Our fragile Earth

Images from outer space highlight the fragility — and the resilience — of our beautiful blue planet.

The Earth shines bright in a composite image assembled in 2010 from thousands of pictures collected by NASA's Terra satellite. This is one in a series of "Blue Marble" images that capture the fragility of Earth. Click through our slideshow to see more satellite views of our fragile Earth.


Stretching across part of southwestern Bangladesh and southeastern India, the Sundarbans is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world. It's a tapestry of waterways, mudflats and forested islands at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. The Landsat 7 satellite imagery was collected in 1999 and 2000.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield captured this picture of contrails from jet traffic as the International Space Station passed high above San Francisco on April 6, 2013.

Chris Hadfield / AFP

Rich soil, sunny weather and a steady source of water for irrigation have turned Wasco (pop. 25,000), a small town in Southern California, into a global hub of rose production. About 40 percent of the roses grown in the United States come from Wasco's rose nurseries. This simulated natural-color picture of the Wasco area is based on infrared imagery captured by the ASTER instrument on NASA's Terra satellite on July 10, 2011.

In February 2013, a nor’easter pounded the eastern United States, doing particular damage along the coast of New England. NASA’s Terra satellite captured glimpses of the storm’s effect on the coastal environment. This picture was taken on Feb. 10, just hours after the nor’easter moved out to sea, leaving several feet of fresh snow. New York's Long Island and Massachusetts' Cape Cod are clearly visible.

Africa and the Middle East - including the Nile River and its delta, the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula - spread out in this norhward-looking view from the International Space Station, captured by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on March 20, 2013.

Chris Hadfield / AFP

Morning clouds cast self-important shadows off the coast of China on Feb. 9, 2013, as seen from the International Space Station by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Chris Hadfield Via Twitter

Arid fingers of sand-blasted rock look as if they're barely holding on against the hot Saharan wind, in a picture taken by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield from the International Space Station on Feb. 20, 2013.

Chris Hadfield

Snow-covered farmland in Central Asia looks like a complex patchwork when seen from the International Space Station. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield calls this picture "a monochromatic 3-D hallucination in the snow." The photo was taken on Feb. 25, 2013, and shared by Hadfield on March 14.

Cmdr. Chris Hadfield

The Danube River is the largest waterway in the European Union. Its watershed drains 801,463 square kilometers (309,447 square miles) of land across 19 countries. Where that great river reaches the Black Sea, a remarkable delta has formed — the “Everglades” of Europe. The Danube Delta is home to more than 300 species of bird and 45 species of freshwater fish. This view of the delta was acquired on Feb. 5, 2013, by NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite.

Where the borders of Egypt, Sudan, and Libya meet, a rugged mountain complex rises from the Sahara. The peaks of Jebel Uweinat reach elevations 2,000 meters (7,000 feet) above sea level. Geologists exploring Jebel Uweinat have found rock layers that are hundreds of millions of years old, preserving traces of landscapes that were very different from the bone-dry environment that prevails here today. This March 17, 2010, view of the mountains comes from the ASTER instrument on NASA's Terra satellite.

Italy’s Mount Etna is seen erupting in this image from NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite, captured on Feb. 19, 2013. Each outburst, or paroxysm, featured an “emission of lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars and an ash cloud,” according to Italy's Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia.

Nasa / X00653

The night lights of the Americas shine in this visualization of our planet at night, which is based on data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October. The image, released by NASA Earth Observatory on Dec. 5, 2012, has been nicknamed the "Black Marble."