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NASA releases stunning nighttime satellite views of Earth

‘Black Marble’

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Find your town in this composite night view of North America. Image courtesy NASA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — One of the feeds that I eagerly look for in my social media streams each day is from NASA, mainly due to the stunning images the space agency posts on a regular basis. The pictures of Earth, from the melting ice caps to animated satellite loops of incoming weather systems, help keep things in perspective. It’s good to step back from  day to day events and realize how small this planet really is.

NASA is calling its latest images the Black Marble series because they are night shots, put together as composites from images captured on cloudless nights. Here’s part of NASA’s description of the new images. Visit this website for the full story.

Many satellites are equipped to look at Earth during the day, when they can observe our planet fully illuminated by the sun. With a new sensor aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite launched last year, scientists now can observe Earth’s atmosphere and surface during nighttime hours.

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 U.S. 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 new, higher resolution composite image of Earth at night was released at a news conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. This and other VIIRS day-night band images are providing researchers with valuable data for a wide variety of previously unseen or poorly seen events.

“For all the reasons that we need to see Earth during the day, we also need to see Earth at night,” said Steve Miller, a researcher at NOAA’s Colorado State University Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. “Unlike humans, the Earth never sleeps.”

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