A decade of observing Earth from space has given us these breathtaking views

The European Space Agency may never have had the glamor of the Apollo missions or space shuttle launches, but they have quietly launched some of the most advanced Earth observation satellites around.

The ESA’s Envistat satellite was the largest Earth observation satellite ever built.

Since 2002, it has circled the Earth, collecting invaluable information on our environment and the advancing danger of climate change. Contact with Envistat was suddenly lost in April 2012, but the wealth of information it collected remains.

Every week, the European Space Agency releases a new satellite image taken by Envistat and other Earth-observation satellites launched by ESA and other space agencies. They show incredible places on Earth, from the Sahara Desert to volcanoes in the Congo, in ways we’ve never seen before.

Clouds sweep across the North Sea in this image from Envistat. Denmark is on the lower right corner and Norway is in the upper center.

This is the Amazon River in the heart of northern Brazil's rainforest. Vegetation has been coloured with shades of pink -- the darker the colour, the denser the vegetation.

This photo of Northern China shows the Yellow River flowing into the Yellow Sea. Beijing and Tanjing are shaded circles in the top-center part of the photo.

This is the Mississippi River Delta, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Vegetation is coloured pink and sediment is bright blue and green.

The Okavango River runs from Angola to Botswana. Here it marks the border between Namibia and Angola.

This is the Okavango River Delta in Botswana. The purple mass in the center is Chief's Island.

This is a central plateau in Anatolia, Turkey. Turkey's second-largest lake, Lake Tuz, is on the right. During the summer, the lake water recedes to reveal a thick layer of salt.

This is Western Australia's Kimberley Region. On the lower left are the Rowley Shoals coral reefs and on the upper-right is Lake Argyle, Australia's largest artificial lake.

This is a rare view of Ireland, Great Britain, and France without any clouds. The green and tan tinted swirls are from sediment moving around.

These are the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, a dangerous chain of active volcanoes.

This is the Panama Canal. The coloured dots in the center of the image, at the top and bottom, are boats entering and leaving.

These are the ice sheets of Greenland, the largest island in the world. The white dots at the bottom of the image are icebergs.

This image of the Arctic Circle was taken by Envistat a month before the ESA lost contact. The Novaya Zemlya archipelago is on the left and mainland Russia is on the right.

This is the rolling farmland of southeastern Washington state. The swirling patterns are created by plows.

These are the dunes of the Namib Desert, taken by Korea's Kompstat-2 satellite. The blue and white area is the dried riverbed of the Tsauchab river.

The Clearwater Lakes in Quebec are not actually two separate lakes, but a single body of water over two depressions, created by meteorite impacts over 200 million years ago.

Intrigued by what Earth looks like from space?

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