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The Best Science Photos of 2017

Li'l Lizard

horned lizard

(Image credit: NPS)

One of the most adored of all reptile species, the horned lizard is a cutie pie. This year, Linda and Dick Buscher captured the species’ beauty in a set of photographs, including one of this little guy. Horned lizard hatchlings are less than an inch (2.5 centimeters) in length and are often referred to as "cute" due to their diminutive appearance and relatively smooth skin. [See more of the Buscher's photos of horned lizards.]

Radiohead Ant

The newly described Radiohead ant from Venezuela boasts a crystalline covering of fine white hairs.

(Image credit: Ana Ješovnik)

A glittery network of hairs adorns the head of a new ant species discovered this year. The ant, named Sericomyrmex radioheadi in honor of the band Radiohead's environmental activism, hails from Venezuela. It's covered by crystalline hairs that might play an anti-parasite role, researchers said. [Crystal-Haired 'Radiohead' Ant Discovered]

Dragon-Skin Ice

Dragon skin occurs when strong winds continually lift surface ice, subsequently freezing the water below.

(Image credit: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies/University of Tasmania)

Scales of ice rest on the ocean in Antarctica in an image taken by researchers aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel. This flakey ice is called "dragon-skin" and it forms when strong downslope winds lift the surface sea ice and freeze the water below. The ups and downs also create the bumpy appearance of the ice. [Rare 'Dragon-Skin' Ice Spotted During Antarctic Research Voyage]

Bloody Waterfall

A blood-red "waterfall" spills off Taylor Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica.

(Image credit: Peter Rejcek/National Science Foundation)

A shocking red spillway in Antarctica finally got an explanation this year. Blood Falls in the McMurdo Dry Valleys is brilliant red because it's fed by a briny, iron-rich stream of under-ice water, scientists reported in May. [Hidden, Briny Heart of Antarctica's 'Blood Falls' Uncovered]

Cloud in the Grand Canyon

(Image credit: Harun Mehmedinovic)

Gorgeous imagery of the Grand Canyon shows wave-like clouds filing the gorge. The images come from a video release in May, and they show a phenomenon called a "cloud inversion," which occurs when cool air near the ground fails to mix with warm air higher up, trapping the cool air (and condensation) near the ground. [A Cloud 'Tide' Fills the Grand Canyon in Gorgeous Time-Lapse Video]

Baby Snails

snail babies

(Image credit: Angus Davison/University of Nottingham)

A bevy of baby snails hitches a piggyback ride on their parent, Tomeu, a rare sinistral snail. These left-spiraling snails have their organs on the opposite side of their bodies as typical right-spiraling snails, so they can only mate with other snails with the same spiral. Tomeu was a mate found in Spain in response to an online call for love for an Internet-famous sinistral snail from England named Jeremy. Unfortunately, Tomeu ignored Jeremy and made these babies with another sinistral snail, Lefty. [Strange Snail Love Triangle Leaves 'Lefty' Jeremy Without a Partner]

Goddess Heads

The remains of at least four female heads, made out of ceramic, have been discovered at the ancient town of Porphyreon in Lebanon.

(Image credit: Adam Oleśiak/The Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology Archive)

Four 2,400-year-old ceramic heads were discovered this year in the ancient town of Porphyreon, now modern-day Jiyeh, Lebanon. The gorgeous pieces are about 9 inches tall (24 cm) and are decorated with remnants of red paint. [Ceramic Heads of Possible Goddesses Discovered in Ancient Waste Dump]

Molecular Black Hole

x-ray pulses

(Image credit: DESY/Science Communication Lab)

It's the cosmos in nutshell. This artist's depiction shows a molecular "black hole," made when the world's most powerful x-ray laser strips so many electrons off an atom that it sucks all the electrons away from neighboring atoms like a tiny black hole. Researchers released this image in May after publishing about the phenomenon in the journal Nature. [World's Most Powerful X-Ray Laser Creates Molecular 'Black Hole']

Aurora from Space


(Image credit: ESA/NASA)

Northern Europe's city lights shimmer under the dancing aurora in this photo snapped by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the International Space Station. This light show on the northern horizon was visible on Jan. 18, 2017. [Northern Lights from Space! Astronaut Captures Aurora Over Europe]

Snake Fight


(Image credit: Kruger Sightings/YouTube)

The 14th hole of the Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa was a wild place to be one day when two mambas decided to use it as a wrestling ring. These venomous snakes are among the world's deadliest, but they tend to not bite one another in fights, which look more like elaborate dances. The fight was likely over a female, a snake expert told Live Science in June when the video was released. [14th Hole's a Killer: 2 Deadly Snakes Fight in Golf Course Video]

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+.