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Night Lights: Stunning Views of Earth from Above

The Earth at night

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center))

At night, the Earth is a sea of dark with patches of light from city lights. Increasing levels of light pollution from carelessly angled streetlights are dimming the view of stars for even some of the most remote telescopes.

Darkened globe

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center))

The bright lights of towns and cities are clearly visible in this photo of Earth at night

A bright country

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center))

At night, the East Coast of the U.S. is filled with lights, while the West Coast is slightly darker. But even remote telescope locations in Arizona are experiencing dimmer skies due to light pollution.

British Isles

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using VIIRS Day Night Band and MODIS Blue Marble data. Caption by Michael Carlowicz.)

The British Isles were lit up at night during the Summer Olympics this year.

The Nile Delta

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Suomi NPP)

The Nile Delta is a river of light in a sea of darkness in this photo of Africa at night.

South Asian sky

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using VIIRS Day-Night Band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP))

The night skies are bright during this year's Diwali, India's festival of lights.

East Coast Blackout

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Rob Simmon, using VIIRS Day-Night Band data provided by Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin.)

As superstorm Sandy ravages the East coast, blackouts in Manhattan and other East Coast cities are clearly visible from space.

Blazing fires

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using VIIRS Day Night Band data)

Night lights aren't the only things visible from space. Wildfires blazing across Siberia can be seen from above in this August 31, 2012 image.

Light divide

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using VIIRS Day-Night Band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership)

While night lights usually indicate dense populations, the divide between an illuminated South Korea and a dark South Korea reveals how much economic development can affect the view from space.

South America's East Coast

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using VIIRS Day-Night Band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.)

South America's East Coast is alight in this photo taken on July 20, 2012.