One stunning view emerged supreme from the Earth Observatory's 20th anniversary image tournament.
It was a tight race, but voters have chosen the all time best image out of 20 years of stunners from NASA's Earth Observatory, a website dedicated to sharing science stories about Earth. The winner is "Ocean Sands, Bahamas," a blue-green beauty of a view from space.
The abstract-looking image came from the Landsat 7 satellite in 2001, courtesy of reef researcher Serge Andrefouet. "Tides and ocean currents in the Bahamas sculpted the sand and seaweed beds into these multicolored, fluted patterns in much the same way that winds sculpted the vast sand dunes in the Sahara Desert," NASA said.
Earth Observatory has tallied "more than 15,500 image-driven stories about our planet," so it had a rich archive to draw on.
The 20th-anniversary Tournament Earth contest pitted some of NASA's most iconic images of our planet against each other.
Over 56,000 votes came in during the course of five rounds, but "Ocean Sands, Bahamas" beat out spectacular views of auroras, Paris at night, crop circles and even a shot of Earth posing with the far side of the moon.
The Bahamas view was the runner-up in the Earth Observatory's 10th-anniversary image contest, making this a heartening story of triumph after a near-miss loss many years ago.
There's an undercurrent of hope to the choice, as well. The runner-up image showed a dramatic eruption of Raikoke volcano in Russia as seen by astronauts on the International Space Station. Earth Observatory fans went with the calmness of the ocean over the fury of an eruption.