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NASA’s Night Lights

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 (11:29 a.m.)

These are cropped images of various parts of the Earth at night taken from a NASA composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012. It took 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. Away from the cities, much of the nightlight observed by Suomi NPP is wildfire. In other places, fishing boats, gas flares, lightning, oil drilling, or mining operations can show up as points of light. The number of rural lights is also a function of composite imaging. Fires and other lighting could have been detected on any one day and integrated into the composite picture even though they were temporary. That seems to be the case in central and western Australia, where many lights appear in this map. Different areas burned with wildfire at different times that the satellite passed over, giving the impression (in the composite view) that the entire area was lit up at once.

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