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10 Most Striking Images of Earth From Space

We've been big fans of Yann Arthus-Bertrand since we featured his fantastic book HOME back in 2009, so last year, when the photographer and environmentalist released a new book titled Earth From Space, we were out of this world with excitement!

Published by Abrams, Earth From Space features more than 150 magnificent satellite photographs provided by European aerospace technology company Astrium as well as NASA. These photographs are much more than beautiful pictures of our planet - the detailed images can inform us about the health of our world by making clear the impact of deforestation, farming, pollution and urban sprawl.

Below are 10 Most Striking Images of Earth From Space, reprinted with permission (the text, sourced mostly from Wikipedia, is mine).

1. Uluru, Australia

Uluru, as it's called by the Aborigines, or Ayers Rock to some, is a large geological structure in central Australia. The 1,142 ft-tall sandstone formation is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies inside a national park designed to protect it and climbing on Uluru is discouraged as a sign of respect to the local Anangu people.


Image: Astrium Services 2012

2. Rub' Al-Khali, Saudi Arabia

Rub' Al-Khali, or the Empty Quarter, is the world's second largest sand desert. It encompasses most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula and covers more than 250,000 square miles of land.


Image: Distribution Astrium Services / SPOT Image

3. Polders, The Netherlands

The polders are low-lying land reclaimed from the sea by use of complex systems of dykes, locks, and canals. The Dutch have a long history of creating polders - there are about 3,000 polders in the Netherlands - such that there's a saying "God created the world but the Dutch created Holland." The polders are great farmland, thus enabling the Netherlands to become an agricultural powerhouse.


Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS Eros Data Center

4. Detroit, United States of America

More than five million people call Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, United States of America, home. Located on the Detroit River between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, Detroit is a bona fide metropolis. Metro Detroit, constituting the city of Detroit and its surrounding area, is massive: it covers an area of over 1,300 square miles, divided into gridlike areas comprising of 185 cities and townships.


Image: CNES 1988 - Distribution Astrium Services / SPOT Image

5. Wadi As-Sirhan Basin, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is known for having one of the world's largest proven oil reserves, but there is something that the country doesn't have in any great quantities at all: water. But that didn't stop the engineers there from trying to create farms in the middle of the desert. The photos below show the evolution of farming in the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin from 1987, 1991 to 2000 (top three) and finally to 2012 (bottom).


Image: NASA

6. Eastern Himalayas, China

The Himalayas mountain range is home of over one hundred mountains and 115,000 glaciers, including the world's tallest peaks. This mountain range has the world's third largest deposit of ice and snow (after Antarctica and the Arctic), but it is in trouble: rising temperature due to global warming has caused the Himalayas to melt, which pose flooding dangers to rivers in India and China.


Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS Eros Data Center

7. Lena River, Russia

The Lena River, one of the three great Siberian rivers that flow to the Arctic Ocean, is home to many Siberian wild species. In the false-colored photo of the Lena river delta found below, vegetation is shown in green, snad in pink, and water in blue/mauve. The delta is a frozen tundra for the winter, but turn into a lush wetland in the summer.


Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS Eros Data Center

8. Gotland Island, Sweden

The swirls of the Baltic Sea around Gotland Island, Sweden's largest island, brings to mind Van Gogh's famous painting, The Starry Night. They are greenish because of billions of microscopic phytoplankton, which grow when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface water.


Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS Eros Data Center

9. Meanders of the Mississippi, United States of America

From Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River meanders slowly for more than 2,300 miles. As you can see in the photo below, hundreds of oxbow lake - a crescent body of water left behind when a meander or bend in the river closes itself off - dot the landscape of the land in the borders of Arkansas and Mississippi.


Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS Eros Data Center

10. Turfan Depression, China

The Turfan or Turpan Depression in far western China is one of the world's lowest points. The entire Depression is below sea level, with some parts measuring hundreds of feet below. The harsh desert climate of the Turfan Depression, with blazing hot days and cold freezing nights, have earned it the nickname of the Furnaces of China.


Image: NASA/GSFC/USGS Eros Data Center

Earth From Space by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, published by Abrams

From space, Earth is a magnificent sight, splashed with vivid colors, patterns, textures, and abstract forms. In addition to their visual appeal, views of the planet from above can also provide telling information about the health of the Earth and its ecosystems. In Earth from Space, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, an aerial photographer and devoted environmental activist, explores the impact of some of the most serious issues facing our planet today, all visible from space: deforestation, urban sprawl, intensive farming, pollution, natural disasters, and much more.

Earth from Space features more than 150 breathtaking satellite photographs, provided by Astrium, a global leader in satellite photography. The striking high-resolution images come alive with insightful textual analysis, which reveals fascinating information about a wide range of specific environmental issues, such as the evolution of vegetation around the Chernobyl nuclear-disaster site, snow loss on Mount Kilimanjaro, and the health of penguin populations, to name a few.

Interviews with scientists, activists, and other experts offer cutting-edge information on critical environmental and sociological issues, and suggest the many exciting, newly developed methods for using satellite images to predict and prevent problems, rather than simply documenting their impact. Earth from Space's compelling selection of photography raises important questions about our future, while also showcasing the planet's beauty - leaving no doubt that it is something crucial to protect.

Get Earth From Space from Amazon | Abrams

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