Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Our favorite satellite imagery of 2016

The most striking Earth imagery from a year in orbit

Over the last twelve months dozens of our small satellites have been orbiting Earth at a speed of 7 kilometers per second, snapping two images each second during the daylight. That’s a lot of pictures.

At Planet, we’ve done our best to sift through as many as we can, and compile a list of our favorite images of the year. Take a look at imagery of some of the most beautiful and fascinating spots around the globe:

Luuq, Somalia—January 12, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Luuq, Somalia rests in a large oxbow in the Jubba River. The city is currently a haven for hundreds of Somalia’s “internally displaced persons”. Shelters for these refugees appear to have been constructed after August 2014 — when the U. N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs mapped the area.

Sumy Oblast, Russia and Ukraine—February 17, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

The border between Russia and the Ukraine is indistinguishable in this image of winter farmland. Come summertime, these patchwork fields will produce grains, sunflowers, sugar beets, and potatoes.

The Pantanal, Brazil—March 15, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Thousands of seasonal lakes spring up every wet season in the Pantanal — the world’s largest wetland. This vast, interior floodplain is home to diverse wildlife including caimans, tapirs, jaguars, wolves, macaws, and marsh deer.

Rakaia River, New Zealand—March 26, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

The braided Rakaia River carries glacial runoff from New Zealand’s Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean. At its mouth, river sediment and ocean currents form a “hapua” — a thin extension of the river that parallels the shoreline.

Spring Tulips, Netherlands—May 6, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

A RapidEye satellite captured this image of bright fields of tulips in bloom just outside the town of Den Helder, Netherlands. Tulips have grown in North Holland’s cool spring climate since the 16th century.

Khi Solar One Plant, South Africa—May 11, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Over 4,000 mirrors direct sunlight to a central tower boiler at the Khi One Solar power plant in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. The super-heated steam in the boiler can reach a maximum operating temperature of 530° Celsius.

New Valley Governorate, Egypt—May 12, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

A fire burns through a field in Toshka, Egypt where corn, grain, and feed crops are produced. These fields were part of a large irrigation and agriculture project championed by Hosni Mubarak, wherein water from lake Nasser was used to irrigate new farmland in the Egyptian desert. Since its inception in 1997, only 10 percent of the planned land is in production.

Illegal Gold Mining, Peru—May 2016

Images ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

In the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, an illegal gold mine encroaches into the Tambopata National Reserve over 6 months. The river serves as a natural border of the reserve — all of the mine ponds that appear below the river are illegal.

Autumn Leaves, New Hampshire USA—October 2016

Images ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Autumn in New Hampshire — a range of plant life, changing temperatures, and varying sun exposure contribute to these striking color differences over a ten-day period.

Glacier Debris Flow, Tibet—September 13, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

In September 2016, this glacier lost contact with its bed and collapsed, traveling at speeds of up to 240 kilometers per hour downhill towards Aru Co. A Dove satellite captured these before and after near-infrared images.

Iguazú National Park, Brazil—September 23, 2016

Image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

A Dove satellite in International Space Station orbit captured this image shortly before reentering Earth’s atmosphere and burning up. In this breathtaking image, Highway 277 cuts through the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, dividing the lush green forest of Iguazú National Park from a patchwork of plowed sugar cane farms.


For more of our staff favorites, check out our online satellite imagery gallery.