Hurricane season is under way — a perfect opportunity to look at these amazing storms from a different perspective. NASA offers just the right viewpoint to study hurricanes, whether from 22,000-mile-high weather satellites or the International Space Station, which orbits about 250 miles overhead.

Here's a look at some of the space agency's best shots of tropical cyclones:

Hurricane Bill (2009)

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season had been quiet — thanks largely to El Niño — until it lurched awake in August. Tropical storms Ana, Bill and Claudette all formed within five days of each other, and Bill became a deadly Category 4. After a few weeks of spitting out weak storms, however, the Atlantic remained mostly calm in '09 while typhoons plagued the Pacific.

Hurricane Ivan (2004)

Hurricane Ivan was a powerful, long-lived cyclone that made two U.S. landfalls and reached Category 5 strength three times. This image was shot from the International Space Station as Ivan spun toward Gulf Shores, Ala., where storm surges swelled to 16 feet. Ivan also dumped 15 inches of rain in some places and spawned 23 tornadoes in Florida alone.

Lifespan: Sept. 2-24, 2004

Max. wind speed: 165 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Frances (2004)

Hurricane Frances battered the Bahamas on Sept. 1, 2004, caught in the act here by NASA's SeaWiFS satellite. The storm then moved on toward central Florida, just three weeks after Hurricane Charley had already ravaged the area — and three weeks before Hurricane Jeanne would ravage it again.

Lifespan: Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2004

Max. wind speed: 140 mph (Category 4)

Hurricane Isabel (2003)

Seen here three days before striking North Carolina's Outer Banks, Hurricane Isabel was the strongest, costliest and deadliest storm of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. Its well-defined eye was nearly 50 miles wide when this photo was taken from aboard the space station Sept. 15, 2003.

Lifespan: Sept. 6-20, 2003

Max. wind speed: 165 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Emily (2005)

As they orbited high above the Gulf of Mexico on July 16, 2005, the space-station crew spotted this moonrise staring down into the eye of Hurricane Emily, a growing Category 4 storm at the time. It was a Category 5 the next day, eventually becoming the strongest known Atlantic hurricane to ever form in July.

Lifespan: July 10-21, 2005

Max. wind speed: 160 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

Hurricane Katrina's economic, ecological and emotional toll can still be felt six years after it devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities. This overhead view was captured by NASA's GOES-12 weather satellite on Aug. 28, 2005 — the day before Katrina became the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history.

Lifespan: Aug. 23-30, 2005

Max. wind speed: 175 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Gordon (2006)

An astronaut aboard the space shuttle Atlantis shot this photo of Hurricane Gordon on Sept. 15, 2006, using a 35mm digital camera. Gordon was one of three consecutive cyclones in 2006 (along with Florence and Helene) that avoided landfall in North America by swooping northeast toward the British Isles.

Lifespan: Sept. 11-21, 2006

Max. wind speed: 121 mph (Category 3)

Hurricane Wilma (2005)

This portrait of Hurricane Wilma's eye and cloud deck was taken by a space-station crew member 220 miles overhead on Oct. 19, 2005. Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, with a record low pressure of 882 millibars, and was the third Category 5 storm during the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season.

Lifespan: Oct. 15-26, 2005

Max. wind speed: 175 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Ophelia (2005)

Hurricane Ophelia, framed here by a window on the space station, was the 15th named storm and eighth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season. It fluctuated wildly in strength and speed, with its eye growing wider than 100 miles across at one point. The eye never made landfall, but Ophelia skirted close enough to the U.S. coast to cause $70 million in damage.

Lifespan: Sept. 6-17, 2005

Max. wind speed: 85 mph (Category 1)

Hurricane Andrew (1992)

This panoramic image, courtesy of NASA's GOES-7 satellite, shows the Earth on Aug. 25, 1992, when Hurricane Andrew had just carved its infamous path through South Florida and was headed for more in Louisiana. Andrew was one of only two Category 5 storms to form in the 1990s, and remains the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, following Katrina.

Lifespan: Aug. 16-28, 1992

Max. wind speed: 175 mph (Category 5)

Hurricane Jeanne (2004)

The 2.8 million Floridians who evacuated Hurricane Frances in 2004 didn't have much time to regroup before Hurricane Jeanne came knocking. When this image was shot from the space station on Sept. 25, 2004, Jeanne's 60-mile-wide eye was about six hours away from making landfall near Stuart, Fla. — almost exactly the same place Frances had hit three weeks earlier.

Lifespan: Sept. 13-27, 2004

Max. wind speed: 120 mph (Category 3)

1943 "surprise" hurricane

No, this photo wasn't taken from a satellite, but it nonetheless highlights the importance of NASA's eyes in the sky. The "surprise" hurricane of 1943 was only a Category 1 storm, but it devastated the Texas coast because people weren't prepared. There were no weather satellites in 1943, and ships' radio signals had been silenced due to U.S. concerns about German U-boats invading the Gulf of Mexico — so there was little warning.

Lifespan: July 25-28, 1943

Max. wind speed: 86 mph (Category 1)

All photos courtesy NASA; "surprise" hurricane photo courtesy NOAA

More on MNN:

How to prepare for a hurricane

8 amazing images of Earth from space

10 things you didn't know about the International Space Station

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.