SAN FRANCISCOTaking advantage of new satellite capabilities, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released new imagery of Earth at night, providing an improved “Black Marble” counterpart to the iconic “Blue Marble” image of the planet during the day. The images, which were released on Wednesday here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, provide a clearer picture of the planet at night than ever before.
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The imagery was generated by a sensor carried aboard the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, known as the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS. As its name suggests, the VIIRS detects visible light, and it is sensitive enough to detect the nocturnal glow produced by the Earth’s atmosphere, and the light from a single fishing vessel at sea. The day-night band from VIIRS is helping scientists monitor carbon emissions from natural gas and oil drilling operations, since it can detect flaring operations at night. The data has proven useful for monitoring wildfires, and has even provided a rare glimpse into upper atmospheric waves that can be generated from massive complexes of thunderstorms.
“This is not your father’s low-light sensor,” said Steve Miller, a researcher at NOAA’s Colorado State University Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. He showcased the satellite’s capabilities, noting that the imagery scientists have retrieved from it represents a “paradigm shift” in what can be done under low-light conditions.
Peruse the photos below, then…
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