Jonathan Ernst /Reuters
The Arctic skies light up in a blaze of blue and green when solar wind blasts the atmosphere with charged particles. Storms and wildfires leave debris and ash in their trails. And ecosystems and fellow animals are increasingly transformed by human activity.
Looking at the world through the lens of science brings into focus creatures so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye, and galaxies so large they make our world seem no bigger than a microscopic organism.
That creates an opportunity for some pretty stunning photos.
These are some of the most striking science and nature images we encountered in 2017. Some are news photos shot this year, while others made appearances in 2017 photo contests.
We’ll never think of tapeworms the same way after seeing this monster from Nikon’s Small World image contest, which celebrates microscopic photos.
See more prize-winning Small World images.
Photographer Tim Flach published his new book “Endangered” with stunning images showing the faces of animals on the verge of extinction.
See more photos from Tim Flach’s “Endangered”.
This shot of Ruacana Falls in Northern Namibia won the International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition, which announced its winners in January.
See more of the winning photos.
The struggle to survive on Earth is encapsulated in this shot of killer whales suddenly appearing near a huddle of king penguins.
Check out more of the best photos taken by scientists in the past year.
This devastating photo shows a dehorned rhino that was killed by poachers. It took home the top prize from the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.
See more of the winning photos from the prestigious contest here.
Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean before hitting the Virgin Islands and Florida Keys in early September, kicking off the most intense September for hurricanes in recorded history.
Photos of the brilliant colors created by the Northern Lights never get old.
Auroras are unfortunately going dark in many parts of the world. The number of atmospheric light shows will decrease over the next several years due to an 11-year cycle of solar activity. The sun finished its last peak, called a solar maximum, in 2014. But around solar minimum — in 2020 or 2021 — the reverse will happen and auroras will get brighter.
Biplab Hazra shocked the world with this photo of elephants being attacked by a mob in West Bengal, India. The image won the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography contest.
Biplab Hazra/The Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2017
Learn more about the image and see more of the photos celebrated by the conservation organization.
In November, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the cosmic knot created by the merging of two galaxies in the Cancer constellation. It kind of puts everything in perspective.
NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope/Reuters