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2017 in pictures: The best science images of the year

A spectacular total eclipse, hitch-hiking octopus, nanoscale fireworks and more.
Image of the Moon transiting across the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light

Credit: NASA/SDO

The spectacular total solar eclipse that swept the United States dominated headlines as it delighted scientists and the public alike in August 2017 (the above image of the Moon transiting across the Sun was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft in the extreme ultraviolet spectrum). The year also brought innovations in spaceflight and surprising insights into species past. Here are the striking shots from science and the natural world that caught the eyes of Nature’s editors.

A Taenia solium (tapeworm) everted scolex seen at magnification 200x.

Credit: Teresa Zgoda/Nikon Small World

WORM FROM HELL: This nightmarish creature is the pork tapeworm Taenia solium, captured at ×200 magnification. The image was a finalist in Nikon’s Small World photography competition.

A scanning electron micrograph of a calcite crystal

Credit: David Green/RPS Images for Science

THE ONLY WAY IS UP! The arrow-shaped relief on this calcite crystal, imaged by a scanning electron microscope, is governed by a protein that binds to the crystal surface and patterns it as it grows.

An anemone flower

Credit: Craig Burrows

UNDER THE LIGHT: This ultraviolet-light image by US photographer Craig Burrows reveals the hidden hues of an anemone flower.

An octopus rides a turtle in Hawaii.

Credit: Michael B. Hardie/Smithsonian

BACK-SEAT OCTOPUS: This interspecies piggyback ride was caught by photographer Michael Hardie in the waters off Hawaii. The image was a finalist in the annual Smithsonian.com photo contest.

JPSS-1 Common Ground System backlight by the low afternoon sun in Svalbard

Credit: Reuben Wu

GROUND CONTROL: On the Norwegian island of Svalbard, low sun backlights an antenna that downloads data from the Joint Polar Satellite System-1. The craft launched in November as the first of a new set of US weather satellites.

An electrical charge to draw very fine (typically on the micro or nano scale) fibres from a liquid

Credit: Robert Lamberts/Plant & Food Research

SPARKS FLY: This tiny firework display was made by ‘electrospinning’, in which an electric charge draws fibres from a liquid.

SEM image of Saccorhytus coronarius fossil

Credit: Jian Han

FEARSOME FOSSIL: Meet Saccorhytus coronarius, a millimetre-scale fossil at least 529 million years old. The species, reported in January, might be the oldest known member of the deuterostomes, the animal group that includes vertebrates.

Eggs inside a pregnant "glass" frog

Credit: Jesse Delia/Boston Univ.

SEE-THROUGH PARENT: The eggs inside this pregnant ‘glass frog’ (Hyalinobatrachium colymbiphyllum) are clearly visible through its transparent belly.

A human cell is attached to a cantilever

Credit: Martin Oeggerli/micronaut.ch/ETH Zurich/University of Basel

A SINGLE CELL: What does a human cell weigh? In October, researchers in Switzerland unveiled this cantilever scale designed to detect minute fluctuations in a living cell’s mass.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Credit: SpaceX

BACK TO EARTH: US firm SpaceX made strides with its reusable-rocket system. Here, a stage of the Falcon 9 rocket lands back on a ship in the Pacific Ocean in January, after delivering satellites into orbit — a now‑routine procedure for the company.

Two volunteers work inside the Lunar Palace 1

Credit: Ju Huanzong/Xinhua

ISOLATION ZONE: In May, volunteers were sealed into China’s Lunar Palace 1 research facility in Beijing, designed to test life-support systems for a base on the Moon.

A diver swims in a cavern

Credit: Tom St George/Caters News

ORANGE ABYSS: Heavy rains and run-off from surrounding forests give this underwater cavern — the Cenote Carwash off Tulum on Mexico’s Caribbean coast — its eerie tannic glow.

Ocean-nursery-raised corals

Credit: Spencer Lowell/Trunk Archive

REEF RESTORATION: More than 400 coral ‘trees’ grow in this nursery off the coast of Tavernier, Florida. The set-up aims to nurture corals that in the wild are increasingly endangered by threats such as warming waters and ocean acidification.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-08492-y
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Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 20 December 2017: The original image of the eclipse in this story was an artistic representation that did not accurately depict the event. It has been replaced with a new image.