We’ve all seen the iconic “Blue Marble” shot of Earth from space, but what does the same shot look like without the light of the sun? New imagery from NASA (being dubbed the “Black Marble”) show us what the world looks like when we turn the lights on.
The photos were taken by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite–a partnership of NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Department of Defense. The satellite’s camera is powerful enough to pick up the lights from a single ship on the ocean. Clearly, this is very helpful, because many things that require monitoring and studying don’t happen during the day, when most of NASA’s satellites have an easier time seeing.
What’s always astounding in photos like this is seeing human progress as illustrated by how we keep away darkness. You can see the entire interstate highway system in America, as well as total gaps of development over large swaths of Africa and Asia. It takes a lot of work and energy to light up the planet as much as we do, and yet from space, it’s all just a beautiful diffuse glow.