The Night Lights of Planet Earth

    Newer Older

    Credit: NASA/GSFC

    This remarkable image is actually a composite of hundreds of images created using satellite data collected at night.

    The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated. (Compare western Europe with China and India.) Cities tend to grow along coastlines and transportation networks. Even without the underlying map, the outlines of many continents would still be visible. The United States interstate highway system appears as a lattice connecting the brighter dots of city centers. In Russia, the Trans-Siberian railroad is a thin line stretching from Moscow through the center of Asia to Vladivostok. The Nile River, from the Aswan Dam to the Mediterranean Sea, is another bright thread through an otherwise dark region.

    Even more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, some regions remain thinly populated and unlit. Antarctica is entirely dark. The interior jungles of Africa and South America are mostly dark, but lights are beginning to appear there. Deserts in Africa, Arabia, Australia, Mongolia, and the United States are poorly lit as well (except along the coast), along with the boreal forests of Canada and Russia, and the great mountains of the Himalaya.

    This image of Earth’s city lights was created with data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS). Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth’s surface.

    The Earth Observatory article Bright Lights, Big City describes how NASA scientists use city light data to map urbanization.

    For higher resolution images, additional caption and credit information, see:

    iceindymusic, |||-_-_-|||, and 116 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. elegant desire [deleted] ages ago | reply

      wow, that s quite interesting!

    2. ms.lume ages ago | reply

      My name is Lucy and I'm a writer for Super Eco. We'd like to use your picture in this story: It is excellent and will compliment the story very well. Please email me if you have any objections or concerns: Thank you!!!

    3. marnanel 116 months ago | reply

      Thanks for posting this under a free licence. I've used it with attribution as part of my tutorial on the Shavian alphabet.

    4. merlinberg1 112 months ago | reply

      Thank you, the image is amazing view of just where energy is used in the world. I plan to use on page energy conservation first.

    5. Paw Prints Charming 100 months ago | reply

      Woah, that's super cool!

    6. mehmehyimei 80 months ago | reply

      Hello! Would like to request for permission to use this splendid shot of yours in a Singaporean travel agency website. I will link the photo to your photo stream and include credits wherever it's due. Hope to hear from you soon!

    7. mihai_rusu5 64 months ago | reply

      Woul like to request permission to make a banner from this pic.

    8. corbinram 45 months ago | reply

      Hi, Would like to request the use of this photo please for a media website.

    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts