An Amazing, Hyper-Detailed Satellite View of the Earth's Lights at Night

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Cities, rivers, and even wildfires can be distinguished in this rich composite of satellite images of our planet, taken by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. The project is a collaboration between NASA's Earth Observatory and NOAA's Geophysical Data Center. Browsing their interactive global map feels a little like flying across the country at night -- except 512 miles up, circling the Earth 14 times a day. 

As the video below explains, the Suomi is sensitive enough to pick up light from boats on rivers and oceans, wildfires in Australia, and even the flames of oil rigs in the Persian Gulf. Watch the clip full screen to appreciate the level of detail in structures like the border between North and South Korea. 

Don't miss this "black marble" composite, via The Atlantic's Rebecca Rosen, who explains how the video was created: 

Scientists then mapped the satellite's data -- 2.5 terabytes of it -- over an earlier Blue Marble image, transforming that picture's daytime blues, browns, and greens into a nightime palette of blues, blacks, and gold. The Suomi NPP’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite can detect lights as faint as a lone highway lamp -- meaning pretty much any human outcropping where electricity runs.

 

 

You can download a high-resolution world map here, and browse NASA's "blue marble" Flickr gallery here

For more videos from NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov/.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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