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NEW DELHI: NASA has just released new universal maps of the Earth at night – the first since 2012. The astonishing satellite images of Earth at night, referred to as with caption “night lights,” have been released every decade or so for nearly 25 years. Now, NASA scientists are trying to see if the night lights descriptions can be updated more repeatedly – perhaps even daily. Doing so would radically change how we forecast weather, improve natural disaster responses and even help track the belongings of war.
Take a look at these two images of India showing how cities have grown and populations have spread in the past few years. The image below is from 2016. Compare it to the second one from 2012.
Earth scientist Miguel Roman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is leading the research team that has been mounting new software and algorithms to provide the clearest, most precise images. This year’s images eradicate light from the moon, which varies the amount of light shining on the Earth. The team wrote code that picked the clearest night views each month, eventually combining moonlight-free and moonlight-corrected data according to the US space agency.
The combined images are the effect of data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. According to NASA, VIIRS is the first satellite instrument to make quantitative measurements of light emissions and reflections, which consent to researchers to differentiate the intensity, types and the sources of night lights over a number of years.
Thanks to VIIRS, we can now keep an eye on short-term changes caused by disturbances in power delivery, such as conflict, storms, earthquakes and brownouts,” says Roman. “The fact that we can track these entire different characteristic at the heart of what defines a city is simply mind-boggling.