By Jeffrey Kluger and Josh Raab
December 8, 2017

The high ground of space often makes the Earth’s grandest features shrink to invisibility. You can’t really see the great Wall of China from orbit—at least not with the unaided eye. You certainly can’t see Hoover Dam or the Empire State Building or Beijing’s sprawling Forbidden City. But you can see nature—both at its magnificent best and its terrifying worst.

That’s the case with the wildfires that are currently blowtorching their way through southern California. The Ventura County fire is now twice the size of Washington, D.C. Nearly 23,000 homes and businesses are threatened and 260,000 people have been evacuated—the equivalent of the population of St. Petersburg, Fla. A decade of drought and powerful Santa Ana winds are being blamed for the disaster.

Multiple satellites, along with astronauts aboard the International Space Station, have been monitoring the hellscape below from the cold and quiet of space. Here are just a few of the images they’ve returned.


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