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NASA releases incredible views of the Earth at night (pictures)

In stunning new images of Earth taken at night, the Suomi NPP satellite shows how the lights from our cities illuminate the "black marble."

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James Martin
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The Earth at night

In stunning new images of Earth taken at night, the Suomi NPP satellite shows how the lights from our cities illuminate the black marble globe. The composite image, taken in April and October, was mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.
The nighttime view was made possible by the new satellite's "day-night band" of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. VIIRS detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight.
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Africa, Europe, and the Middle East

Africa, Europe, and the Middle East are seen in this nighttime view of Earth which NASA is calling the "Black Marble."
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Asia and Australia

Asia and Australia are seen in this nighttime view of Earth which NASA is calling the "Black Marble."
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City lights

The night side of Earth twinkles with the light, and the first thing to stand out is the cities. "Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights," asserts Chris Elvidge, an NOAA scientist who has studied them for 20 years.
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City lights of the U.S. in 2012

This image of the United States at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October. The image was made possible by the new satellite's "day-night band" of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight.
See the full-sized version of the image here.
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A flat map of city lights

A flat map of Earth's city lights in 2012. See the full-sized image here.
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Auroras light up the Antarctic night

On July 15, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of the aurora australis, or "southern lights," over Antartica's Queen Maud Land and the Princess Ragnhild Coast.
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Polar darkness

Scientists monitored the Arctic with particular interest in the summer of 2012, when Arctic sea ice set a new record low, in this image captured October 30, 2012.
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Marine layer clouds off the California Coast

On September 27, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of low-lying marine layer clouds along the coast of California.

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