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Astounding shots from the sharpest new satellite in space (pictures)

From an Arctic mine to refugees fleeing fighting in the Middle East, DigitalGlobe's WorldView-3 commercial satellite caught all aspects of life on Earth in 2014, with more detail than ever.

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Eric Mack
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Your mining eyes

In August, commercial satellite operator DigitalGlobe launched its Worldview-3 (WV3) satellite, which is capable of capturing photos sharp enough to let viewers identify objects on the ground that are as small as a foot across. Government regulations prevent those superdetailed satellite shots from being released for a few more months, but DigitalGlobe has shared some of the best shots from WV3 and other satellites that it can legally show us from 2014. You can vote for your favorite from the collection over on Facebook. (Also check out these epic images from 2013.)

Kicking it off is the above view from space, which isn't from the latest "Star Wars" trailer or a close-up of a pair of lizard eyeballs. It's Canada's Diavik diamond mine, photographed in August. The mine takes up a big chunk of an island in Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories. The site includes large dikes designed to keep lake water out of the mine and a gravel landing strip that could accommodate a commercial jet.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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The largest power plant

Itaipu Dam, on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, claims the title of world's largest power plant, but its construction in the 1970s and 1980s also destroyed what was once the world's largest waterfall by volume.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Antarctic Ice

The state of the ice near the planet's poles was a hot topic for scientists, politicians and others in 2014. This shot shows the Nordenskjold Basin of Antarctica on March 12.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Burning coal

China's Henan coal mine and power plant up close, as captured by DigitalGlobe's WorldView-3 commercial satellite.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Croatian floods

This image shows flooding in Gunja, Croatia, in May. Heavy rains in the Balkans produced the worst flooding there in 120 years, since record-keeping began.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots



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Ukraine protests

A view of Kiev, Ukraine, from February 24 , shortly after protesters took control of the capitol.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Flight from above

A view from above of Everett, Wash., home to Boeing. Worldview-3 is the first commercial satellite capable of 30-centimeter imagery, which means each square pixel in an image captures one square foot of space on the ground. While it might not seem like it, that's a big leap from the 50-centimeter standard that was in place in 2013.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Trains aplenty

The Maschen marshaling yard in Germany is the largest rail yard in Europe and the second largest in the world.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Over Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in full swing in September as seen from above Munich, Germany.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Fleeing violence

In September, satellites captured the flight of refugees from the Iraqi city of Sinjar and Islamic militants over steep mountain switchbacks.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Is that a radar lock, or...

It may look like a futuristic flight simulator to train intergalactic fighter pilots, but this is actually offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the Caspian Sea.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Conflict captured

The scene shows the northern Syrian town of Kobane, where fighting was taking place in October between Kurdish forces and ISIS militants. Note the border with Turkey that runs across the middle of the frame.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Where tires go to die

You're welcome trivia hounds, for today you just became acquainted with this shot, which shows the world's largest tire graveyard, in Sulaibiya, Kuwait.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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17 million's a crowd

What's in a satellite photo? Hidden in this shot are tens of thousands of people living in Mexico City, which is among the most densely populated cities on Earth.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Indonesian eruption

In January, Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano began erupting. This image was captured on January 23.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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All the freaky people

This image shows the colorful Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England, in June.

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Spotting hotspots

Satellite imagery can help locate hotspots in and around wildfires, like this one in San Diego County in May.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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Autumn in action?

This high-resolution shot of colors in an Alberta forest in October could be a normal seasonal change or evidence of a larger pattern.  This image comes from DigitalGlobe's WorldView 3 satellite, which DigitalGlobe claims offers the highest resolution of any commercial satellite, making it possible to take a much closer look at crops or forests from above. When full-resolution photos from the satellite become available, it should be possible to pick out individual trees in shots like this.

Related article: Natural wonder and human woe in 2014's best satellite shots

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