DigitalGlobe is an imaging company that uses a constellation of five satellites to beam down incredible pictures of Earth. In the past year, the company collected more than one billion square kilometers of imagery, and they’ve turned to the public to choose which of their images deserves the title of Top Commercial Satellite Image of the Year. They went through the impossible task of whittling it down to 20 finalists, and on December 17, DigitalGlobe will announce the top five, as voted on via Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter. Not to sway your vote, but here are a few of our favorites.
Manam Volcano in Papua New Guinea
Manam Volcano is one of Papua New Guinea’s most active volcanoes, and is just off the coast of the mainland. Its eruptions can cause the island to evacuate and has caused some deaths in the past. It has been seeing some activity in the past week as well.
Namib Desert, Namibia
The Namib Desert is the oldest in the world. And the Sossusvlei area, depicted in this satellite image, is said to house the highest dunes in the world.
Fires In Dunalley, Australia
This image uses false coloring—the red actually represents healthy vegetation. Earlier this year, the area battled bush fires that devastated Tasmania, destroying a number of homes. The fires that happened in January (when this image was taken) were intensified to record temperatures by a heatwave.
Colorado River Utah, USA
Supplying water to millions of people in the United States, the Colorado River is also one of the most controlled rivers in the world. Humans have manipulated the body of water, which flows from its source in the Rocky Mountains down to Mexico, to meet their needs for years, putting the future flow in jeopardy. This image in particular has been rotated to create the optical illusion that the river is raised above the ground.
Green Tide Near Sur, Oman
Red tide sounds pretty sinister, but another type of algal bloom, known as green tide, can also cause damage to waterways. The Gulf of Oman is already known as an oxygen poor body of water, and the blooms can cause even further disruption in the ecosystem—when the large volumes of algae begin to decompose, it reduces the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Earlier this year, Catlin Seaview Survey made it possible to virtually dive beneath the surface and see reefs up close with panorama images. But this one from DigitalGlobe allows you to take a few (bazillion) steps back and see the incredible world heritage site for all that it is. While its health may be declining, scientists in Australia are trying to find ways to bring it back, like freezing coral sperm.