To kick off this 40th anniversary gallery of images collected over the decades from NASA's Earth observation program, we might as well start with a Landsat shot that appeals to the narcissistic side of many CNET readers -- this is a view of the San Francisco Bay Area as of 2011.
As part of Landsat's 40th birthday celebration, NASA and the USGS have highlighted a handful of "earth as art" images. This one is a shot of the Richat Structure in the African country of Mauritania. It formed when a volcanic dome hardened and gradually eroded, exposing the dramatic rock layers.
Landsat images from the past 25 years demonstrate how Saudi Arabia has turned its arid lands green through tapping underground aquifers. Healthy vegetation appears bright green while dry vegetation appears orange. Barren soil is a dark pink, and urban areas, like the town of Tubarjal at the top of each image, have a purple hue.
Captured shortly after a massive earthquake and tsunami rocked Sendai, Japan, in 2011, this shot from Landsat shows only a portion of the damage and infiltration of the landscape made by the wave and accompanying flood waters.