Global light maps

satellite view of Earth at night showing western hemisphere
NOAA-NASA Satellite Image

I look at maps frequently and at length. I find them fascinating. Aerial images also appeal to me, because they have a map-like quality. Among those that have intrigued me are images of Earth showing lights at night. I came upon a new one to me recently and am sharing it here, in case others might has a similar interest.

I snagged this image from a section of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Web site devoted to the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. Interested readers can go to the page called “Our Earth at night” to read lots more, but here’s a snippet to explain a bit.

How does the globe look when the sun goes down? Scientists today [5 Dec 2012] unveiled unprecedented snapshots of Earth at night. Global composite images, constructed from cloud-free nighttime images from the new NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite, were showcased at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco. The images reveal the glow of human and natural phenomena across the entire Earth in more detail than ever before.

Many of today’s satellites are equipped to look at Earth during the day, when they can observe relatively bright objects ─ especially those illuminated by the sun. But the “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite is equipped with advanced technology that extends the view of Earth’s atmosphere and surface into the nighttime hours.

In the new images, the first things to capture the eye are the planet’s cities.

There are lots of other fascinating—at least, to me—images available at this site. For example, there’s one that dramatically demonstrates how 97% of Egypt’s population lives close to the Nile River.

Of course, that these images exist is a testament to scientific and technologic achievement. The satellites that take these photos are used for research on weather conditions (yes, forecasting), ocean conditions (yes, warming), and atmospheric conditions (yes, ozone changes, meaning climate change), as well as gathering data on beacons in the oceans that are part of an international rescue system. So, in a way, these are just side lights.

Catch the full story at Our Earth at night.


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Filed under Amusements, Eco-stuff, Notes and comments, Science, Technology

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