This is an oldie but a goodie: the first stitched satellite image of Earth’s city lights at night. Built from data collected from October 1994 through March 1995, the full image was not published until October 2000. Two years later, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used it in a briefing to point out how impoverished North Korea was, as evidenced by its utter lack of lights.
The news today of Kim Jong-Il’s death reminded me of this image, so I went looking for it. Apparently I am not the first to think of it, judging by the results of a Google search. But the situation has not changed in the 17 years since these data were first collected — North Korea is still impoverished, and its people still regularly deal with food shortages and blackouts (that is, in areas that have electricity). The food insecurity has been so pronounced for so long that there is now a distinct morphological difference between the formerly homogenous North and South Koreans. Yet somehow North Korea’s leaders always seem to look very well-fed.
Here’s a zoom of the Koreas from the above image, with geographical boundaries added in:
The enormous city just beneath the border between the two countries is Seoul, capital of South Korea. And that tiny dot of light in North Korea is its capital, Pyongyang.
(Click the image to planetize.)