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"Satellite Photo of Earth at Night"



Shown below is a famous NASA image that is often called a "satellite photo of earth at night." It isn't really a "photo." Instead it is an image that was compiled using data from a sensor aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite launched in 2011. This sensor allows researchers to observe Earth's atmosphere and surface during nighttime hours. It is a map of the location of lights on Earth's surface. Each white dot on the map represents the light of a city, fire, ship at sea, oil well flare or other light source. The full-earth image is shown below along with detail images of the United States, Europe and Africa, South America, Asia and Australia.

Satellite Photo of the World at Night  

Earth at night

This map shows the geographic distribution of cities. It clearly shows that cities are concentrated in Europe, the eastern United States, Japan, China, and India. It is a better map for showing the geography of night time electricity consumption for outdoor lighting than it is for showing the geography of population. For example: the eastern United States is very bright, but the more densely populated areas of China and India are not nearly as bright in this image because the amount of light per person is smaller. NASA Image. Click to view larger image.



Satellite Photo of the United States at Night

United States at night

This map shows the geographic distribution of night time lights in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Strong lights occur in a strand that includes Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City and Boston. Most of the large cities of Canada are located within a couple hundred miles of the United States border. Chicago stands out on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and other major cities in the central states are connected by a network of highways. On the west coast, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego stand out. The coastlines of Florida and Puerto Rico are lined with bright cities. Finally, the cities of Hawaii and oil facilities of the north Alaska coast are also "visible from space." NASA Image. Click to view larger image.

Satellite Photo of Europe and Africa at Night

Europe and Africa at night

Western Europe is aglow with night lights. This image clearly shows that the cities of Europe are along the coasts. The Mediterranean coasts of Italy, France and Spain are a solid line of light as are the southern shorelines of the Black and Caspian Seas. The Sahara of northern Africa and the jungles of south-central Africa are largely void of illuminated cities. One of the most striking features on this image is the high concentration of cities on the Nile River, downstream from the Aswan Dam. NASA Image. Click to view larger image.



Satellite Photo of South America at Night

South America at night

The cities of South America are mainly concentrated on the southwestward-facing Atlantic coast, along the Pacific coast and northern Colombia and Venezuela. Large areas of the Amazon Basin are without bright cities, and some of the night lights there might actually be the fires of deforestation and agricultural burning. NASA Image. Click to view larger image.

Satellite Photo of Asia and Australia at Night

Asia and Australia at night

Japan stands out on this satellite view of Asia at night, along with the west coast of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Bangkok. The route of the Trans-Siberian Railroad can be seen as a light line across the otherwise dark area of northern Russia. High city densities in eastern China, Indonesia, India and the eastern coast of Australia can clearly be seen. NASA Image. Click to view larger image.




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