NASA has released a new version of its Earth at Night image showing just how lit up the earth is at night from both natural and man made light sources. The satellite used is even powerful enough to pick up the lights from ships in the ocean.

In daylight our big blue marble is all land, oceans and clouds. But the night – is electric.

This view of Earth at night is a cloud-free view from space as acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership Satellite (Suomi NPP). A joint program by NASA and NOAA, Suomi NPP captured this nighttime image by the satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The day-night band on VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights, gas flares, and wildfires. This new image is a composite of data acquired over nine days in April and thirteen days in October 2012. It took 312 satellite orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of land surface.

And a flattened version of it that makes NZ look pretty dark compared to some of those massive urban areas like Europe or the eastern half of the US.

They even have a google maps type viewer letting you zoom in on the image, here is New Zealand

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19 comments

  1. I was wondering the same thing about WA, but they aren’t mines. You can see the Pilbara region to the west and the Kalgoorlie region to the south which are mines, but that is really desert country. I’ve flown over it a couple of times and it is all sand dunes. There isn’t even scrub to have fires. Possibly lightning or something else atmospheric.

    1. Last time I flew there I wondered at the rectangular ‘fires’ I kept on seeing near Perth. Found out later that the wheat farmers periodically burn the stubble, and these burn bright enough to be spotted at 33,000 feet. These were all seen in the wheat belt area.

  2. Haha, we were all wondering the same thing. It would have to be wildfires surely… that is a real no man’s land in the middle of Western Australia.

  3. They look a bit like clouds when you zoom in using the online viewer, perhaps as suggested a big electrical storm moving across the desert.

  4. It also appears that there is a new town/island off the coast of the Otago Peninsula. Must be a ship or something I suppose….

  5. Interesting to see the straight line of lights from Auckland all the way to Hamilton. Will one of the next images taken show a straight line to Wellsford only to disappear into the void?

    1. Obi, I wondered the same thing. It’s in the Stratford/Eltham area, so I wonder whether it’s something to do with the Fonterra factory there combined with the lights from the two townships?

  6. The commentator would be wrong.

    This is to the east of the Percival Lakes and is in a bright spot on the NASA map. http://goo.gl/maps/sJTpz It’s around where the Gibson, Little Sandy and Great Desert come together, The Canning Stock Route goes through this country (4WD’s only in convoy and then only in winter if you want to drive it) – the plants are too sparse to support fires. It is longitudinal sand dunes

  7. I read that and I reckon NASA is wrong. There simply isn’t the density of vegetation out there to support a fire getting from one isolate bush to the next.

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