Sometimes our world can seem like a place of strange and unpleasant happenings. 2016 has certainly been a year of unwelcome surprises and heartbreaking events for those all over the world. However, we forget that many wonderful phenomenons occur every single day both on the Earth itself and out in space.  These photos are just some of thousands that were captured this year of the beautiful nature on the Earth, the immense power of the elements and of places that we are yet to discover. They are enough to make us humans seem insignificantly small in the vast matter of things and should remind us of the beauty of the very Universe that inhabits us.

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Sandhill cranes on their long migration from Siberia to Mexico shelter in Nebraska during a storm. From National Geographic’s best pics of the year. Randy Olson / National Geographic / Via nationalgeographic.com

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A radio-frequency image of the universe, taken by the GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky Murchison Widefield Array (GLEAM) radiotelescope in the Australian Outback. Natasha Hurley-Walker / GLEAM Team / Via nature.com

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A photo of the Northern Lights seen in Healy, Alaska. The photographer, Beckey Lee, said that in capturing this moment she had felt like she had ‘stepped into the dream of “Starry Night”. via National Geographic

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Astronomers found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. This composite image shows RCW 103 in X-ray and optical light. Via Chandra X-ray Observatory Center / X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Amsterdam/N.Rea et al; Optical: DSS.

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‘Spy Hopping’ shot by Scott Portelli in Neiafu, Vava`u, Tonga. This Humpback whale spy hopped in front of me less than a meter and and balanced its body above and below the surface. Humpbacks often do this to survey their surroundings as they break the surface of the water. An impressive close up encounter to say the least. Via National Geographic 

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A Soyuz spacecraft with three astronauts on board lands in Kazakhstan on Oct. 30. Via NASA/Bill Ingalls

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Valleys on Mars, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA / Via nasa.gov

8.The Curiosity Mars rover taking a selfie. NASA / Via jpl.nasa.gov

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Photo of a colossal Cumulonimbus cloud flashing over the Pacific Ocean taken at 37000 feet en route to South America. Captured by Santiago Borja via National Geographic.

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‘Struggle for Life’ captured by Jacob Kaptein in Leuvenum, Gelderland, Netherlands. The photo shows the harsh conditions that a small beech living in water must endure to survive. Via National Geographic.

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Lightning flashes and city lights are seen from the International Space Station, with two Russian spacecraft in the foreground. NASA / Via nature.com

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Blacktip reef sharks lounge in a few inches of low-tide water in a bay in the Seychelles. Thomas P. Peschak / National Geographic / Via nationalgeographic.com

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“Warrior of the Grassland”: a fan-throated lizard, a highly territorial creature, on guard to protect its territory. Image taken in Maharashtra state, India, in summer, the lizards’ breeding season. Anup Deodhar / Royal Photography Society International Images for Science / Via rps-science.org

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