Earth at Night – NASA/JPL/GSFC/DMSP 2000

Earth at Night

This image shows Earth at night.  There are relatively few pictures of planet Earth that show Earth at night.  This image was specially constructed using satellite data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).  While most pictures of Earth from space would present the Earth as a sphere, in this case numerous satellite images of Earth were processed into a simple cylindrical projection, also known as Plate Carrée. 

This unique satellite view of Earth was constructed in order to study urbanization across the world.  It turned out the easiest and clearest way to identify human impact across the globe was to construct a view of Earth at night.  The brighter areas are more urbanized and display some relationship with energy consumption per person.  Some of the brightest areas are the east coast of the USA and the southern islands of Japan.

In contrast, the North and South Poles are completely dark.  There are other regions that are relatively dark such as the jungles of South America and the deserts of Africa, Mongolia, and Australia.

Upon close examination, a number of transportation routes can be seen in the Earth at night, such as interstate highways in the USA, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the Nile River flowing through Egypt.

This picture of Earth at night probably shows the presence of our advanced civilization better than any other satellite picture of the Earth.