Black Marble - City Lights 2012
The night side of Earth twinkles with light, and the first thing to stand out is the cities. “Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights,” asserts Chris Elvidge, a NOAA scientist who has studied them for 20 years.
This new global view and animation of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012. It took satellite 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.
The nighttime view in visible light was made possible by the new “day-night band” of Suomi NPP’s 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, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight. This low-light sensor can distinguish night lights with ten to hundreds of times better light detection capability than scientists had before.
Named for satellite meteorology pioneer Verner Suomi, NPP flies over any given point on Earth&rsquos surface twice each day at roughly 1:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The polar-orbiting satellite flies 824 kilometers (512 miles) above the surface as it circles the planet 14 times a day. Data is sent once per orbit to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway, and continuously to local direct broadcast users around the world. The mission is managed by NASA with operational support from NOAA and its Joint Polar Satellite System, which manages the satellite’s ground system.
NASA Earth Observatory image and animation by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center). Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.