Explore our awe-inspiring planet, continent by continent, through incredible images captured from the air by the likes of drones and satellites…
The pearls of Bahrain
Shaped like an ornate necklace, the Durrat Al-Bahrain islands are an artificial archipelago, whose name translates as ‘the most perfect pearl’. To create the 20km2 of new land off the south-east coast of Bahrain, 34 million cubic metres of material was dredged from the seafloor of the Persian Gulf. The islands are like mini towns with luxury homes, shopping malls and schools.
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The land of extremes
The rich red-orange sand dunes of the Namib Desert stretch inland towards the Naukluft Mountains. Most moisture from the Atlantic falls as rain near the coast, yet some rolls across the arid desert as fog, quenching wildlife and oxidising the iron in the sand dunes to create their red colour. Highland water flows down the Kuiseb River greening the land to the north. In the south, as the Tsondab River hits the desert, water evaporates, leaving behind white salt and mineral deposits.
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The great desert
This shot of part of t he Sahara in Western Libya was captured by EarthKAM – a NASA programme where students from all over the world can ask for images to be taken from the International Space Station of specific locations on Earth. The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, with northeasterly winds that can reach hurricane levels, and as little as 2.5cm of rain on average each year.
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The world’s youngest island, Nishinoshima, is made up of two sections which formed over 60 years apart. The lower section was created in 1973 when an underwater volcano erupted, while the upper part first broke through the ocean’s surface in November 2013, merging with its neighbour soon after. Every day, the island produces 80 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of lava.
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At the heart of green energy
Over 4,000 mirrors direct sunlight to a boiler in a central tower at the Khi Solar One power plant in the Northern Cape, South Africa. At full capacity the boiler heats up to a toasty 530ºC. The plant began commercial operation in February 2016, and supplies energy to around 45,000 homes.
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Earth from Above
Our planet as you’ve never seen it before
Part of the BBC Focus Magazine Collection