Have you ever wondered what the Earth looks like while the whole world is sleeping? NASA has just published the most detailed photographs until the close of the Earth at night, revealing how our planet looks at the time when sunlight is hidden until it leaves again the next day. The images were captured thanks to the NPP satellite (Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership), launched into space in 2011.
In the words of NASA itself, we are facing the most detailed vision that has ever had until the date of the distribution of the human being along the Earth. The images allow to see in which parts of each continent more people live, and after 25 years of monitoring they have a clear vision of the economic development of the countries in the last decades. This is an update of the map of the Earth at night that was published there in 2012, and its publication is accompanied by a major challenge.
By the end of this year 2017, NASA hopes to be able to offer daily images of the Night Range. The information revealed by these photographs, project leaders say, can help – among other things – to understand the effects of natural disasters such as tornadoes or earthquakes. The challenge is to get every day of the year clear photographs of the Sierra at night, which in terms of technology is anything but simple.
As pointed out by those responsible for the project led by scientist Miguel Roman, many years of programming algorithms are necessary to get a software that is capable of eliminating all the “dirt” that can spoil a photograph of our planet at night. Román’s team is developing a system that is capable of processing these images on its own, with the idea of making it possible for anyone to access the GIBS (Global Imagery Browse Services, available at this link).
Part of the work of this NASA team has also been to update the Earth map at night that was published in 2012 so we can compare the economic developments that have been experienced by some countries since then. In the case of India, for example, a comparative image available on the NASA blog shows the development of areas with electricity (and therefore, nighttime illumination) that have been lived in that area in the Last five years.
NASA hopes to take advantage of the development of the technology of the nocturnal photographs of our planet to work side by side with the teams of emergencies in case of natural disasters. The agency says its team detected electricity outages in certain areas of the United States after Hurricane Matthew, and provided that information to the teams of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.