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For the first time in five years, NASA has released a map of the Earth at night. Using the powerful Suomi NPP satellite and some complex computer algorithms, here we have a public view of our planet for the first time in five years, from the distant, celestial night. The lights below represent human civilization, and cities. Take a look at how far we’ve come.

This beautiful view of the Suomi NPP satellite offers some brevity from the uncertainty of modern times. People have always looked at the stars with wonder. Even today, we use them as tools for aspiration, growth, and greater purpose; invoking not just an outward look at mankind but an internal one as well. The Suomi NPP gives us the best outward view to date by monitoring almost every location on Earth twice a day from strips that are 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) long. The distant lights of human civilization serve as a reminder of how small our adversity and differences truly are in comparison to the modern marvel of human ingenuity. The newly improved, high-resolution graphics can help scientists plot population patterns, energy demand, the expansion of cities, and even shipping lanes. These “night lights” have been a tool for fundamental scientific research for nearly 25 years.

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The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite or VIIRS, captures night-time shots at a remarkable resolution, and detects photons of light in 22 different wavelengths. By using software that edits out clouds, moonlight, and seasonal vegetation, scientists can produce images far more detailed than those seen in 2012. With more tweaking, VIIRS will soon be able to identify individual boats and street lamps. The build helps us better detect weather and atmospheric disturbances at a more successful rate than five years ago with six times better spatial resolution and 250 times better resolution of lighting levels than older satellites.

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Furthermore NASA plans to release daily updated images, in the hopes they can be used to track sea ice, monitor unregulated fishing, and assess the impact of war on power grids for reducing light pollution.

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