Thanks to advances in technology, we're now able to see "unprecedented" new views of what our incredible Earth looks like at night. NASA's scientists have just unveiled these never-before-seen photos that are global composites of the Earth. In comparison to the "blue marble" image of the Earth taken 40 years ago by the Apollo 17 crew, these new nighttime images have been called "black marble."
Last year, a new sensor, called VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), was launched aboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership Satellite, which, amazingly is sensitive enough to detect the light from a single ship in the sea. While low-light sensors have been around for over 40 years, this new sensor can detect Earth's night lights at a much higher resolution. "It's very high-quality data," NOAA scientist Christopher Elvidge told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. "I rate it six times better spatial resolution."
While the images themselves are truly breathtaking, they also serve a higher purpose. Researchers will be able to see how city populations are changing or growing, scientists will be able to study bioluminescence, the auroras, arctic ice, weather patterns and volcanic eruptions and biologists may be able to study the effects of city and suburban life on wildlife.
In order to fully appreciate this cloud-free view from space, make sure to watch the short video, below. Love how the lights on the Earth are compared to the sparkling stars in the sky.
Asia and Australia
Africa, Europe, and the Middle East
Flat Map of the World