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NASA's view of Earth at night is absolutely beautiful

NASA has released stunning new high-resolution imagery of the Earth at night, called the Black Marble.

NASA has released stunning new high-resolution imagery of the Earth at night.

Click for the high-resolution image.
(Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC)

Consisting of multiple images taken on cloud-free nights and then composited together, the images show a resplendent Earth glowing in its night-time state. Illumination is provided by natural and man-made light across the globe.

Other satellites are best equipped to take images of Earth during daylight hours, so a new sensor was added to the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite to help with these nocturnal images.

The US at night. Click the image for the high-resolution version.
(Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC)

From the NASA website:

The new sensor, the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), is sensitive enough to detect the nocturnal glow produced by Earth's atmosphere and the light from a single ship in the sea. Satellites in the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program have been making observations with low-light sensors for 40 years. But the VIIRS day-night band can better detect and resolve Earth's night lights.

The satellite took 312 orbits in order to capture all the detail it needed for mapping land surfaces and islands. The original Blue Marble image, which was captured in 1972, was inspiration for this new series, being dubbed the Black Marble.

Below is an animation of Black Marble images, and you can see the full spectacular set over at NASA's Flickr page.