City Lights of the Americas
acquired April 18 - October 23, 2012 download large image (4 MB, JPEG, 8192x8192)
acquired April 18 - October 23, 2012 download large image (20 MB, TIFF)
acquired April 18 - October 23, 2012 download Google Earth file (KML)

This image of North and South America at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. The new data was mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.

The nighttime view was made possible by the new satellite’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.

“Artificial lighting is a excellent remote sensing observable and proxy for human activity,” says Chris Elvidge, who leads the Earth Observation Group at NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center. Social scientists and demographers have used night lights to model the spatial distribution of economic activity, of constructed surfaces, and of populations. Planners and environmental groups have used maps of lights to select sites for astronomical observatories and to monitor human development around parks and wildlife refuges. Electric power companies, emergency managers, and news media turn to night lights to observe blackouts.

Named for satellite meteorology pioneer Verner Suomi, NPP flies over any given point on Earth's surface twice each day at roughly 1:30 a.m. and p.m. The polar-orbiting satellite flies 824 kilometers (512 miles) above the surface, sending its data once per orbit to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway, and continuously to local direct broadcast users distributed around the world. The mission is managed by NASA with operational support from NOAA and its Joint Polar Satellite System, which manages the satellite's ground system.

Learn more about the VIIRS day-night band and nighttime imaging of Earth in our new feature story: Out of the Blue and Into the Black.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center). Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

Instrument(s): 
Suomi NPP - VIIRS

City Lights of the Americas

Image Location
Image Location
More in this Event (view all)
Left
Auroras light up the Antarctic night Mustang Complex Fires in Idaho Marine Layer Clouds off the California Coast Night Lights 2012 - Flat map City Lights of the Americas City Lights of Asia and Australia City Lights of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East Korea and the Yellow Sea City Lights of the United States 2012 Night Lights 2012 - The Black Marble City Lights Illuminate the Nile Gas Drilling, North Dakota Waves in Airglow City Lights of South America’s Atlantic Coast Monitoring the Arctic during Polar Darkness Moon Phases Over the Persian Gulf Old Night Vision Meets New City Lights of Australia, or Not
Right