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The Best Science Photos of 2017

Clouded Leopard Cub


(Image credit: Amiee Stubbs/Nashville Zoo)

Look at those liddle toes! This bouncing baby clouded leopard cub was born at the Nashville Zoo in March, a historic first for the vulnerable species. The cub was conceived via artificial insemination using frozen sperm, a method that will help zoos and conservation societies boost the species' numbers. [Adorable Clouded Leopard Cub's Birth Signals Conservation Success]

Dam Damage

oroville damage

(Image credit: Dale Kolke /CA Dept. of Water Resources/Reuters/Newscom)

In mid- to late-February, northern California's Oroville Dam developed a hole in its emergency spillway, triggering fears that the spillway might collapse and release a wall of water into the valley below. Fortunately, the spillway held, but the damage, seen in this photo taken in March, was severe. [Shocking Images Reveal Massive Damage to California Reservoir]

Diamond of Ice

Thin patties of ice called nilas churn around a thicker diamond-shaped chunk of ice in the northern Caspian Sea, as seen in this Landsat 8 image captured on Feb. 4, 2017.

(Image credit: NASA)

The Caspian Sea shines from above in a satellite shot taken by NASA's Landsat 8 in early February. The diamond-shaped chunk of ice, which likely broke off from the sea ice nearby, cuts through a crust of whisper-thin ice called "nilas," pushed by wind and current. [Floating Ice Diamond Dazzles from Space]

Giant ice cubes

Icy sugar cubes, 2017 Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition

(Image credit: Peter Convey)

Antarctica … the land of ice cubes, giant ones! This image, which was originally shot on Kodachrome 64 slide film and then scanned, won the overall top spot in the Royal Society’s annual scientific photography competition in 2017. Besides being gorgeous, the image reveals the dynamic nature of the ice on our Earth’s chilly bottom. "A massive slab of flowing ice begins to go afloat, and initially, because it is very thick, it spreads laterally [side to side], creating deep along-flow troughs. Later, with further flow, the ice begins to stretch out longitudinally, and the surface snow breaks perpendicular to the first troughs," Ted Scambos, a glaciologist and lead scientist for the National Snow & Ice Data Center science team, told Live Science previously. [Read more about the giant ice-cube image.]

Antarctica Goes Green

An imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image, on March 5, 2017, of Antarctica's Granite Harbor, a cove near the Ross Sea, where the sea ice has a green hue due to a bloom of phytoplankton.

(Image credit: NASA)

Green isn't the color most commonly associated with Antarctica, but the Ross Sea took on a Chartreuse hue in March 2017 thanks to phytoplankton-tinged ice. Algae blooms occur throughout the Antarctic summer and into fall. Late in the season, the algae can become entrapped in slushy new sea ice, according to glaciologists. [Strange Green Ice Seen Floating in Antarctica's Ross Sea]

Blue Tarantula

Gooty Sapphire Ornamental tarantula

(Image credit: Cathy Keifer/Dreamstime)

Electric blue with a splash of yellow decorates the Gooty Sapphire Ornamental tarantula (Poecilotheria metallica). These colors are structural, meaning they're created by the interactions of light with nanostructures on the tarantula's hairs rather than pigments. Researchers reported in the journal Advanced Optical Materials that they'd recreated these structures in synthetic materials. [Blue Tarantula Hair Inspires Nonfading Color Pigment]

Cosmic Jellyfish

cosmic jellyfish

(Image credit: NOAA)

UFO or animal? This ethereal jellyfish was captured on camera by a remotely operated vehicle 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) below the surface at the Utu Seamount near American Samoa. The bizarre creature is part of the hydromedusae family, which often have two sets of tentacles, according to NOAA researchers. [Mysterious 'Cosmic' Jellyfish Spotted in Remote Ocean Depths]

Lightning from Space

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper can track lightning strikes across North and South America, helping researchers understand how storms develop. This image combines an hour’s worth of lightning data obtained on Feb. 14, 2017.

(Image credit: NOAA)

An eye in the sky is now tracking lightning across the globe. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on NOAA's GOES-16 weather satellite began releasing its first images in 2017. It snaps hundreds of images a second, capturing lightning strikes as they happen. The goal, according to NOAA researchers, is to track storms as they form as well as to improve wildfire forecasting. [New Satellite Beams Back Its 1st Photo of Lightning from Space]

Magnetic anomalies

Lithosphere magnetic field

(Image credit: ESA/DTU Space/DLR)

This colorful creation is a new map of the lithospheric magnetic field, Earth's protective shield from cosmic radiation and other charged space particles. The European Space Agency has been measuring the magnetic field with three identical satellites (collectively known as Swarm) since 2003. The resulting data generated this map, which shows an anomalously strong region of the magnetic field in the Central African Republic, possibly the result of a meteorite impact 540 million years ago. [Earth's Magnetic Cocoon Mapped in Extreme Detail]

Asperitas Cloud

An undulating asperitas cloud, photographed at Shorewell Park in Tasmania, Australia, at 7:48 a.m. local time on Feb. 20, 2004.

(Image credit: WMO International Cloud Atlas/ © Gary McArthur)

It's not every year that a new cloud gets a name. The World Meteorological Organization released a new version of its "International Cloud Atlas" in March, including a whole new classification: the asperitas cloud. Asperitas clouds are known for their turbulent, dramatic appearance. This one was photographed over Shorewell Park, Tasmania, in 2004. [Cloud Atlas Now Online: See All the Bizarre Formations Around the World]

Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers the world of human and animal behavior, as well as paleontology and other science topics. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and poked hot lava with a stick in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from East Tennessee, the global center for salamander diversity. Follow Stephanie on Google+.