TIME Picks the Most Surprising Photos of 2011

Marty Melville / AFP / Getty Images
Marty Melville / AFP / Getty Images
A rail line buckled by the shifting earth is pictured in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb. 23, 2011, a day after a deadly 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked the city. Hundreds of rescuers swarmed twisted and smoking buildings in a frantic search for survivors. The catastrophic quake left nearly 400 dead or missing.

The year 2011 brought us dramatic and unexpected images from some of the world’s major news events, including the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the violent end of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s rule and the humiliating tweet that ruined New York Representative Anthony Weiner’s career. But beyond the widely seen and iconic images that accompanied the year’s biggest events, like the death of Osama bin Laden and the shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, were unusual, equally astonishing and startling images that rested at the periphery of the news. A cat with two faces, rail tracks buckled by the shifting earth after a quake in New Zealand, the police rescue of a girl held hostage by her father, a suicidal bride and beautiful, abstract images taken from space by an astronaut photographer — these are just a few of the compelling and surprising images to have emerged beyond the main news cycle this year. Here, LightBox looks back at a small selection of the underreported, improbable and astounding images that caught the attention of TIME’s photo editors.

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