Scientists from NASA and NOAA just unveiled a series of breathtaking new images of our planet glowing at night. Thanks to high-res composite data acquired by a new sensor, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the floating Suomi NPP satellite, we can get “day-night band” images sensitive enough to detect the light from a single ship in the sea. These beautiful cloud-free night images feature cities that never sleep, within a glowing planet that is nowhere as dark as we might have thought.

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Beyond being gorgeous and giving us a new perspective on the Earth, these night images are very useful for scientific research. They can monitor dense areas of population, blackouts, and natural events like Hurricane Sandy and temporary phenomena like northern lights. Watched from space, our planet looks like a blue marble covered in oceans and clouds, but during the night is surprisingly electric!


Photo © NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC