The best images on Wikipedia from over the years
The best images to have appeared on Wikipedia and been awarded the “featured picture” status. There are some incredible photos in this collection.
Featured pictures are photos that have been chosen as some of the best quality on Wikipedia. This list includes over 12,000 photos out of a total of well over 54 million used on the site.
We’ve collected some of the best from the last few years for you to enjoy.
A selfie at 70,000 feet
One featured picture shows pilot Christopher Michel taking a selfie while in Lockheed U-2 at 70,000 feet.
The impressive thing about this height is the pilot is high enough to see the curvature of the Earth. It’s also twice the flight ceiling of commercial airliners.
This photo was chosen as picture of the day on Wikimedia Commons in 2009. And shows the awesome view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it lifts off.
“Sandwiched by billowing clouds above and smoke and steam clouds below, space shuttle Atlantis hurtles past the lightning mast on top of the fixed service structure on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atlantis will rendezvous with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on the STS-125 service mission. Liftoff was on-time at 2:01 p.m. EDT. Atlantis’ 11-day flight will include five spacewalks to refurbish and upgrade the telescope with state-of-the-art science instruments that will expand Hubble’s capabilities and extend its operational lifespan through at least 2014. The payload includes a Wide Field Camera 3, Fine Guidance Sensor and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph.”
The Roztochia Biosphere Reserve
This is a photo of a natural heritage site in Ukraine and one that was selected as a special award winner for best aerial photography on Wikipedia.
It shows the Roztochia Biosphere Reserve, a site that’s 74,800 hectares (289 sq mi) in size and handles everything from agriculture to stock-breeding and fish farming.
During a spacewalk, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi is seen waving at the camera with a brilliant backdrop of Earth below.
This awesome photo also told the story of happenings at the station too as Noguchi and Discovery crewmate Steve Robinson we busy replacing an essential gyroscope when the photo was taken.
An empty bucket train
The second-place winner from 2018’s competition came from Bolivia and shows an empty “bucket train” on the tracks between San Pedro and Ascotan, Chile. An incredible backdrop includes the San Pedro volcano dwarfing the long line of train carriages.
A classically beautiful frozen bubble caught in the middle of freezing over. This image won third place in 2018 and it’s easy to see why.
Two male Phyllomedusa rohdei frogs
Some of the best photos are those close-up images of nature, our world and the creatures in it. This image from Brazil shows one frog casually leaping over one of his buddies – how doesn’t seem best pleased about it. The image won the Picture of the Year award in 2017 and came with this caption:
“Phyllomedusa rohdei is a species of frog in the family Hylidae with a purple and orange colouration in the inguinal region. In the picture, two males vie for a branch, one passing over the other. Photographed in the Atlantic Forest, Michelin Reserve, Igrapiúna, Bahia, Brazil.”
Royal Pavilion in Phraya Nakhon Cave
A breathtaking view of the Royal Pavilion in Phraya Nakhon Cave in Thailand. It was originally snapped in 2015, but went on to be used in multiple places on Wikipedia in the time that followed before snatching second place in the 2017 competition.
Two Tower of London ravens
These might look like two normal ravens, but they’re actually special:
“Jubilee and Munin, Ravens of the Tower of London. Jubilee was hatched in Somerset in 2012 and wears a gold band. He was given to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee. Munin was hatched in North Uist in 1995 and wears a light green band. She is the oldest raven at the tower. Identification confirmed with Chris Skaife, Ravenmaster at the Tower. “
Another brilliant image of nature at its finest and another award-winning photo – this time the first place winner from the 2016 competition.
Wild elephants in the road
This award-winning photo comes from Khao Yai National Park in Thailand and shows some magnificent wild elephants casually wandering down a long manmade road.
Polar bear in flight
From the northern region of Svalbard, Norway comes this snap of a polar bear leaping from one ice floe to another in a desperate bid to find something to eat. The photographer of this award-winning image explained how the bear had been chasing a bearded seal moments before but the seal had escaped. The result is a brilliant view of nature in action.
A high-resolution view of Pluto
We’ve featured this image before and are impressed every time we see it. The image shows a high-resolution enhanced colour view of Pluto that was taken in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. A fairly amazing shot considering Pluto is 4.67 billion miles away from Earth.
The image was the winner of the Picture of the Year competition in 2015.
A colourful mosque view
This photo came second in the 2015 Picture of the Year competition. It shows a colourful view of the inside of Nasir ol Molk Mosque located in Shiraz. The sunlight casts incredible colours on the interior carpets and creates a beautiful view for visitors to the Mosque.
Heavens above her
An amazing award-winning photo of the Milky Way captured stretching out above the skies of a lady standing below. It was snapped at Trona Pinnacles National Landmark, California in 2014 and won third place in the 2015 Picture of the Year competition.
A butterfly feeding on the tears of a turtle
This beautiful scene was captured in 2012 in Ecuador. It shows the unusual behaviour of Julia Butterflies from the region. They’re engaging in an activity known as “lachryphagy” – feeding on the tears of the nearby turtles. They get their nutrients in that way and thrive together.
This incredible photo was the first-place winner of the competition in 2014.
Emperor penguins in Antarctica
In 2013, Christopher Michelm, an American entrepreneur and photographer captured this incredible photograph of an Emperor penguin jumping out of the waters of Antartica. A majestic creature brilliantly snapped and well deserving of the second place award in 2014.
Boxcabs in Chile
Not for vertigo sufferers, this photo shows a view of one of SQMs Boxcabs riding the tracks way above Tocopilla, Chile. Another brilliant award-winning photo from 2014.
A burning bulb
2013’s competition-winning photo was this amazing image of a cracked bulb by Stefan Krause:
“The glass envelope of this light bulb has been opened, allowing oxygenated air to replace the inert gas normally inside. When turned on, the tungsten filament burns with a flame. At the time of exposure, the bulb was screwed into a socket, which was replaced with the lamp screw base using image editing.”
The national park
The second-place winner of the 2013 competition was this image of the National park “Sviati Hory” (Holy Mountains), Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. A breathtaking view of the park with a brilliant mist across the waters.
A swallow drinking
This epic image of a swallow in flight shows a bird magnificently framed in the picture about to take a drink from the surface of a swimming pool. We wonder how long it took to capture such an awesome moment. The image won third place in the Picture of the Year competition in 2013.
This award-winning photograph from 2012 shows two European Bee-eaters resting on a lone branch. The male can be seen reach to grab some lunch for his mate.
A coronal mass ejection
This snap from 2012 was taken by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and shows a large coronal mass ejection from the sun. This beautiful, yet deadly plasma burst is thought to have resulted in an aurora appearing in the night’s sky around the start of September that year.
An exploding bulb
This image was carefully crafted using high-speed photography techniques. It shows a light bulb seemingly exploding after being shot with a low-powered airsoft pistol round.
A lakeside view
This award-winning photograph from 2011 shows a staggeringly beautiful view of lake Bondhus in Norway. The Bondhus Glacier can be seen in the background, along with wonderfully calm waters, a lone boat and brilliant clouds rolling in down the mountains.
A space-based selfie
You’re unlikely to snap a better selfie than this. This photo from 2010 was chosen as the second-place winner for the 2011 Picture of the Year competition. It shows astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson aboard the International Space Station.
This is one incredible woman, with nearly 189 days of space under her belt that include three successful space walks and the honour of being the first astronaut to be born after Apollo 11 mission.
A waterway in the lava tunnel
This brilliant photo by Luc Viatour shows a breathtaking view of a cave created by a lava tunnel in Spain. The still waters inside the cave appear to show an optical illusion with awesome reflections of the cave walls.
A laser to the heavens
The winner of 2010’s Picture of the Year competition was taken by Yuri Beletsky and appears to show a laser firing off into space.
“In mid-August 2010 ESO Photo Ambassador Yuri Beletsky snapped this photo at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, Chile. A group of astronomers were observing the centre of the Milky Way using the laser guide star facility at Yepun, one of the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT).”
“Yepun’s laser beam crosses the southern sky and creates an artificial star at an altitude of 90 km high in the Earth’s mesosphere. The Laser Guide Star (LGS) is part of the VLT’s adaptive optics system and is used as a reference to correct the blurring effect of the atmosphere on images. The colour of the laser is precisely tuned to energise a layer of sodium atoms found in one of the upper layers of the atmosphere — one can recognise the familiar colour of sodium street lamps in the colour of the laser. This layer of sodium atoms is thought to be a leftover from meteorites entering the Earth’s atmosphere. When excited by the light from the laser, the atoms start glowing, forming a small bright spot that can be used as an artificial reference star for the adaptive optics. Using this technique, astronomers can obtain sharper observations. For example, when looking towards the centre of our Milky Way, researchers can better monitor the galactic core, where a central supermassive black hole, surrounded by closely orbiting stars, is swallowing gas and dust.”
An old town panorama
This award-winning panorama was captured by Ramirez and shows Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, an ancient city that dates back to 1452.
New York at night
From the beautiful countryside, the middle of the urban sprawl. This award-winning image shows NYC at night with HDR mode engaged.
A rare red squirrel
This last snap shows a rare red squirrel photographed in Germany. These squirrels are a rare sight in Europe where the dominant grey squirrel has mostly taken over. That makes this winning photo even more special.
A volcanic eruption
An incredible view from high above the Earth was taken by NASA and shows the awesome power of nature. This mushroom cloud almost looks like a nuclear explosion, but shows the aftermath of a volcano eruption and the magnificence of nature.
A pilgrim at the Golden Temple
The first place winner of 2009’s competition was this image taken at the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, India. It shows a lone pilgrim in a state of undress after recently emerging from a ritual bath with the amazing Golden Temple in the background.
Waterfalls and swirling pools
Another incredible and award-winning view of nature. This one shows the beautiful Elakala Waterfalls in the Blackwater Falls State park, West Virginia. In the foreground, an amazing swirling pool of water draws the eye as numerous waterfalls cast water down in the background.
The Russian Honor Guard
The third place winner from 2009 comes from a military parade:
“A Russian military honor guard drawn from the 154th Commandant’s Regiment welcomes U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, June 26, 2009. Mullen is on a three-day trip to the country, meeting with counterparts and touring the Russian military academy.”
This image was the first place winner of the 2008 Picture of the Year competition. It shows two horses relaxing in the mountain regions in Navarre, Spain.
A fire breathing performer
A fire breathing performer wows onlookers during a rendition by the Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band. This image was the second place winner in 2008 and shows some real fire.
This image might well be one of the most interesting on our list. Simply because it wasn’t taken in the year it one. Although the photo came third in 2008, it was actually taken by Jack Delano in 1942. It wouldn’t win until a decade after he passed away.
Evolution of a Tornado
This photo by Jason Weingart was selected as the Picture of the Year 2018. It was created from eight images taken as a tornado began to form over Kansas in 2016. This massive weather front led to around 12 tornadoes whipping up a storm in the area.
A tower on the hill
This image looks like a Photoshopping of the famous wallpaper from Microsoft’s Windows XP but actually shows Broadway Tower in Cotswolds, England.
This featured image is from 2010 – a satellite image of Great Britain when snowstorms were raging through Europe and British shores were seeming covered in snow from coast to coast.
A relief airdrop
In 2010 Haiti was hit by a catastrophic earthquake which caused the death of as many of 316,000 people, as well as the collapse of or severe damage to 250,000 homes and much more besides.
This photo though, shows the emergency relief force that was dropped from the skies in order to render assistance.
Milky way seen from Bolivian High Altiplano
While travelling from Ushuaia to Anchorage, Thomas Fuhrmann took this image of the night’s sky over Bolivia. The result is a magnificent view of the Milky Way with wonderful colours and a staggering look up at the stars.
Superparamagnetic fluid in action
This photo shows a superparamagnetic fluid reacting to the presence of a neodymium magnet nearby.
This fluid is also commonly referred to as ferrofluid – a liquid which is made of nanoscale magnetic particles carried in fluid which is attracted to the poles of a magnet.
As well as looking awesome, these sort of fluids are used in various applications including everything from hard drives to loudspeakers, spacecraft propulsion and more besides.
A satisfying staircase
This is one of the featured images from 2015. It’s a satisfying image of a staircase in the central tower of the Granitz hunting lodge. Wonderfully framed and almost symmetrical it’s brilliantly satisfying.
In 2020, this photo won the fifth prize at Wiki Loves Monuments 2020 in Germany.
Mud cow racing
Mud cow racing is a messy (and no doubt dangerous) business it seems. This is a traditional sport in Indonesia and no doubt one that requires a strong disposition.
The jockey, seen in the centre of this image is standing on a wooden plough while holding onto the bulls’ tails as they dash through a muddy rice field. The winners of the race are deemed to be the bulls that run the fastest and the straightest.
This image is a brilliant tribute to a tradition that’s been happening for centuries, as the local folks use it as a way to celebrate the end of the rice harvest.
A long jump landing
A brilliantly timed photo captures an Army athlete just as he hits the sand during a long jump competition in the middle of an Inter-Corps Athletics Competition in 2011.
Another well-timed photo, this time showing a Dutch Panzerhaubitze 2000 (155 mm self-propelled howitzer) during a firing action in Afganistan in 2009.
This is another impressive satellite image, this time of the Dasht-e Kavir desert in Iran. It shows different geological layers in the surface of the desert. And demonstrates what happens when thousands of years of wind whips at the surface.
The weird and wonderful patterns are the result of layering and the blue colours are said to be other materials such as salt, vegetation and other things the satellite has picked up.
Heroes of our time
Alberto Giuliani took a number of photos of tired doctors and nurses during one of the worst days of the COVID-19 contagion in Italy in 2020.
The resulting images were a testament to their efforts and those of all the healthcare professionals working tirelessly to protect our lives through this troubling time.
“These are the doctors and nurses of the San Salvatore Hospital in Pesaro, Italy, the city of my birth and where I once again reside, which from day one has sadly been at the top of the COVID-19 contagion and death charts. I photographed them at the end of their shifts—twelve hours without a break during their fight in an unequal war. In the quiet moments in front of my camera, these embattled individuals are in a state of total abandon, victims of an exhaustion that eats away at the body and the mind, a breathlessness that renders one disoriented, detached from time and space. They would take off their masks, caps, and gloves in front of my lens, remaining motionless, looking for some sort of normalcy amid the hell they were living.”
Biological weapons training
This image might look like something out of a science fiction film, but it’s actually from a special event designed to help Airmen identify biological agents:
“Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall, an Air National Guard emergency manager, is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab during a Global Dragon training event on March 18, 2015. Held at the Guardian Centers of Georgia, Global Dragon Deployment For Training provides a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. Air National Guard emergency management technicians from more than 20 individual units participated in Global Dragon. Cotterall is a member of the 137th Air Refueling Wing in New Jersey.”
Rebounding water droplet
This simple image was one of the finalists for Picture of the Year 2012. Just a droplet of water, yet a magnificently simple and wonderfully pleasing image of an everyday object.
Cyclist and pacemaker
Taken at the Oßwald Steher Cup, this photograph shows the action unfolding as a cyclist and pacemaker rush their way around the track.
This image was selected as one of the featured photos for the sports category.
The James Webb telescope
Another fantastic Wikipedia winner comes from NASA and shows the incredible James Webb Telescope. A marvel of modern engineering and something that should help vastly improve our view of the Universe.
A cute jumping spider
Taken in 2021, this photograph of a female Phidippus regius jumping spider was selected as one of several featured pictures from Wikipedia.
A robin in the snow
In February 2021, in the depths of snowy German, this photo was taken of a beautiful Robin surrounded by a winter wonderland.
A brilliant, yet simple addition to the other award winners.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a photo captured by NASA but it was actually submitted by a skilled telescope user.
It shows an impressive region of space known as the Heart Nebula:
“The Heart nebula region is about 7500 light years away from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia. The 330 light year diametre complex contains the eponymous emission nebula (Ced7/Cr26/IC1805/LBN654/Mel15/Sh2-190) shaped correspondingly, along with a separate region labelled the Fishhead nebula (Ced6/IC1795/LBN645/NGC896), which was the first part to be discovered. The nebula’s shape and distinct signal is due to a cluster of stars in the middle in an area that could appropriately be called the tendrils of creation.”
TF drag bike
This image shows the absolute insane vehicles that human beings can come up with. We’ve seen some bonkers and unsafe-looking modes of transport over the years, but this one is a lot more intelligently thought out than it looks.
“This picture shows the perfect balance of a TF drag bike: the front wheel is in the air, the “wheeliebars” (a support structure that prevents the rollover backwards) do not touch the ground and cannot impair the driving dynamics through the leverage. The entire driving force of the motor lies on the rear wheel. The braking parachute can be seen on the wheelie bars, which primarily serves to stabilize the bike when braking.”
This photo shows “The Kelpies” which are 98 foot tall horse-head sculptures located in Falkirk, Scotland. These are clearly magnificent sculptures, not just in their presence but in other ways too. They weigh 300 tonnes each for a start.
NASA, ESA and CSA
This image from July 2022 was taken by the James Webb Telescope and shows the Carina Nebula, a star-forming region of space that’s magnificent. Not the first time this region of space has been captured by NASA but a demonstration of JWST’s capabilities.
This image by British wildlife photographer Charles J. Sharp was selected as the featured image in April 2022. It shows a red grasshawk, a common sight in Asian countries and a beautiful creature indeed.
F-35A Lightning II in a vertical climb
This featured image shows a jet in a magnificent manoeuvre:
“Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander performs a vertical climb in an F-35A Lightning II during the Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show Oct. 14, 2018, in Fort Worth, Texas. The F-35A Lightning II’s F-135 single-engine contains 43,000 pounds of thrust. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook).”