NASA space shuttle Atlantis
In this handout image provided by NASA, space shuttle Atlantis is seen in Earth orbit over the Bahamas just before docking for the last time with the International Space Station, July 10, 2011. NASA via Getty Images

One billion people around the world are celebrating Earth Day on Friday with rallies, “green” activities and pledges in an effort to protect the planet. For those who need a little reminder as to why Earth Day is so important, take a look at these stunning photos of our planet from space by NASA and learn how you can do your part.

3/9/2016 eclipse
While residents of islands and nations in the Western Pacific looked up in the early-morning hours to observe a total eclipse of the sun, March 9, 2016, NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory looked down from space and captured the shadow of the Moon marching across Earth’s sunlit face. Courtesy of NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory

Earth is an estimated 4.54 billion years old and is the only known planet to support life. It’s also the only planet in the solar system not named after a mythological being.

Much of London and its suburbs are visible in this photograph taken from the International Space Station, Sept. 25, 2015. Two of the characteristics that stand out at night are the progressively denser concentrations of lights and the change from yellower to whiter lights as you move toward the commercial center of the city. Courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory

The first-ever Earth Day was in 1970, and 20 million people participated. It was first recognized worldwide in 1990. The organizers behind Earth Day, which is observed annually April 22, hope to plant 7.8 billion trees during the 2016 celebration, among other “green” activities.

California coastal current
The waters along the West Coast of North America are some of the most biologically productive in the world. On Feb. 8, 2016, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NASA's Suomi NPP satellite captured several images of blooming phytoplankton and swirling currents along the coast of California and western Mexico. The images were stitched together into a composite built with data from the red, green, and blue wavelength bands on VIIRS, along with chlorophyll data. A series of image-processing steps highlighted the color differences and subtle features in the water. NASA image by Norman Kuring, NASA’s Ocean Color Web

This year’s Earth Day is particularly momentous because leaders from 160 countries will sign Friday the Paris Climate Agreement in a bid to stem the effects of global warming.

Mount Fuji
Astronauts need to take advantage of oblique views and low sun angles to capture a strong sense of three dimensions in the photographs they take from the International Space Station. This detailed image of Mount Fuji was taken Feb. 8, 2016, by an astronaut using the most powerful lens presently on board. The low afternoon sun emphasizes the conical shape of Japan’s most famous volcano. Courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory

Looking for an Earth Day event near you? Google has created a special map with a sampling of some the day’s events open to the public across the globe.

East African Rift
The East African Rift is one of the great tectonic features of Africa, caused by fracturing of the Earth’s crust. This astronaut photograph of the Eastern Branch of the Rift (near Kenya’s southern border) taken Jan. 14, 2012, highlights the classical geologic structures associated with a tectonic rift valley. On one side of the rift lies the Nubian (or African) tectonic plate, which includes the older continental crust of Africa. The Somalian plate — which is moving away in the other direction — lies to the other side and includes the Horn of Africa. (Note that the image is oriented so that north is to the lower left.) Together with the associated Ethiopian Rift, the tectonic boundary stretches from the southern Red Sea to central Mozambique. Courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory

You don’t need to attend an official event to get involved in the environmental movement to protect our planet. You’ll make an impact by incorporating one, some or all of these activities into your daily routine:

  • Recycle.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Walk, bike or take public transportation to work.
  • Use a fabric bag to grocery shop rather than paper or plastic.
  • Go vegan (meat- and dairy-free) for at least one day per week.
  • Drink from a reusable water bottle.
  • Use a reusable coffee cup.
  • Purchase local produce.
  • Monitor your energy use by adding the Earth Mode Google Chrome extension to your browser.