In recent years, the myth that we can clearly see the Great Wall of China from space has been largely busted. Although the wall is long, it’s not very wide and blends in too well with the surrounding environment. While that realization might be somewhat disappointing, there are still plenty of earthly things we can see from space, especially when in low Earth orbit—where satellites and the International Space Station (ISS) hang out.
Open-pit mines are essentially massive quarries where gold, copper, uranium, and other resources are extracted from the ground. The process requires digging a hole into the ground to access the resources, and this hole continues to deepen and widen so long as the miners are unearthing things of value and making money.
Consequently, these pits often expand to gigantic proportions that are as noticeable from space as any lake or mountain. For example, the now-closed Mir diamond mine in Russia is so colossal that officials had to enforce a no-fly zone over the pit.
Apparently, the 523-meter-deep (1,700 ft) and 1,200-meter-wide (3,900 ft) pit created such a downdraft that it caused helicopters to fall out of the sky.
And that’s not even the biggest mine in the world—that title goes to the Bingham Canyon mine, also known as the Kennecott copper mine, located outside Salt Lake City, Utah.
The mine is an astounding 1.2 kilometers (0.7 mi) deep and 4.4 kilometers (2.7 mi) wide. Two Empire State buildings could fit stacked on top of each other and still not reach the top, and the mine is expected to continue expanding until 2030. NASA astronauts snapped the above photo of the enormous Bingham Canyon mine while passing over it on the ISS.