With the release of Google Earth on June 11, 2001, we got a glimpse of the blue marvel that we call home. But Google Earth showed Earth only during the daytime, full of light and joy. Little did we know the night images were way darker than they were supposed to be.
The world had to wait till 2012, when Nasa finally released a brand new global map of Earth, captured from space during night. While the images look outstanding and will definitely help researches on light pollution and all, they revealed some cruel realities as well.
The images gave us a quick glimpse on what we humans did to our precious little planet. It shows the political divides, aftermath of war and the busiest trade routes on the planet. Here are a few of the captures…
The lights of Syria fading away
2012 wasn't the only year Nasa released the picture of Earth at night. The organisation released another photo in 2016. Putting both of the images side by side, we can see the heavy toll of the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Moving the slider to the right, you will see the lights in Syria turning off one by one, as cities after cities get destroyed, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving millions homeless.
The border between North Korea and South Korea
The division of Korea began at the end of World War II in 1945. The border between these two countries is merely visible from the outer space during the daytime. But the bright light of South Korea and the darkness that covers most of North Korea at night show the border between the two countries clearly in the night image.
Looking closely, you can see Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, having lights while the rest of the country stays in dark.
India and Bangladesh
In India, we can see big cities like New Delhi, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata flooding the night sky with light while desert region such as Rajsthan showing slightly little amount of lights.
Taking a closer look at Bangladesh, we see maximum amount of light on Dhaka and Chattogram. The highways stay well-lit, showing heavy movement of people around the country by road.
We also see some scattered light on the lower part of the image. Those are the lights of water vehicles (launch, steamers) and fishing boats.
Trade route of the River Nile in Africa
For thousands of years, Egyptians have used water from the River Nile in many aspects of their daily life. Even in modern days, the country is hugely dependent on the river as trade routes. Photos captured at night shows the river glowing with light, showing how busy it stays all the time.
Berlin wall is no more, but the city lights still show the division
With the defeat of Germany in World War II, the country divided into two parts: east and west. The capital city Berlin, while being a part of East Germany, was divided as well.
In 1990, Germany became reunited again. But the division is still visible from space during night. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield uploaded a picture of Berlin captured from space on Apr 18, 2013, on his twitter page.
The image shows East Berlin gave off an orange light. This is largely from the older sodium lamps they used. However, West Berlin emits white light. Likely because they had more modern LEDs and fluorescent bulbs.