Yesterday was Earth Day, a time set aside to increase awareness of the natural environment and the impact of our collective actions. In honor of Earth Day, gathered here is a collection of scenes of our home planet from above, from vantage points we don't see in everyday life. These scenes help show the Earth as a larger system and demonstrate the extent to which human activity has affected it.
A view of Earth, the stars, and red and green auroras above cities in western North America, as seen from the International Space Station, on February 19, 2012.
Australia's Lady Elliot Island, seen on January 14, 2012. Lady Elliot Island is one of the three island resorts in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The island of approximately 100 acres lies 46 nautical miles north-east of the Queensland town of Bundaberg and is the southern-most coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef.
(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Moscow, Russia appears at the center of this nighttime image photographed by one of the Expedition 30 crew members aboard the International Space Station, on March 28, 2012. A solar array panel for the space station is on the left side of the frame. The view is to the north-northwest. On the horizon in the background can be seen a small sample of Aurora Borealis, airglow and daybreak.
Heard Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, dominated by Mawson Peak, a 2,745 m (9,000 ft) high volcano. The uninhabited island is among one of the most remote on Earth, halfway between Africa and Australia, and 1,609 km (1,000 mi) north of Antarctica. Photographed by the crew of the International Space Station on November 24, 2011.
Ice floes along the Kamchatka coastline are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station, on March 15, 2012. As ice floes grind against each other, they produce smaller floes that can be moved by wind and water currents acting along the coastline. The irregular southeastern coastline of Kamchatka helps to produce large circular eddy currents from the main southwestward-flowing Kamchatka current.
The Thematic Mapper on NASA's Landsat 5 satellite captured this image of Vancouver, British Columbia, on September 7, 2011. Flowing through braided channels, the Fraser River meanders toward the sea, emptying through multiple outlets.
(NASA Earth Observatory image created by Robert Simmon and Jesse Alle)
On January 4, 2012, these cloud formations developed over the Bering Sea in part because of the snow and ice blanketing the land and the sea ice clinging to the coast. Air blowing over ice and then warmer ocean water can lead to the development of parallel cylinders of spinning air. On the upper edge of these cylinders of rising air, small clouds form. Along the downward side (descending air), skies are clear. The resulting cloud formations resemble streets.
(NASA, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team)
A portion of Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska, with runoff streams leading to the Gulf of Alaska. Malaspina is the largest piedmont glacier in the world, a type of glacier that spills from high mountains, spreading out across a low flat plain. Malaspina Glacier covers an area of 3,900 square kilometers (1,500 sq mi).
(TerraMetrics, GeoEye, Google, Inc.)
A development on one of the islands of "The World Islands" project in Dubai, on January 7, 2012. The collection of man-made islands are shaped into the continents of the world, and will consist of 300 small private artificial islands divided into four categories - private homes, estate homes, dream resorts, and community islands, according to the development company Nakheel Properties Group.
(Reuters/Jumana El Heloueh)
A view of the Isiboro Secure indigenous territory and national park, known by its Spanish acronym TIPNIS, in Beni, Bolivia, on September 16, 2011. Bolivian President Evo Morales faced strong resistance from within his indigenous support base over government plans to build a 185-mile wide (300 km) highway through the Amazon forest.
(Reuters/Daniel Caballero/Bolivian Presidency)
This astronaut photograph from the International Space Station highlights the southeastern part of the Southern United States at night, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico and lower Atlantic Seaboard states. The brightly lit metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Georgia (image center) and Jacksonville, Florida (image lower right) appear largest in the image with numerous other urban areas forming an interconnected network of light across the region. A large dark region to the northwest of Jacksonville, FL is the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo taken on January 29, 2012.