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Black Marble - City Lights 2012
December 6, 2012 6:27 AM   Subscribe

NASA has released an updated set of Earth at Night images, obtained via the Suomi NPP satellite's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). A set of images is available on Flickr.

A jaw droppingly beautiful flattened projection of data collected over 312 orbits is available at 12,150 x 6,075 pixel resolution (flickr page link - direct fullsize jpg link).

Hemispherical shots are also available for Americas - Africa and Europe - Asia and Australia (be sure to check out the wildfires throughout the Western Australian Desert)

Official NASA Release includes animated rotating earth and further explanations.
posted by DigDoug (37 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white..."
posted by griphus at 6:41 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


These photos are frighteningly beautiful. We are at a day and age where we can place this much detail into an image of Earth.
posted by mitrieD at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2012


I've had the Desktop Earth wallpaper on my PC for some time. It updates every minute or so but I'm not sure where it pulls it images from. I wonder what the difference is from the source of their images vs NASAs.

http://desktop-earth.en.softonic.com/

posted by Twain Device at 6:45 AM on December 6, 2012


What is going on in northeast Montana? If you look straight up from the Colorado front range area there is a huge bright spot as big as Atlanta.
posted by something something at 6:46 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless the oceans are literally beginning to glow, there are some glitches around Asia.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:46 AM on December 6, 2012


Whenever I look at one of these, I am most amazed by North Korea. It's a sea of blackness, surrounded by light.

Kind of a metaphor...
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:47 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry for posting that crappy softonic link. I thought that was Desktop earths official site.
posted by Twain Device at 6:48 AM on December 6, 2012


sonic meat machine: "Unless the oceans are literally beginning to glow, there are some glitches around Asia."
The comments on the photo page claim it is fishing vessels in the Sea of Japan.
posted by brokkr at 6:50 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That bright blotch along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States? Mega-City One? Yeah, that shit's why my daughters are convinced there are only about a dozen stars in the sky. Ah, well.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:53 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The comments on the photo page claim it is fishing vessels in the Sea of Japan.

I can see that to some degree, but there is one area where there is a straight 90° angle in the middle of the ocean. What would cause that?
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:00 AM on December 6, 2012


Squid fishing ships have big rows of bright lights to attract the squid.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:05 AM on December 6, 2012


What is going on in northeast Montana? If you look straight up from the Colorado front range area there is a huge bright spot as big as Atlanta.

I have no spent 20 minutes on google maps, and wikipedia...and the best I can come up with is.. Maybe Oil Fields?

I was hoping there was a big military base there, but not on any of my maps. [is this where we put the X-Files theme song?]
posted by DigDoug at 7:05 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I R HERE
posted by spock at 7:09 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That bright blotch along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States? Mega-City One? Yeah, that shit's why my daughters are convinced there are only about a dozen stars in the sky. Ah, well.

Yeah, I am amazed by how much more unified the cities in the Carolinas are...
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:09 AM on December 6, 2012


spock, I always wondered who lived in the near perfect grid of refuelling stations small towns across the US. Welcome!
posted by DigDoug at 7:15 AM on December 6, 2012


That bright blotch along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States? Mega-City One?

The first "Earth at Night" pics made me feel like "Borg Earth" was already here. Higher resolution doesn't make me feel any better.
posted by DigDoug at 7:18 AM on December 6, 2012


(be sure to check out the wildfires throughout the Western Australian Desert)

As someone who lives there: JESUS CHRIST THAT CANNOT BE RIGHT.


I can see Perth, Karratha(?) and one of two spots that I think is Kalgoorlie, but my "That's not true! It's IMPOSSIBLE" sense is twigged. I'm not an expert, but is there the density of plantlife to burn (FROM SPAAACE)? I'd argue "no", but I am happy to be dazzled.
posted by Mezentian at 7:18 AM on December 6, 2012


Help me out here... I once saw a fascinating blog post that took the original Earth at Night image and subtracted Facebook's Visualizing Friendships, producing a map of the Earth showing where technology is found but Facebook is not. Can't find it back.
posted by rlk at 7:45 AM on December 6, 2012


Chocolate Pickle: "Whenever I look at one of these, I am most amazed by North Korea. It's a sea of blackness, surrounded by light.

Kind of a metaphor...
"

They're just really big on saving the planet.
posted by symbioid at 7:51 AM on December 6, 2012


As a longtime resident of central Texas, I was puzzled by the crescent of lights extending more or less east-west south of San Antonio. All that is in that area is scattered small towns and lots of mesquite.

I drove through there recently for the first time in many years and I was shocked by all the natural gas and oil activity. Sure enough, the oil/gas exploration/extraction seems to be the source the crescent of lights.
posted by tippiedog at 8:00 AM on December 6, 2012


My family has always lived in the Bos-Wash megacity. My mother, after divorcing my father, took up with a rich man whose father had a house in Vermont. My brother and I visited it twice before my mother ended the relationship. One night, we walked to the highest hill nearby. The number and brightness of the stars dazzled me. Compared to that sky, the one under which I live is an astronomical chart. I can only imagine what night in the western desert is like.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:04 AM on December 6, 2012


Damn, Atlanta is burning it up, just a bright as the Northeast. Must be a Nascar race on that night.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:06 AM on December 6, 2012


What is going on in northeast Montana? If you look straight up from the Colorado front range area there is a huge bright spot as big as Atlanta.

Unless the oceans are literally beginning to glow, there are some glitches around Asia.


That's the fracking boom in Western North Dakota. The oceans are indeed literally beginning to glow, those are the squid fishing fleets which use bright lights at night to attract squid.

They're just really big on saving the planet.

We're all here viewing images that demonstrate as directly as possible how the entire planet has been altered detrimentally by human activities. Joking about those silly people concerned with "saving the planet" is played out.
posted by eurypteris at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2012


Rustic Etruscan: " I can only imagine what night in the western desert is like."

On one of the first road trips I ever took, we were in Natural Bridges National Monument - one of the darkest-sky places in the continental U.S. I swear, once the moon rose, it was so bright that I could see it even with my eyes closed. The Milky Way, out there, has a whorls and edges!
posted by notsnot at 9:52 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's an actual black marble. I hacked up a little WebGL viewer so you can see this image on a spinning globe in your browser. I didn't do anything creative myself, I just pasted the NASA image into Curran Kelleher's globe viewer and hey it looks like the projection works!
posted by Nelson at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look at the Nile. Incredible.
posted by Chutzler at 9:55 AM on December 6, 2012


Yeah, see all those bright spots? That's aaaaall humans. You've got quite an infestation here, Ms. Gaia. This won't be cheap.
posted by cmoj at 10:05 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, see all those bright spots? That's aaaaall humans. You've got quite an infestation here, Ms. Gaia. This won't be cheap.

I don't know what the other exterminator told you, ma'am, but if you're willing to put up with a few years of climate change and a species extinction here or there, this sort of thing sorts itself out right after they figure out fission.
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, what the hell is that enormous patch of light at the "top" of Alaska? I can't find anything on Google Maps, but their satellite view is kind of interesting.
posted by Chutzler at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2012


Wikipedia says that northern Alaska stuff is Prudhoe Bay oil fields. In general I think all the oil fields are lit up because operations are flaring off gas; see also North Dakota, Texas, etc.
posted by Nelson at 10:12 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, so it is!
posted by Chutzler at 10:18 AM on December 6, 2012


How strange that the US is half bright and half dark, right down the middle. I wonder if that is due to aquifers?
posted by BeeDo at 11:50 AM on December 6, 2012


How strange that the US is half bright and half dark, right down the middle. I wonder if that is due to aquifers?

It's related to aquifers, but it's not the only reason. A large chunk of the US is inhospitable: mountainous, desert, or featureless and endless plain, and the states that make up this chunk are not heavily populated. No state in the Great Plains region has a population over 4 million except for Colorado and Texas, and that region makes up less than half of Texas' land area (and its least populated region, the panhandle). It also includes some of the largest states and the least populous (see: Wyoming). Even Nevada, famous as it is for Las Vegas, has less than 3 million people (it's a desert). Arizona bucks the trend and has a rather large population (6.4 million) due to their completely unsustainable water use.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2012


I can see Perth, Karratha(?) and one of two spots that I think is Kalgoorlie, but my "That's not true! It's IMPOSSIBLE" sense is twigged. I'm not an expert, but is there the density of plantlife to burn (FROM SPAAACE)? I'd argue "no", but I am happy to be dazzled.
posted by Mezentian at 12:18 AM on December 7 [+] [!]


I agree, and thought they must have some processing bug or something, but the pics were taken over multiple nights over 2 weeks, so I guess it is possible showing two weeks of burning superimposed on one image? Still dubious, however.
posted by bystander at 1:08 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The other thing this map reminds me of is my semester abroad in Madrid. I'm used to the Bos-Wash conurbation, where you have to go far to find real darkness. People have settled everywhere, and they've settled close together. The country is a long way away.

In Spain, on the other hand, the country begins where the cities end. For long distances, headlights alone illuminate the highways. Villages at the roadside twinkle on black hills. On the bus rides back from Segovia or El Escorial, the reappearance of the city always surprised me. One minute, my reflection in the window hid the dark countryside, and the next, a busy street hid my reflection.

When I go back to that country, I'm going to spend less time in the big cities.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:35 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


How strange that the US is half bright and half dark, right down the middle. I wonder if that is due to aquifers?

More likely, it is because the Federal Government owns huge swaths of it. [PDF]
posted by clearly at 6:50 PM on December 6, 2012


The MT/ND lights, I believe.

http://m.guardiannews.com/environment/2012/dec/04/north-dakota-fracking-boom-family
posted by DigDoug at 6:00 AM on December 8, 2012


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