Incredible photos from space reveal the biggest news stories on Earth in 2017

Satellites in space photographed scores of deadly California wildfires in 2017.

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Satellites in space photographed scores of deadly California wildfires in 2017.
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Copyright DigitalGlobe

The year 2017 was a torrent of monumental world events.

The most important stories included a string of crippling natural disasters, jaw-dropping technological achievements, and geopolitical actions that ranged from uplifting to egregious.

While journalists scrambled on the ground, orbiting satellites documented these scenes in breathtaking detail from space.

To reflect on the year’s most significant developments, DigitalGlobe – a satellite-imaging company that uses a fleet of spacecraft to take 100 terabytes’ worth of new pictures of Earth each day – released a collection of remarkable space-based photography.

“We saw tragedies unfold, like the famine in Africa and Yemen, and we saw moments of great progress, like the strategic victories over the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq,” Dan Jablonsky, the president of DigitalGlobe, said in an emailed press release. “DigitalGlobe’s satellite constellation had a front-row seat to these and thousands of other impactful events in 2017.”

Below is a selection of some of the images released by the company and what they reveal.


Hurricanes triggered massive flooding and devastation.

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DigitalGlobe

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria inflicted record-breaking storm damage and flooding across the Gulf Coast and Caribbean.

“This image, taken on August 30 by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite, shows the extensive flooding in Brookshire, Texas,” the company said.


The Great American eclipse of 2017 swept across the US.

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DigitalGlobe

The US saw its first continental-crossing total solar eclipse in 99 years this summer. The event clogged roadways but brought stunning images of an astronomical event that many people rarely see.

“This image, captured by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on August 19, shows an encampment of eclipse watchers in Big Summit Prairie, Oregon,” the company said.


Wildfires scorched California.

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DigitalGlobe

California has been ravaged by two major wildfire events: One in Napa and Sonoma counties in October, and an ongoing disaster in and around Los Angeles. Collectively, these fires have killed dozens of people, wiped out thousands of homes, and scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s GeoEye-1 satellite on October 11, shows the badly burned Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa,” DigitalGlobe said.


North Korea advanced its nuclear weapons programs.

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DigitalGlobe

North Korea shocked the world in 2017 with major advances in both its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on November 21, shows the factory in Pyongsong where the Hwasong-15 ICBM is believed to have been developed,” DigitalGlobe said.

Representatives from the isolated nation have said it’s considering detonating “an H-bomb in the Pacific.”


A new island was born.

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DigitalGlobe

Hundreds of miles east of Fiji, the island of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted from the Pacific Ocean in 2014.

“It was expected to wash away over the course of months, but it has persisted to become the first new island of its kind to sustain itself in more than 50 years,” DigitalGlobe said. “This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on June 29, shows the newly formed volcanic island connecting two previously separate islands.”


The Women’s March took over the country following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

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DigitalGlobe

President Trump’s inauguration triggered the single-largest day of protest in US history. Demonstrators flooded cities around the country in the national Women’s March, with eye-catching signs and powerful chants.

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on January 21, shows the protest in Denver,” according to the release.

The protests even spread to other cities outside of the US.


SpaceX advanced its reusable rockets.

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DigitalGlobe

Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, had a banner year in showcasing the reusability of its Falcon 9 rocket – a workhorse launch vehicle that’s helping lower the cost of access to space.

“On December 15, SpaceX launched the first mission to fly a reused orbital rocket and spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station,” DigitalGlobe said in its release. “This image, taken on December 12 by DigitalGlobe’s GeoEye-1 satellite, shows the Falcon 9 rocket horizontal on the launch pad.”

The launch also marked the 20th time SpaceX launched and recovered a rocket instead of discarding it after use.


Genocide erupted in Myanmar.

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DigitalGlobe

The ethic cleansing and genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar made international news in 2017. Despite living in the country for hundreds of years, the Rohingya have seen government military forces burn down their villages, drown babies, and rape women and children at a feverish rate. More than 620,000 of them have been forced to flee to camps in nearby Bangladesh.

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on November 5, shows the Nayapara refugee camp in Bangladesh,” DigitalGlobe said.


A Las Vegas concert ended in a tragic mass shooting.

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DigitalGlobe

Gun violence in the US took a particularly wicked turn on October 1, when a gunman fired more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition into a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas from a room at the Mandalay Bay hotel.

“It was the deadliest mass shooting in US history, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured,” DigitalGlobe said. “This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on October 2, shows the hotel and concert venue.”


Iraq and Syria liberated Islamic State strongholds.

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DigitalGlobe

After battling militants for nine months, Iraqi forces in July defeated the Islamic State in Mosul, its former stronghold. Then, following three years of struggle, US-backed Syrian forces in October flushed out the de-facto Islamic State capital in Raqqa.

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on October 9, shows Syrian forces gathered in Raqqa’s iconic Al-Naim square surrounded by the ruins of destroyed buildings,” DigitalGlobe said.


Chemical weapons killed innocent civilians in Syria.

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DigitalGlobe

In early April, the Syrian regime led by Bashar Assad killed dozens of men, women, and children with internationally banned chemical weapons. In response, President Trump called for a missile strike of his own.

“On April 7, the US military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles that struck a Syrian airbase where a chemical weapons attack is believed to have originated,” DigitalGlobe said. “This image, taken on April 7 by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite, shows damaged aircraft and infrastructure at Al Shayrat airfield.”


Catalonia declared independence from Spain.

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DigitalGlobe

In late October, Catalonia – a northwestern region of Spain – formally declared its independence. Catalan elections are scheduled for December 21, but Spain’s national government in Madrid has rejected the region’s bid for independence (and the EU has sided with Madrid).

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on June 6, shows the Catalan Parliament building in Barcelona,” the company said.


Venezuela faced one of the worst economic meltdowns in recent history.

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DigitalGlobe

As oil prices have plummeted, Venezuela – which relies on international oil sales – has found its government descending into increasing turmoil.

“Venezuela’s years-long economic crisis reached new lows in 2017, with major shortages of food and medicine and the seizure of all legislative powers by the country’s supreme court in March, which sparked months of violent protests across the country,” DigitalGlobe said. “This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on April 28, shows the nation’s busiest port, Puerto Cabello, which has seen import traffic drop dramatically over the past few years.”


Terrorists set off a devastating truck bomb in Somalia.

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DigitalGlobe

Terrorist attacks caused deadly explosions in cities around the world, but the largest and deadliest happened on October 14 in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu.

The bomb, set off inside a truck, “is thought to have been carried out by Al-Shabaab to target a compound housing international agencies and troops,” DigitalGlobe said. “This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite on October 16, shows the aftermath of the bombing.”

The attack killed 512 people and injured 316 people.


Famine spread across eastern Africa.

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DigitalGlobe

“On March 10, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official called for coordinated global efforts to stem the famine that has affected more than 20 million people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria,” DigitalGlobe said. “This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on December 2, shows the expansion of refugee and medical tents in one of the hardest hit areas in Dikwa, Borno State, Nigeria.”


Zimbabwe ousted its 37-year president.

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DigitalGlobe

After serving as Zimbabwe’s president for nearly 40 years, Robert Mugabe, age 93, was ousted in a military coup.

“This image, taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on August 2, shows Mugabe’s palace in Harare, nicknamed ‘Blue Roof, where the deposed dictator is under house arrest,” DigitalGlobe said.