Space

Earth from above: The most spectacular photos ever taken from the International Space Station

Western Europe as seen on a November night in 2016. England and Wales can be seen on the upper right of the shot, with Paris visible in the center and Belgium and the Netherlands to the middle-right
Western Europe as seen on a November night in 2016. England and Wales can be seen on the upper right of the shot, with Paris visible in the center and Belgium and the Netherlands to the middle-right
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The International Space Station (ISS) stands stark before the Earth, in this photo taken from the the Space Shuttle Atlantis on September 17, 2006
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The International Space Station (ISS) stands stark before the Earth, in this photo taken from the the Space Shuttle Atlantis on September 17, 2006
Astronaut Mike Hopkins on December 23, 2013, during a spacewalk to replace a pump module on the exterior of the ISS
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Astronaut Mike Hopkins on December 23, 2013, during a spacewalk to replace a pump module on the exterior of the ISS
The dunes of the Namib Sand Sea, as shot from a position over the South Atlantic ocean facing inwards, at sunset
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The dunes of the Namib Sand Sea, as shot from a position over the South Atlantic ocean facing inwards, at sunset
An automated Russian cargo craft approaches the ISS carrying 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies, on February 5, 2014
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An automated Russian cargo craft approaches the ISS carrying 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies, on February 5, 2014
A shot of the ISS’s Solar Arrays, as the station passes over Argentina and the Southern Andes
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A shot of the ISS’s Solar Arrays, as the station passes over Argentina and the Southern Andes
The sprawling networks of Lake Powell, stretching across Utah and Arizona
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The sprawling networks of Lake Powell, stretching across Utah and Arizona
The very first photo taken of Earth from the ISS in November 2000. Although grainy by today’s standards, the image shows storm clouds gathering over the US
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The very first photo taken of Earth from the ISS in November 2000. Although grainy by today’s standards, the image shows storm clouds gathering over the US
The South Sister, the tallest of the Three Sisters in Oregon, US, as seen from an altitude of 256 miles (412 km)
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The South Sister, the tallest of the Three Sisters in Oregon, US, as seen from an altitude of 256 miles (412 km)
These gorgeous lagoons in the Crimea appear to be different colors based on the chemical compositions of their shallow waters
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These gorgeous lagoons in the Crimea appear to be different colors based on the chemical compositions of their shallow waters
Hurricane Hector, snapped just south of the Hawaiian island chain on August 7, 2018
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Hurricane Hector, snapped just south of the Hawaiian island chain on August 7, 2018
The Cleveland Volcano in Alaska spews dust and ash into the atmosphere in May 2006
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The Cleveland Volcano in Alaska spews dust and ash into the atmosphere in May 2006
A clear view of Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
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A clear view of Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
The Red Sea, with Egypt on the left side of the image and Saudi Arabia on the right
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The Red Sea, with Egypt on the left side of the image and Saudi Arabia on the right
The Sun’s light glints off the Pacific Ocean
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The Sun’s light glints off the Pacific Ocean
The Grand Canyon stretches like a scar across the landscape
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The Grand Canyon stretches like a scar across the landscape
Night lights of the Northeastern United States and Toronto, Canada
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Night lights of the Northeastern United States and Toronto, Canada
The unusual sandy structures of Doha, Qatar
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The unusual sandy structures of Doha, Qatar
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, December 14, 2014
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Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, December 14, 2014
The Great Lakes region of the central US at night
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The Great Lakes region of the central US at night
Astronaut Scott Kelly took this vacation snap of the Bahamas in July 2015
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Astronaut Scott Kelly took this vacation snap of the Bahamas in July 2015
Athens, Greece, as seen from the International Space Station
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Athens, Greece, as seen from the International Space Station
The swirling sands and turquoise waters of the Bahamas
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The swirling sands and turquoise waters of the Bahamas
The Holy City of Mecca
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The Holy City of Mecca
Scott Kelly snaps the aurora
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Scott Kelly snaps the aurora
A frozen lake in the Himalayas
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A frozen lake in the Himalayas
Italy and the Alps at night
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Italy and the Alps at night
Day 289 of Scott Kelly’s year in space, taken somewhere “out over the blue”
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Day 289 of Scott Kelly’s year in space, taken somewhere “out over the blue”
The bright lights of New York City, as snapped by cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko
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The bright lights of New York City, as snapped by cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko
Scott Kelly snaps the polar vortex that gripped North America in February 2016
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Scott Kelly snaps the polar vortex that gripped North America in February 2016
The bright color palette of the Spanish coast
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The bright color palette of the Spanish coast
Western Europe as seen on a November night in 2016. England and Wales can be seen on the upper right of the shot, with Paris visible in the center and Belgium and the Netherlands to the middle-right
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Western Europe as seen on a November night in 2016. England and Wales can be seen on the upper right of the shot, with Paris visible in the center and Belgium and the Netherlands to the middle-right
Ominous plumes of smoke hang over Southern California during the wildfires in December 2017
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Ominous plumes of smoke hang over Southern California during the wildfires in December 2017
A view over Venice, on Valentine’s Day 2017
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A view over Venice, on Valentine’s Day 2017
A striking image of the heart of Madagascar, as decimation of rainforests and mangroves causes more water to drain into the sea
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A striking image of the heart of Madagascar, as decimation of rainforests and mangroves causes more water to drain into the sea
This view of the Himalayas shows rivers and gullies extending through the snow
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This view of the Himalayas shows rivers and gullies extending through the snow
Port de Valencia in Spain
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Port de Valencia in Spain
The moonlight glints off the ocean off the coast of Italy
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The moonlight glints off the ocean off the coast of Italy
This broad, short-lens photo was snapped on August 9, 2015, peering across the surface of the Earth towards the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Here, the ISS is above the island nation of Kiribati, and the flash of light is from a lightning strike
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This broad, short-lens photo was snapped on August 9, 2015, peering across the surface of the Earth towards the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Here, the ISS is above the island nation of Kiribati, and the flash of light is from a lightning strike
The shadow of the moon passes across the face of the Earth during the 2017 solar eclipse
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The shadow of the moon passes across the face of the Earth during the 2017 solar eclipse
Salt ponds near the coast of Western Australia
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Salt ponds near the coast of Western Australia

Later this year, the International Space Station will celebrate its 20th anniversary. As well as being one of the most important scientific endeavors in decades, the ISS has also proven to be a fantastic platform for photography, peering down at the mountains, deserts, cities and seas. New Atlas rounds up some of the best images snapped from humanity's eye in the sky.

The International Space Station measures 357 ft (109 m) long, and it gathers power from the Sun through a solar array spanning 240 ft (73 m). It orbits the Earth every 90 minutes at a speed of about 5 miles (8 km) per second, at an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi).

The Cleveland Volcano in Alaska spews dust and ash into the atmosphere in May 2006
The Cleveland Volcano in Alaska spews dust and ash into the atmosphere in May 2006

From that unmatched vantage point, the ISS is the perfect place for astronauts to capture the Earth in stunning detail. The natural beauty of landmarks like the Grand Canyon are unmissable, and at night the biggest cities sparkle like the stars above. The planet is also happy to showcase its more chaotic side too, with volcanic eruptions, wildfires, hurricanes and solar eclipses all clearly visible.

Astronaut Mike Hopkins on December 23, 2013, during a spacewalk to replace a pump module on the exterior of the ISS
Astronaut Mike Hopkins on December 23, 2013, during a spacewalk to replace a pump module on the exterior of the ISS

Browse through our pick of the best photos from the ISS to admire the Earth from this unique perspective.

4 comments
galaxydrifter
Beautiful images NASA. Stunning HD quality. Now if you can just explain why every time a UFO comes within a mile of the ISS suddenly your cameras are 15 year old cell phone quality and then oops we lost the connection at that same moment. Its like you think you are trying to fool a two year old with magic tricks. The longer you cover they truth the further you will fall in the end. How sad for you.
bob35
Beautiful images of our Dear Mother Earth. Thanks for the post! Now I'm just wondering how soon some rogue flat-earth idiot will chime in and try to claim it's all fake, using CGI. I pity these poor, clueless folks.
Khoop
#12 is Vancouver island, the Puget Sound, and northern Washington State. (Rainier is in there... but so are Baker, hood, and St. Helen's)
Zork
@galaxydrifter, It's ghosts helping the aliens on the ufo's.