A satellite looks back at Earth and sees a constellation of bustling cities and remote towns.
The night side of our planet twinkles with light, tracing a map of human settlement across Earth. Scientists have studied Earth's night lights in the past, using military satellites and astronaut photos; but in 2012, the view became significantly clearer. Data from the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite was used to make a new composite view of Earth at night that allows scientists to quantify the intensity and sources of night light for the first time. A special low-light sensor on Suomi-NPP can distinguish night lights with six times better spatial resolution and 250 times better resolution of lighting levels than before, capturing even the dim light of an isolated highway lamp or a fishing boat at sea. Watch the videos to take a tour of Earth, sparkling in the dark of night.