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13 Amazing Things Caught on Camera for the First Time

There's a first for everything—and sometimes, when we're lucky enough, it gets caught on film.

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Video Camera Lensboonyoo/Getty Images

A picture is worth a thousand words…

…and this is especially true when said picture includes never-before-seen images. From space discoveries to aviation breakthroughs, scroll through to take a look at these breathtaking photographs. Want to see more? Check out these 22 arrestingly beautiful photographs that stand the test of time afterward. Happy viewing!

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Astronomers capture first image of a Black Hole, press conference, European Commission, Brussels, BelgiumIsopix/Shutterstock

The first photograph of a black hole

Fifty years after astronomer John Wheeler coined the term “black hole” to describe extremely dense objects possessing such strong gravitational pull that even light cannot escape (the existence of which Einstein had first predicted 51 years before that), a team of scientists actually captured a black hole’s image on film. That was in 2017, but it took another two years for the image to make its way to the public—because photographing a black hole involved a worldwide network of radio telescopes from which all the data had to be strategically assembled into a cohesive whole. The photo helped scientists discover what is inside a black hole.

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Warren de la Rue's photograph of total solar eclipse at Rivabellosa, Spain 18 July 1860. First solar eclipse to be photographed.Universal History Archive/UIG/Shutterstock

The first solar eclipse ever photographed

A total solar eclipse (in which the position of the moon causes a total obstruction of the sun from somewhere on Earth) occurs somewhere on Earth about once every year or two, but the location from which any given solar eclipse is visible can be so remote that no human is present to see it. Nevertheless, a Victorian-age photographer managed to capture the first image of a total solar eclipse in July 1860, just over 20 years after the very first photograph of anything was ever taken. Now that’s progress. And here are 24 astronomy facts they didn’t teach you in school.

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The 'Flyer' makes a perfect take-off. Orville Wright, arranged that this photograph would be taken of the first controlled, sustained and powered heavier-than-air flight. 17th December, 1903.Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

First photo of an airplane in flight

Photos of airplanes flying are no big deal nowadays, but back in 1903, aviation was still so new that no one had ever captured an image of an airplane flying, let alone taking off. But that’s precisely what happened here at Kitty Hawk when Orville Wright arranged for this photo to be taken of the first controlled, sustained, and powered heavier-than-air flight. Here are 50 other pieces of airplane trivia we know you’ve always been curious about.

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The First Aerial Photograph of Mt Everest's SummitHistoria/Shutterstock

The first aerial photo of Everest

The first aerial photograph of Mt. Everest’s summit was taken in April 1933 during another first: The first airplane flight over Mt. Everest. Many believe this photograph is dated April 3, 1933, but a nephew of the photographer and pilot of the plane from which the photograph was taken, writing for National Geographic, notes that the photos from April 3 didn’t come out. On April 16, 1933, they made another attempt and successfully returned with photos. Check out what these other famous landmarks looked like 100 years ago.

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United States detonating an atomic bomb at Bikini Atoll in Micronesia in the first underwater test of the device, 1946.Universal History Archive/UIG/Shutterstock

The first photo of an underwater atomic bomb

On July 16, 1945, an atomic bomb was detonated for the first time ever in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was only a test but led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than a month later. One year later, the U.S. military wanted to test what would happen if they detonated an atomic bomb underwater. This photo shows the detonating of the bomb called “Helen of Bikini” in the middle of Bikini Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands—the first atomic mushroom cloud that rose out of the water. Get a look at some more rarely seen photos of significant historical moments.

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The World's First View of EarthHistoria/Shutterstock

First photo of Earth from the moon

On August 23, 1966, humans were given their first opportunity to see what Earth looks like from the moon. The photo was taken robotically, by Lunar Orbiter 1 from a distance of about 236,000 miles. Fun fact: It wasn’t the first time Earth had been photographed from space; that happened in 1946 via a 35 mm camera strapped to a rocket that a group of scientists managed to launch 65 miles into space.

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1,412px x 1,321px, 5.3MB @300ppi Add to lightbox *Full story: One small step for photography … one giant leap for mankind. The first ever complete colour picture of planet earth in human history has sold for £2,600 at auction. Taken in 1967, from 22,300 miles above the surface of the earth, the image caused a sensation as people were able to see the planet in all its glory for the very first time. The historic snap was taken on 5th November 1967 from the American geostationary equatorial satellite ATS-III positioned 22,300 miles over Brazil. Made up of 2400 strips of information transmitted by the satellite, the full picture was released to the public on 18th November 1967. Sarah Wheeler, photographic expert at Bloomsbury, which handled the sale, said: "It is a very dramatic picture for the time and it caused great excitement across the globe. "It actually came from a weather satellite which was up there to transmit images to be of use to weather forecasters back on earth". First colour photo of the entire EarthBournemouth News/Shutterstock

First color photo of Earth

Just as the first photograph of a black hole was accomplished through the assembly of disparate pieces of data from separate instruments, so too was the first color photograph of Earth. In 1967, two different satellites that had been launched months apart took photographs of the Earth, which were put together to create this first color image of Earth from space. We may have these incredible photos, but there are still plenty of bizarre mysteries about the universe that no one has solved.

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Astronaut Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag during the Apollo 11 missionCanadian Press/Shutterstock

First photo of a human on the moon

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon as well as the first human to take a photo while standing on the moon. But, alas, Armstrong was not the first human to be photographed on the moon. That distinction went to Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, who was the second human to walk on the moon but wasn’t holding the camera. Both men left footprints on the moon that are still clearly visible—check out these other spooky facts you never knew about the moon.

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view from Apollo 17 December 1972. First photograph of south polar ice capUniversal History Archive/UIG/Shutterstock

First photograph of the South polar ice cap

The crew of Apollo 17 took this photo of Earth from space—the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the South polar ice cap, according to NASA.

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Jupiter and its four planet-size moonsF&A Archive/Shutterstock

The first photo of Jupiter and its moons

“Jupiter and its four planet-size moons, called the Galilean satellites, were photographed in early March 1979 by Voyager 1 and assembled into this collage,” according to NASA. Although they’re not to scale, they’re in their relative positions.

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Cat's Eye NebulaUncredited/AP/Shutterstock

The first photo of the Cat’s Eye Nebula

A planetary nebula forms when stars similar to our sun release their outer layers of gas, which form bright nebulae, according to NASA. Here is the first photographic image of the Cat’s Eye Nebula, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994.

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The first time a plane broke the sound barrier

The reason this photo looks unreal is that what it’s capturing had never ever been captured on film before: It’s the moment a Navy jet fighter plane crashed through the sound barrier. As the plane accelerated towards the speed of sound, shock waves caused a cloud to form, which the plane broke through upon reaching the speed of sound, according to the Acoustics Graduate Program at Penn State University.

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Northern and Southern Auroras, simultaneously

It was long suspected that the auroras of the north and south were near mirror images of one another, but it wasn’t until October 2002 that a photograph taken by NASA’s orbiting Polar spacecraft confirmed this. Read on to learn about 50 more inspiring, funny, and bizarre historic firsts.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.