The Arctic skies light up in a blaze of blue and green when solar wind blasts the atmosphere with charged particles. Storms and wildfires leave debris and ash in their trails. And ecosystems and fellow animals are increasingly transformed by human activity.

Looking at the world through the lens of science brings into focus creatures so small they can't be seen with the naked eye, and galaxies so large they make our world seem no bigger than a microscopic organism.

That creates an opportunity for some pretty stunning photos.

These are some of the most striking science and nature images we encountered in 2017. Some are news photos shot this year, while others made appearances in 2017 photo contests.

1. NASA's Juno probe sent back stunning images of our Solar System's giant planet.

See more of the probe's stunning images here.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran)


2. We'll never think of tapeworms the same way after seeing this monster from Nikon's Small World image contest, which celebrates microscopic photos.

See more prize-winning Small World images.

(Teresa Zgoda/Nikon Small World)


3. Natural events like the volcanic eruption of Bali's Mount Agung in November caused quite a stir.

The eruption sent ash 13,000 feet (4,000 metres) into the atmosphere and created plumes as high as 3.7 miles (6,000 metres).

(Andri Tambunan/Getty Images)


4. Photographer Tim Flach published his new book Endangered with stunning images showing the faces of animals on the verge of extinction.

See more photos from Tim Flach's Endangered.

(Tim Flach/Hippopotamus)


5. This shot of Ruacana Falls in Northern Namibia won the International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition, which announced its winners in January.

See more of the winning photos.

(Hougaard Malan/The International Landscape Photographer of the Year)


6. The struggle to survive on Earth is encapsulated in this shot of killer whales suddenly appearing near a huddle of king penguins.

Check out more of the best photos taken by scientists in the past year.

(Nico de Bruyn/Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition)


7. This devastating photo shows a dehorned rhino that was killed by poachers. It took home the top prize from the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

See more of the winning photos from the prestigious contest here.

(Brent Stirton/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)


8. This was the last full image the Cassini spacecraft captured of Saturn before plunging into the planet to end its mission.

Read the story of a scientist who spent 40 years studying the ringed planet.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; Roman Tkachenko)


9. Biplab Hazra shocked the world with this photo of elephants being attacked by a mob in West Bengal, India.

The image won the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography contest.

Learn more about the image and see more of the photos celebrated by the conservation organisation.

(Biplab Hazra/The Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2017)


This article was originally published by Business Insider.