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Black Marble: NASA View Illuminates Earth at Night

When the sun goes down, the lights on Earth
shine bright. A new look using our satellite data captures the lights
coming from our neighborhoods, vehicles, buildings, factories, fishing vessels
and other human activity brightening the night.


Our scientists have just released the first
new global map of Earth at night since 2012. This nighttime view of our home
planet, dubbed the Black Marble, provides researchers with a unique perspective
of human activities around the globe.

By studying Earth at night, researchers can
investigate how and why cities expand, monitor light intensity to estimate
energy use and economic activity, and aid in disaster response in near-real


The data on Earth at night comes from the
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi
National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite
, jointly managed by NASA and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

VIIRS captures visible and infrared light,
allowing researchers to glimpse the Earth as it looks to astronauts peering out
of the International Space Station. The new map is a composite of data
collected in 2016, and it took several months of processing to filter out
clouds, moonlight, airglow, and other interfering features to create the global
image. In the coming months our scientists will release daily nighttime lights
data at even finer resolutions for the first time.


The East Coast sparkles with population hubs,
suburbs circling cities and major roadways.
The I-95 corridor includes the most densely populated region of the
United States – the stretch from Washington, DC to Boston.

To get images like these from the satellite
data, our scientists had to filter out moonlight, aerosols and other sources
of extraneous light – the goal is to eventually be able to detect the lights
from a single building or fishing boat.


Daytime satellite images, like this one from
Landsat 8, can show us the forests, deserts, mountains, waterways and built-up
cities. Add a nighttime view, and scientists can study when and how people are
using these limited resources – like the lights tracing the Nile River leading
to the metropolis of Cairo, Egypt.


Lights aren’t confined to land. With the
global nighttime view, the ocean is dotted with fishing fleets, including boats
that try to attract their catch with bright lights.


What lights illuminate your neighborhood?
Download a high-resolution version of the Black Marble HERE, and find out more about our new night lights data HERE.

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Source: NASA

Black Marble: NASA View Illuminates Earth at Night

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