NASA scientists created global composite images using cloud-free nights to reveal an unprecedented look at how our planet appears at night. New satellite sensors, responsive enough to pick up on nocturnal lights, depicted the blaze of natural and human-built phenomena in more clarity than ever before. In addition to producing striking images of our mark on the planet, the photos can provide researchers with valuable data for previously unseen or poorly seen events around the planet.
Here’s a composite image of the United States of America at night, made with data acquired between April and October this year:
Here, NASA removed auroras, fires and other stray lights. All that’s left are the city lights:
Not all the photos show lights turned on by people. Here, the southern lights dance over Antarctica:
More from Smithsonian.com: