NASA, NOAA publish 'black marble' images of Earth at night

The first images of Earth as seen from space, appearing as a swirly blue marble, were groundbreaking. Now NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have published photos of Earth by night using infrared imaging technology via satellite.

The images show what is now a fairly familiar view of clusters of city lights, but what is different is it shows those twinkling lights from afar across the entire globe. You can see the darkened planet at various vantage points, as well as in an animated video, at NASA's Earth Observatory website.

You can also view them in a gallery in the Sun's Darkroom photo blog.

They were gathered through a partnership between NASA and NOAA. Here is how they describe obtaining the images:

Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012. It took satellite 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth's land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery to provide a realistic view of the planet.

Speaking of those iconic "blue marble" images, you can see a retrospective of them on NASA's Flickr page.

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