Earth at Night: Our Planet in Brilliant Darkness

Earth at Night: Our Planet in Brilliant Darkness
Earth at Night: Our Planet in Brilliant Darkness
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Earth at Night: Our Planet in Brilliant Darkness provides majestic images of space orbits during nighttime that are as fantastically beautiful as any image of Earth by day. NASA satellites bring to life the beauty of Earth from space through a collection of photographic images covering most of Earth’s more illuminated regions and cities.  You’ll be amazed by natural phenomena such as auroras, wildfires, phytoplankton, and volcanic eruptions.

Look for these fantastic photographs:

  • Earth at Night
  • Progression of the Rim Fire—Yosemite, California
  • Aurora Borealis—Midwestern United States
  • Airglow—Australia



Table of Contents

Contents Foreword  x

Preface xii

Acknowledgments  xiv

An Introduction to Nightlights 2

Blue Marble Becomes Black Marble 4

Vision and Remote Sensing  6

Seeing Is Sensing  6

What Is Light?  6

Remote Sensing  8

Orbiting Tools to Observe Nightlights 10

Improvements in ISS Photography—Northeastern United States 16

Coming into Focus—Cairo, Egypt18

Where Do Nightlights Come From?  20

Beyond City Lights—Java Sea  22

Moonlight, Old Lights, and New Lights—Gulf of Mexico  24

A World of Change 26

Nature’s Light Shows 28

Fires 32

Tracking Fires Day and Night—Northwest United States 32

Progression of the Rim Fire—Yosemite, California  35
Spreading Like Wildfire—Yakutia, Siberia, Russia  36

City Lights, or Not—Australia 39

Billowing Smoke in the Night—Idaho and Montana  40

Fires Light Up Mount Vesuvius—Naples, Italy 42

Volcanoes 44

The Infrared Glows of Kilauea’s Lava Flows—Hawaii 44

Mount Tongariro Erupts—New Zealand 46

vi Earth at Night Nighttime Glow at Mount Etna—Italy  48

Mount Etna Erupts—Italy  50

Moonlight and Moonglint 52

Moon Phases—Persian Gulf  52

Moonglint—Elba and the Mediterranean  54

Clouds and Lightning  56

Marine Layer Clouds—California 56
A Blizzard by Moonlight—Northeastern United States  59

Sensing Lightning from the ISS—Saudi Arabia and Bolivia 60

Lightning—Japan  62

Elusive Sprite Captured from the ISS—Southeast Asia  64

The Electric Eye of Cyclone Bansi—Indian Ocean  67

Snow and Ice  68

Snow Cover—Great Lakes Region, United States  68

Polar Darkness—The Arctic 71

Auroras  72

Aurora Borealis—Midwestern United States 72

Looking Down at the Aurora—Northern Hemisphere 74

Aurora Lights Up the Night—Antarctica 76

Airglow 78

Airglow—Australia 78

Night Colors—Russia  81

Waves in Airglow—Texas 82

Human Light Sources  84

Urban Structure 86

Constrained by Geography—Reno, Nevada 86

Grid of City Blocks—Phoenix, Arizona  88

Unpopulated Slopes of an Active Volcano—Naples, Italy  90

Dazzling Coastlines—Italy  92

Living on Fertile Land—Nile River, Egypt 94


The Winding Seine River and the City of Light—Paris, France 96

Lighting Paths to Oil—Qatar 98

Snaking Along Canyon Cliffs—Haifa, Israel  100

Differences in Socio-Economic Strategies—Korean Peninsula 102

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t—Argentina  104

A Well-Lit Border, Indus River—Pakistan 106

Urban Development  108

Lighting Paths—Across the United States 108

The Brightest Spot on Earth—Las Vegas, Nevada 110

Rapid Urban Growth—Shanghai, China  112

Turning Up the Lights—India  114

Olympics at Night—Sochi, Russia  116

Power Outages  118

Hurricane Maria 118

Hurricane Maria into the Night—Puerto Rico  118

Lights Out—Puerto Rico  120

Hurricane Matthew 122

Hurricane Matthew Brushes Florida Coast—Southeast United States 122

Lights Out After Matthew—Southeast United States  124

Hurricane Michael 126

Florida Slammed by Hurricane Michael—Florida Panhandle 126

Michael Churns at Night—Florida Panhandle  127

Lights Out in Michael’s Wake—Florida Panhandle  128

Hurricane Sandy  130

Overnight View of Hurricane Sandy—Eastern United States 130

Blackout—New Jersey and New York  132

Other Power Outages  134

Lights Out in Hatteras—North Carolina 134

Rare Derecho Causes Power Outages—Washington, D.C.  136

Earthquake Aftermath—Nepal  138


Earth at Night Effects of War  140

Conflict in the Middle East—Syria 140

Nightlights Change in the Middle East—Syria and Iraq  142

Mining 144

Shale Revolution: As Clear as Night and Day—South Texas  144

Ten Percent of the World’s Gas Flares in One Spot—Nigeria 146

Gas Flares in Bahía de Campeche—Gulf of Mexico  148

Gas Drilling—North Dakota  150

Connection Between Gas Flaring and Arctic Pollution—North Dakota  152

Sea-Going Vessels  154

Something Fishy in the Atlantic Night—South Atlantic Ocean  154

Korea and the Yellow Sea—Korean Peninsula  156

Holiday Lights  158

Bursting with Holiday Energy—United States  158

The Lights of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr—Middle East  164

Epilogue 168

Appendix A: NASA’s Black Marble Product Suite 170

Appendix B: Making a Cloud-Free, Global, Earth-at-Night Image Using NASA’s Black Marble Product Suite  173

Appendix C: OLS and VIIRS Technical Details  176

Appendix D: Additional Credits and Information 179


Space enthusiasts and scientists may be interested in this work. Educators focused on space, environmental, science and astrophysics may find these illuminating images helpful in their lessons. Students at all levels may enjoy the rich imagery, photography, and diagrams included in this highly graphic resource about images of earth from space.

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Headquarters
Key Phrases:
  • Space
  • Earth
  • Nightlight
  • Darkness
  • Moonlight
  • Volcanoes
  • Fires and Power Outages
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