Black Marble: NASA View Illuminates Earth at Night
When the sun goes down, the lights on Earth
shine bright. A new look using our satellite data captures the lights
coming from our neighborhoods, vehicles, buildings, factories, fishing vessels
and other human activity brightening the night.
Our scientists have just released the first
new global map of Earth at night since 2012. This nighttime view of our home
planet, dubbed the Black Marble, provides researchers with a unique perspective
of human activities around the globe.
By studying Earth at night, researchers can
investigate how and why cities expand, monitor light intensity to estimate
energy use and economic activity, and aid in disaster response in near-real
VIIRS captures visible and infrared light,
allowing researchers to glimpse the Earth as it looks to astronauts peering out
of the International Space Station. The new map is a composite of data
collected in 2016, and it took several months of processing to filter out
clouds, moonlight, airglow, and other interfering features to create the global
image. In the coming months our scientists will release daily nighttime lights
data at even finer resolutions for the first time.
To get images like these from the satellite
data, our scientists had to filter out moonlight, aerosols and other sources
of extraneous light – the goal is to eventually be able to detect the lights
from a single building or fishing boat.
Daytime satellite images, like this one from
Landsat 8, can show us the forests, deserts, mountains, waterways and built-up
cities. Add a nighttime view, and scientists can study when and how people are
using these limited resources – like the lights tracing the Nile River leading
to the metropolis of Cairo, Egypt.
Lights aren’t confined to land. With the
global nighttime view, the ocean is dotted with fishing fleets, including boats
that try to attract their catch with bright lights.
What lights illuminate your neighborhood?
Download a high-resolution version of the Black Marble HERE, and find out more about our new night lights data HERE.
The gorgeous drama unravels the emotional journey of one boy’s life in three dramatic stages (each played by a different incredible Black actor) as he navigates his personal desires and responsibilities. Moonlight won and it so deserved it. It has also rendered everyone speechless. All anyone can say is: Moonlight.