What on Earth can we see from space?

If someone's ever told you that you can see the Great Wall of China from space then, sorry, they’ve been telling you fibs.

However, there’s loads of other amazing stuff you can see from space. Check out these images from some satellites and the International Space Station (ISS) - you decide which one’s the star.

The Great Barrier Reef

As if you needed another reason to think this place was amazing, Sir David Attenborough has said it’s one of his favourite places in the world.

The 2253 kilometre long reef off the north-east coast of Australia is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It’s home to lots of different sea creatures and animals, including the humpback whale - it’s one of their breeding sites.

This picture was taken for BBC One's new documentary series Earth from Space, which uses satellites to give us a perspective on our planet we've never seen before.


This is Hurricane Isabel, and the photo was taken in 2003.

The ISS tracks weather systems all over the globe, in order to allow countries to protect themselves from them. Hurricanes are one of the things the ISS looks out for. They are a type of tropical storm, and need a lot of heat to form, so only happen where the sea temperature is above 26°C.

Palm Islands

These palm trees don’t blow in the wind.

These massive artificial islands were started off the coast of Dubai in 2001. Palm Jumeirah archipelago is built from roughly 110 million cubic metres of sand. There are islands nearby shaped to look like a map of the world, and there’s talk that some more will be created that will resemble the Solar System. If that happens, you’ll be able to see space from space. So meta.

The Pyramids of Giza

Most Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for Pharaohs, and their extended family. They would be buried with mountains of treasure, and so have been targets for raiders over the years.

It’s no wonder you can see the pyramids in Egypt - they’re huge! The Great Pyramid was built by King Khufu around 2500 BC, and is 230 metres squared and 146 metres high. That's taller than 29 double-decker buses.

The River Thames

I bet the theme tune is already playing in your head. Dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun…

Ever wanted to see the Eastenders image in real life? Well, get yourself over to the ISS, as that’s exactly what astronauts on board can see when flying over London. It can be seen at night too, with the river outlined by the glowing lights of the city around it. In fact, most big cities across the globe can be seen at night from the station, and it makes for some truly beautiful photos.

The Himalayas

The Himalayas run through Nepal, Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and China.

Quite a few mountains ranges can be seen from space, but perhaps the most impressive are the Himalayas. It covers about 75% of Nepal, and gets its name from Sanskrit: hima means snow and alaya means abode. It’s home to the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, which is roughly 8850 metres high. Everest has a couple of different names - in Nepali it's Sagarmatha, and in Tibetan it's called Chomolungma.

The greenhouses at Almería

That’s a lot of vegetables.

This 350 square kilometre sea of plastic grows vast amounts of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers every year. In fact, a councillor in Andalucía said in 2017 that 70% of tomatoes exported to the EU came from here and Granada. Unfortunately, the astronauts on the ISS won’t be able to order any of them.

The Grand Canyon

At its widest point, the Grand Canyon is 29 kilometres across.

Whilst impressive in person, if you want to see the whole thing at once, you need to pop out to space. The Grand Canyon, another one of the seven wonders of the natural world, can be found in Arizona, USA. It is 446 kilometres long.

This is another gorgeous image from Earth from Space.

The Amazon River

About 2500 different types of fish live in the Amazon river, and people believe many more are undiscovered.

There’s a lot of debate over where the Amazon River actually starts and finishes - but it is at least 6437 kilometres long, which is the equivalent of flying from Manchester to Lahore in Pakistan. It used to flow in the opposite direction 130 million years ago.

This article was published in September 2018

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