Feast your eyes, heart, and mind on some of the most stunning science and nature photography of 2018
Dave Mosher,Peter Kotecki,Peter KoteckiDec 21, 2018, 10.01 PM
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An adult elephant and a calf try to cross railroad tracks in West Bengal. The image won a certificate of merit in the 2018 Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards.Copyright of Biplap Hazra (courtesy of Sanctuary Asia)
Science and nature provide some of the most compelling photography subjects, both on and off Earth.
The staff of Business Insider and Insider rounded up some of our favorite pictures from 2018.
The images we picked show elephants under threat, hurricanes from space, individual atoms, face transplants, spacecraft selfies, and more.
Reporters and editors at Business Insider and Insider see, analyze, and write about thousands of stunning science and nature photos every year.
The best images force us to reconsider how we think the world works and looks (and are also visually arresting, of course). Such shots often show a feat or a discovery, but they can also underscore the scope and reality of ongoing or looming disasters.
As we speed toward the New Year, we rounded up some of our favorite photos of 2018. Take a look.
Scientists discovered a new type of aurora earlier this year. They named it STEVE, an acronym for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.
Each year, the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council puts on a science photography competition. This year's winner was a stunning photo of a single positively charged atom of strontium.
Photographers also documented devastating natural disasters throughout 2018. In the fall, astronauts in space managed to take pictures of the fearsome hurricanes that battered the US East Coast.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano sent ash clouds 30,000 feet into the sky when it erupted in May.
The Camp Fire destroyed almost the entire 27,000-person town of Paradise, California, in early November. Eighty-five people lost their lives.
As the Woolsey Fire engulfed Malibu, California in November, Los Angeles Times photographer Wally Skalij took an eerie photo of an owl on the city's beach.
At least 1,700 people were killed in September following a deadly earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. The woman pictured below lost her three children and home due to the disaster.
Medical firsts also made for unforgettable images this year. In January, 18 months after a suicide attempt, a 26-year-old man traveled from California to New York for a face transplant surgery.
A photo published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month shows a bronchial tree-shaped blood clot that came out of a patient's mouth in an "extreme" coughing fit. The 36-year-old man passed away soon after.
Nikon's annual Small World microscope photography competition brought incredible images of an unseen universe to the public, including this shot of an Asian red palm weevil's eye flecked with green scales.
This photo also won a prestigious prize. It shows thousands of recalled Volkswagen and Audi vehicles sitting in the Mojave Desert, years after it was revealed that the car manufacturer was cheating on emissions tests.
The top prize in National Geographic's 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year contest went to this underwater view of a humpback whale calf's scuffed-up tail.
Other memorable images from 2018 captured the year's biggest science news. In the US' midterm elections in November, Americans voted 10 new scientists and engineers into Congress (one senator and nine House reps).
The successful arrival of NASA's InSight lander on Mars was a major success for the agency. InSight took its first selfie on the red planet in early December, showing off its solar panels and scientific instruments.
Other remarkable images from space came after the debut of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. Tech mogul Elon Musk demonstrated the system's power in February by blasting his own Tesla Roadster into space with a spacesuit-clad dummy called "Starman."
This time-lapse image of a SpaceX rocket launch is also remarkable, since it shows the company's as-yet unmatched capability of recovering orbital rocket boosters.
This image shows a less recent event: a "hybrid" solar eclipse on November 3, 2013. The picture is actually is a series of five photos stacked together; the collage was submitted to the Royal Society's 2018 photography contest — and it won.
NASA's Juno spacecraft took this incredible series of Jupiter images on April 1, 2018. A few months later, NASA decided to extend the $1 billion mission.
The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year honors those who look up, and this picture — which could easily pass for a sci-fi view from an alien planet — won the contest in 2018.
Other scenes from 2018 look alien in different ways, and contain dark truths. This award-winning shot shows Iran's evaporating Urmia Lake. Drought, damming, and irrigation have decimated the ecosystem by creating water eight times saltier than seawater.
Many of Earth's creatures are threatened by human activity, including elephants. This image earned a certificate of merit in the 2018 Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards.
Not all great nature photos need to be serious or solemn, though. Photographing wildlife often leads to humorous situations — a fact that the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards bank on.