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Our Electric Earth at Night: the “Black Marble”

Suomi NPP composite satellite image of North and South America at night

Suomi NPP satellite image of North and South America at night

In daylight our big blue marble is all land, oceans and clouds. But the night is electric.

This image of North and South America at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. The new data was mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.

The nighttime view was made possible by the new satellite’s “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight. In this case, auroras, fires, and other stray light have been removed to emphasize the city lights.

Although the view looking down from space is of a sparkling show, the downside of course is light pollution over major metropolitan areas which impede the view of the night sky from the ground. (Find out more at the International Dark Sky Association site.)

Read more (and watch a video of these nighttime images of Earth) below:

Read the rest of this entry

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