NASA captures lots and lots of lovely photos of Earth being bathed in bright sunlight, but images of our planet shrouded in darkness can be just as beautiful. In a new image showcase on NASA’s website, we’re treated to a gorgeous image of Earth’s “dark side,” courtesy of the Suomi NPP satellite which took to the skies back in 2011.
The imagery captured by the satellite was combined with existing images of Earth in order to create an accurate approximation of what the Americas look like when night falls. The resulting composite is just plain lovely.
The image is pure eye candy, but NASA offers some insight into the technical side of things as well:
This image’s striking nighttime view was made possible by Suomi’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. In this case, auroras, fires and other stray light have been removed to emphasize the city lights.
NASA is using the photo as an opportunity to promote its newest ebook that contains a wealth of photos as well as written information explaining the various tools that NASA uses to observe different areas of the Earth.
The ebook, which is completely free and can be enjoyed right from your web browser, is some 180 pages long and contains stunning images of the Earth as well as the impacts humans have had on it. We’re treated to images showing the result of mining, various conflicts, hurricanes, and even the steady creep of urban development. There’s a lot to take in here, so if this kind of thing interests you, curl up with a cup of coffee and dive in.