NASA has unveiled some beautiful new pictures of the entire Earth shrouded in darkness, but lit up from below by street lights, wildfires, and the faint glow of moonlight. The images are composites of thousands and thousands of photos gathered by the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, which uses a new kind of infrared camera to detect light sources that previously were not always visible from space. It took the satellite 312 orbits to capture quality images of every spot on Earth, and months of computer crunching to assemble to shots.
The cameras also allows the satellite to observe weather systems at night, making forecasts much more accurate. One of the images of the Western Hemisphere shows what looks like Hurricane Sandy hovering off the coast of the United States. (The photos were assembled from photos taken in April and October of this year.)
There's also this new close-up image of the lower 48, showing our nationwide power grid hard at work. One thing that sticks out for us is the surprisingly large bright spot in what appears to be an otherwise dark North Dakota. Could that be the state's exploding oil industry working overtime?
You can go the NASA website to read more about the process and download super-duper high-resolution copies of the photos, as well some "fly-by" animations, piecing together the whole globe into brief videos.