Discover's Images of the Year

A selection of some of the best images (and stories) that ran in our magazine this year.

Dec 29, 2017 7:00 PMNov 20, 2019 10:17 PM


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Photo Credits: Russ Juskalian

The lower jaw of a poached rhino in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Rhino numbers are dipping to dangerous levels, and poaching continues. Rangers tasked with protecting the horned animals face the threat of shootouts with poachers every time they go into the field.

Russ Juskalian traveled to Africa to document the rhinos' plight for Discover and returned with a series of images both heartwarming and harrowing. Check them out here.

Photo Credits: Jeremy Harbeck

The shadow of a DC-8 is dwarfed by massive crevasses in Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier. They form as the ice sheet slides towards the ocean, just one of many glaciers accelerating seaward as the climate warms.

The image comes from our June cover story on NASA's Operation Icebridge, a group of pilots and scientists based in Chile making regular trips over Antarctica's ice sheets to map them with an array of instruments.

The work is crucial to understanding how the continent's icy mantle is changing, and how those changes could affect our planet for centuries to come.

Photo Credits: Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/Getty Images

A Senegalese farmer holds a handful of peanuts, a lucrative cash crop eaten across much of the developing world, and which appeared in our December issue.

The peanuts are susceptible to a type of mold called aflatoxins, which can cause cancer, liver damage and potentially stunt children's growth.

Farmers and distributors don't always catch outbreaks of the mold on their crop, and outbreaks in Kenya and India have resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Researchers are attempting to create a peanut resistant to the mold, but face concerns about whether consumers will accept a genetically-engineered peanut, or if farmers are willing to bear the extra cost of growing one.

Photo Credits: Robert Fletcher

A massive waterfall in Antarctica represents the end of a vast river system on the Nansen Ice Shelf. Meltwater flows from tributaries and streams into a roaring torrent that empties into the ocean.

This waterfall is nearly 400 feet wide, and could actually play a role in stabilizing the ice shelf by offloading water before it has a chance to damage the ice.

A similar process could have actually damaged the Larsen Ice Shelf, also in Antarctica, part of which collapsed rapidly in 2002. There, the water burrowed into cracks in the ice and refroze in a process called hydrofracturing, breaking the ice apart.

The Beauty of Xiaohe appeared on our March cover, and with good reason.

“She’s stunning. I call her the Marlene Dietrich of the desert,” says Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied her extensively.

The Beauty was a member of a long-forgotten tribe in China's barren Taklamakan Desert. Buried in a necropolis with hundreds of other individuals, the arid conditions preserved her body for the ages, down to the eyelashes.

Her existence is a bit of a mystery. Found in China, both the Beauty and the rest of her tribe look distinctly European, and genetic evidence backs that up. How they came to reside in China, and whether their ancestors still do, is largely unknown.

Photo Credits: Kim Raff

Bees are dying at a worrying rate, and scientists don't know why for sure. It's likely a combination of pesticides, disease and parasites, but there's enough uncertainty that the government has as of yet declined to step in.

Our story follows beekeeper Darren Cox as he recounts years of declining colonies and constant worry. Bees pollinate around $30 billion worth of U.S. crops every year. Losing them would cost us much more than just honey.

Photo Credits: Peter DaSilva

In 2017, Discover ranged across the globe, from the skies of Antarctica to rural Africa to right here in America's heartland, to bring you unique and incisive science news.

Here's a chance to look back at some of the best stories that appeared in our print magazine this year, highlighted by stunning photography. Gaze into the startlingly well-preserved face of an ancient mummy, fly high above an Antarctic waterfall and more.

The photo at right ran in our "Top 100 Science Stories of 2017" special issue. It wasn't a hard decision to name the August solar eclipse as our top story of the year, and the awestruck expressions on these young girls' faces as they experience totality in Oregon certainly bears that out.

And, if your curiosity is piqued, follow the links throughout to learn more or consider picking up a subscription for 2018. More enthralling science awaits!

Photo Credits: György Soponyai

This fantastical image is the result of over a full day of continuous photography and an arduous process of digital reconstruction involving hundreds of images.

It comes courtesy of Hungarian photographer György Soponyai, who used an extreme wide-angle lens to capture 33 hours of time-lapsed images at an astronomy camp in 2016. He stitched the stills together and warped them into a square to create the spherical effect.

The final image positions day and night as two halves of a whole, capturing the arc of the sun and the swirl of the stars as the Earth rotates. As a bonus, the International Space Station makes an appearance as well — it's the thin, bright semicircle running counter to the stars on the night side.

Photo Credits: LAKD M-V, Landesarchäologie, C. Hartl-Reiter

Are humans violent by nature? Archaeological explorations uncovering ancient battles are digging into the roots of human conflict, such as this mass grave from a Bronze Age battle in Germany.

Scientists have discovered skulls and bone fragments bearing the unmistakable signs of human conflict dating back at least 10,000 years. Whether these brutal interactions were the norm or represented rare instances of violence remains to be seen.

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