India and Pakistan's Relationship, According to Space

The divide between the two countries, as seen from low-Earth orbit
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION]
The India/Pakistan border at night (NOAA imagery courtesy Ka Chun Yu)

There is a lot that can be known only by nightfall. Seen at night -- and from a distance -- the Earth can reveal new truths about itself and its occupants.

I mention that because of the image above, which is based on data captured by Suomi NPP, the Earth-observing research satellite that orbits the planet as a collaboration between NASA and NOAA. This afternoon, as part of a presentation at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Dr. Ka Chun Yu and Dr. Bob Raynolds of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science presented the image as part of a broader view of Earth seen at night -- and from space.

The image depicts the lights of India and Pakistan. It shows the areas of human concentration -- the cities and highways and other bits of infrastructure. You can tell, via the darkness, where the rural areas are. And you can tell, if you look a little more closely, where rivers are.

And if you look more closely still, you can see something else, too. Smack in the middle of the image -- vaguely echoing the lines of the river to its left -- is a spindly line of light winding down the length of the image. It's a line notable for its line-iness: Instead of the bursts of illumination that give the map its sense of organic humanity, the line threads down at a uniform width. 

That line is the International Border, the recognized geographic divide between the two countries. The line of lights is the fence built to demarcate the separation. 

Most imagery of space is notable for its transcendence: it shows one Earth and recognizes neither nations nor the disagreements between them. This one, however, is notable for the opposite. The divide between India and Pakistan here isn't overcome by more universal things. It's stark. It's bright. And it's visible from space. 

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In