Black Marble, Interrupted: Our Mark on the Night Sky, From Space

NASA scientists created global composite images using cloud-free nights to reveal an unprecedented look at how our planet appears at night

“Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights” – NOAA.
“Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights” – NOAA. NASA Goddard

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:

Black Marble, Interrupted: Our Mark on the Night Sky, From Space
NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Here, NASA removed auroras, fires and other stray lights. All that’s left are the city lights:

Black Marble, Interrupted: Our Mark on the Night Sky, From Space
NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Not all the photos show lights turned on by people. Here, the southern lights dance over Antarctica:

Black Marble, Interrupted: Our Mark on the Night Sky, From Space
NASA Goddard Photo and Video

More from Smithsonian.com:

Photographing the Elusive Jaguar
The History of Color Photography