Satellite imagery has continued to give us more and better high-resolution views of our planet, many of which are breathtakingly beautiful, but none of which show us the true impact of human settlement. This one does.
Courtesy of the NASA/NOAA Suomi satellite, which mapped the planet at local night time, we now have a composite image of an entirely dark Earth. The satellite’s sensors can pick up the light from a single fishing boat, which means that the final image is packed with visual data. You can’t begin to see it from that little version above; instead, check out the full-size version (and click on it once the page opens; the initial rendering is meant to fit your browser, but the full image is vast).
Of course I looked at the Iberian Peninsula first — Madrid sure is hard to miss. And it seems as if the entire population of Portugal is crammed into the coastal areas. Northern Italy is amazing, and there is no way to miss the Nile River. Anyone doubting India’s rise as a modern nation need only look at the way it outshines its neighbors to realize what a powerhouse it really is. (Pun intended.)
Scanning over to Australia, it looks like wildfires in the interior are outnumbering the actual settlements…and the South Island of New Zealand is almost entirely dark (which is how hobbits like it). North and South Korea are like mirror images of each other, with one light and the other so dark that it’s almost indistinguishable from the ocean. And over in the United States, the difference between the eastern and western halves of the nation is nearly as stark.
You can spend a long time playing around with this. But before you do, go over to NASA’s Suomi NPP page and check out their press release. Most of all, you want to go to the bottom of that page and watch the 2-minute video. It’s very cool, and I wouldn’t have recognized the boggling straight-edged cluster of fishing boats in the Yellow Sea without it.
Oh, look at Madeira; you can actually see the shape of the island…[back to playing]