Stunning shots from space (pictures)

DigitalGlobe has chosen its top 20 satellite photos of Earth for 2013. The selection inspires everything from awe to guffaws.

Eric Mack
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack
1 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

The citadel of Aleppo

For the past few years, DigitalGlobe has asked the public to vote on its favorite image captured by the company's constellation of five satellites. CNET was given access to the top 20 nominees that show fantastic, bizarre, and even funny perspectives on spots around the globe. Click through them all here and vote for your favorite on DigitalGlobe's Facebook page.

While not immediately obvious, this view from high above actually shows a war-torn city. No, that's not a bomb crater, it's the citadel of Aleppo, a medieval fortified palace now surrounded by the largest city in Syria. Taken in May, this shot also contains an optical illusion -- when the image is turned upside down the "hole" becomes a "hill," but which is it really?

2 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Slow the Cuanza

Dam, that's a lot of water. A view of the Cambambe hydroelectric dam on the Cuanza River in Angola, which provides power for thousands of nearby homes and adds a modern touch to an area that is home to notable Portuguese ruins as well.
3 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Fire down under

This false color satellite image shows fires and smoke near Dunalley, Australia, in January. The red areas show healthy vegetation.
4 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Colorado River/snake?

Another interesting optical illusion in this photo from April of the Colorado River snaking its way though Utah. Tough to tell if the river has carved its way through its namesake plateau here, built up a green wall, or turned into a massive mutant snake.
5 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

The 8-bit palace

In the mood to sign a historic treaty or get lost in Marie Antoinette's old digs? The Palace of Versailles -- seen here in August -- is the place to get it done. While resplendent and elegant at ground level, this historic French palace looks strangely 8-bit from space.
6 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Great Barrier Reef

Awesome from all angles: Australia's Great Barrier Reef from orbit as of April 2013.
7 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

"Green tide"

A massive "green tide" event was photographed near the city of Sur, Oman, on February 13, 2013. Caused by an abundance of phytoplankton that can threaten fisheries, the affected area was larger than 500 square miles.
8 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Croatia's love isle

Someone at DigitalGlobe must have gotten in to trouble for this one, because this shot of Croatia's "Island of Love" was taken on February 16, 2013, a full two days after Valentine's Day.
9 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe


It's not just a satellite photo of a harbor in Hong Kong. It's also a photo of a giant rubber duck large enough to be seen from space.
10 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Manam volcano

This Papua New Guinea island is home to the Manam Volcano and has been uninhabited since its last eruption in 2004.
11 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Mount Vesuvius

Volcanoes make for some of the most dramatic satellite views, particularly if their histories are as checkered as our grumpy friend Mount Vesuvius, shown here in February.
12 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe


Where's Waldo? Not in Namibia's Namib Desert, but if you look hard enough you can kind of make out a face of some sort.
13 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

An abstract mine?

What would have happened if Jackson Pollock had been the coder behind the original SimCity? Perhaps something like this view of Niger's Arlit Uranium Mine.
14 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Infant isle

Welcome the latest terrestrial addition to our globe -- this new island was created by an earthquake off Pakistan's Gwadar coast.
15 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Ender's island?

I swear I've seen this in a sci-fi flick somewhere, but this real-world artificial island in Doha, Qatar, spans nearly 4 million square meters.
16 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Sochi style

History literally under construction -- this shot shows Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
17 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

A good cay

It's tough to see the boundaries between land, air and sea in this photo of the Schooner Cays of the Bahamas.
18 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Poor Gulliver

The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia and Gulliver Park in Valencia, Spain, amount to an enormous literary reference. It can be tough to see, but the huge, light-colored fiberglass model in the shot is meant to show the character Lemuel Gulliver of "Gulliver's Travels" trapped and tied to the ground.
19 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Face to face

Another large-scale artwork, this one from Belfast, Northern Ireland, is titled "Wish."
20 of 20 Getty/DigitalGlobe

Are those axons?

Tell me what you see: The brain's synapses, the Matrix, or Shiyuan Park in Xian, China.

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