Generally known as the Blue Marble, we tend to see photos of Earth during daylight — clouds overlapping bright blue oceans and stark green and brown landmasses. We don’t see the Black Marble, the Earth at night, as detailed nearly as often. Captured by Suomi, a NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather satellite, the group of images show us the entirety of human civilization spread across the planet, residing in either the glow of civilization’s lights or the less populated darkness.
The images were taken with Suomi’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, which can detect 22 different bands of radiation, making it able to detect and distinguish between various kinds of light. The above image of the United states is a composite of information taken with Suomi in April and October of 2012, and since it was taken with the VIIRS, not only strong city lights, but even gas flares and wildfires can be detected.
The information gathered for the above flat map of Earth was also gathered in April (nine days) and October (thirteen days), and it took Suomi 312 orbits of the planet, and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a perfect shot of every piece of Earth.
The above image features the city lights along the Nile, an area that only covers a little less than 5% of Egypt’s land area, but is home to around 97% of the entire country’s population. The time it took Suomi to gather the information for this image wasn’t nearly as long as the previous shots; it simply captured the information on October 13.
A closer view of the United States’ East Coast.
To check out some more amazing photos captured by Suomi as part of the Black Marble project, head over here.