding their formation; the common belief was that they were the result of two asteroids simultaneously hitting the Earth’s surface around 290 million years ago, Solar Views reports. However, Phys notes that UWA geologists have since debunked this theory, noting that it was not a double impact because one of the lakes is much older than the other.
The stratovolcano known as Sarychev Peak is located on Russia’s Kuril Islands and it erupted on June 11, 2009, to June 19, 2009, sending out ash plumes and causing mass disruption and delays in air traffic during this time, Volcano Discovery reports.
Sarychev Peak is considered one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and this fantastic photograph depicts the early moments of the eruption. It was taken from space by the International Space Station, which was passing overhead on June 12.
According to Inhabitat, this image shows the Al Jawf oasis and was photographed by the European Space Agency.
The city can be seen in the upper left-hand side of the image, although it is the irrigated agricultural plots, which appear as green circles in the Libyan Desert, that are the most eye-catching.
This project is a planned farming method, which according to Earth Observatory, uses “fossil water from a large underground aquifer” because of the small amounts of rainfall the country receives. These plots standout in the area, making it easy to recognize from space.
In 2018, California experienced its most deadly wildfires, which tore across the landscape leaving behind the destruction of thousands of homes and other structures, as well as more than 80,000 acres of land, CNN reports.
Firefighters worked tirelessly to keep the blazes under control, but the impact could even be seen from space, giving a small indication of the mass scale of this disaster. According to the Evening Standard, images, like this one, were taken from the NASA's Terra satellite.
The California wildfires are not the only natural disasters that have been photographed from space, and according to Armagh Planet, this image, taken by the International Space Station, shows the dense plume of smoke caused during the Australian bushfires in 2013.
According to the publication, the increase in temperature resulted in fires spreading across Tasmania and New South Wales and NASA reported that in addition to high temperatures, erratic winds and dry vegetation resulted in out-of-control blazes, some of the worst the region had experienced.
Anyone who has ever been to Dubai would have either heard of the Palm Islands or visited them because it’s really quite a beautiful, upmarket area filled with fancy hotels and sought-after restaurants. As the name suggests, the palm takes on the shape of a palm tree and the series of islands that form it are all man-made.
It has become a popular tourist attraction for the city, and according to Mother Nature Network, the landform is even big enough to be seen from space.
According to Popular Science, when Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore was onboard the International Space Station, he took this remarkable photos.
But what exactly are you looking at? Well, according to the publication these are the Great Lakes, a body of water in Northern America.
The Great Lakes are interconnected freshwater lakes, and the image was taken during a December night in 2014. The astronaut took to Twitter to share his photo, which was subsequently retweeted over 2,000 times.
Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park is a popular tourist destination because it is one of the world’s most impressive landscapes. It is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and the only landmark in North America to be granted this title, The Train reports.
The Grand Canyon National Park covers an area of 4,926 km² and is reportedly also the most visited National Park in the United States, and it appears to be just as spectacular from space. This is the view astronauts had of the canyon when they passed over it in the International Space Station, Live Science reports.
The aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, as it’s often referred to, is on the bucket list of many people, and according to the Northern Lights Centre, the lights are “collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere.” The natural light displays range in color from pink to green and are magical because they appear to be dancing in the sky, but now, imagine being able to see this from space?
This image shows just that, the aurora borealis as taken from the view of the International Space Station in 2012, Earth Sky reports.
According to International Business Times, this is one of the most amazing photos taken by astronauts while onboard the International Space Station, and it depicts the Green River in Utah. The image was taken in 2014, and if you look closely, you can see a thin white line of jet vapor over the landscape.
Speaking of the landscape, the Green River runs through mountainous terrain for “most of its 730-mile course,” Britannica reports, and this can be navigated by small boats.
TripAdvisor reveals there are a number of river rafting expeditions and tours which tourists have enjoyed in this region.
The world is filled with beautiful natural destinations which are fascinating and sometimes even eerie when seen from space, but the cities, especially at night, have also made for some of the most impressive photos. The Greater London is densely populated and a vibrant city (as of 2018, the World Population Review estimates there are more than 9 million people living in the region), and the lights can be seen from space.
According to International Business Times, this photo was taken from the International Space Station in 2013 and shows Greater London and its surroundings.
There is something particularly beautiful about seeing places on Earth during the night, and this image of the North Atlantic Coast, taken during the night, is an example of why that is. According to the Huffington Post, the photograph was taken from the International Space Station in 2012 from a view of around 220 miles above Earth.
The publication notes that this photo was released by NASA and the bright spots in the image are the bigger cities, including New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
This image shows Egypt's Lake Nasser from space. According to Earth Observatory, the 550-kilometer lake is an artificial lake named after Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, who was in office until 1970.
The photo was taken from the International Space Station.
Astronauts living onboard the International Space Station have the opportunity to see different views of the world 16 times a day. According to the Huffington Post, the space station orbits Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour. It takes around 90 minutes to complete an orbit, which equals 16 trips per day, the publication notes.
This photo was not taken by an astronaut living on the International Space Station (although it there have been several like it that were), rather, according to Space, it was photographed by GOES-16 satellite and shows the waters of the Caribbean, a region in North America that is filled with islands that are often bucket list destinations.
What makes this image particularly interesting is the difference in colors, as you can clearly differentiate between the land, the deep seas, and the shallow, more turquoise blue waters surrounding the islands.
Dubai’s Palm Islands are not the only impressive man-made creation that can be seen from afar, and Durrat Al Bahrain, the artificial island located on the south coast of Bahrain, is another imposing structure. According to Guff, this is a zoomed in image of the cluster of islands, which are among the largest artificial islands in the world, and serve as a commercial and residential hub.
The Durrat Al Bahrain is a cluster of 15 islands, and according to the website Durrat Bahrain, it is a “master development.”
Astronauts have been given a unique opportunity to see our world in a way that many of us will never get the opportunity to do, but their photos give a glimpse into the beauty of planet Earth. And astronaut Scott Kelly’s photo, which according to Popular Science is of the sunrise above the Western United States, is a fine example of what these space explorers are able to witness.
The publication notes that Kelly took this image in 2015, while onboard the International Space Station for a year-long mission.