NASA scientists have released new global maps of Earth at night, providing the clearest-yet views of the patterns of human settlements across our planet.
Satellite images of Earth at night—often referred to as “night lights”—have been a curiosity for the public and a tool of fundamental research for at least 25 years. They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness. Produced every decade or so, such maps have spawned hundreds of pop-culture uses and dozens of economic, social science, and environmental research projects.
But what would happen if scientists removed the moonlight, fires, and other natural sources of light and updated such nighttime images yearly, monthly, or even daily? A research team led by NASA Earth scientist Miguel Román plans to find out this year.
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