Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Google Maps at Night

Last week NASA released a spectacular 'Black Marble' image of the Earth from space. The image differs from NASA's famous Blue Marble image of the Earth in that it shows the world at night. In this view only the lights of the Earth's cities can be seen.

Earth at Night 2012 overlays the Black Marble image on top of Google Maps. The map is illuminating in more than one way. It helps to show the location of Earth's major urban centres, it is useful to astronomers in showing areas with high levels of light pollution and it also glaringly shows how much more light pollution there is in the northern hemisphere than the south.

One thing missing from the map is the ability to link to specific locations. NASA's Earth Observatory wrote an interesting article on the lights that can be observed in sparsely populated North Dakota (search for Williston, ND on the map). The reason for all those lights is that the area is home to the Bakken shale formation, where oil production is booming.

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