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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

Darken the Lights

This Saturday, from 8:30 to 9:30pm your local time, join millions of people around the world in celebration of the 4th annual Earth Hour by turning off the lights in your home or office. It’s a message of support for our planet!

It’s about individual empowerment and generating an interest and a global voice on climate change action. It’s about uniting people, either virtually or in person, within their community, county, state, country and across borders. It’s about knowing there are millions of others wanting and asking for the same thing–a secure climate and future.

– Lynn Englum, The Huffington Post

Some other things you can do to help reduce your “carbon footprint” (from the World Wildlife Fund):

  1. Purchase energy efficient appliances. They cut carbon pollution and save you money!
  2. Make sure your dishwasher and washing machine are always full before you run them as this will save energy and money
  3. Weather-proofing your home is a great way to save energy. Caulk your doors and windows, add insulation or add shades to use in the summer!
  4. Leaving your computer for awhile? Put it on stand-by & it will take less energy than shutting down and restarting
  5. Fix leaking faucets. The constant drip wastes water, energy and money, so repair them as soon as possible.
  6. Eat more veggies! On average, it takes nearly 10 times as much fossil fuel to produce animal protein compared to plant protein.
  7. Unplug appliances and phone charges when they aren’t in use. If they’re plugged in, they’re drawing energy and costing you money.

Our planet has been around for over four and a half billion years. During that time it has undergone many changes, as have the countless lifeforms that have evolved to exist on it…including us. We share this world with many other forms of life, each unique in the fact that they exist no place else in the universe, to our knowledge.  it’s important that we make sure we, as a species, don’t continue to alter the environment in such a way as to make existence impossible for other forms of life….again, including us. Turning off the lights for an hour won’t “save the world”. But it will make a statement that you care, and perhaps remind you that it’s not that hard to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home. Who knows….if enough people and enough companies and cities follow suit, not just for one hour but as a general practice, we can actually slow down the outpouring of fossil fuel emissions enough to make a real difference.

Our planet is our home – our only home – and we share it, we don’t own it. Let’s try to keep it clean.

Some of the iconic buildings around the world scheduled to go dark during Earth Hour include: the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York, the Sears/Willis Tower in Chicago, the Space Needle in Seattle, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and both the National Cathedral and the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.

– Harriet Baskas, msnbc.com contributor

Read more on msnbc.com, on the Earth Hour link above and on Universe Today.

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