A composite image of 21 separate photographs taken with a single fixed camera shows the solar eclipse as it creates the effect of a diamond ring at totality as seen from Clingmans Dome, which at 6,643 feet (2,025m) is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, U.S. August 21, 2017.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.