Nocturnal Eye In The Sky

Take a look at this crop I snipped from a large composite image, courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory:


What I’ve cropped is the southwest corner of the North American continent. Satellite views like this one are useful for gaining perspective on population density and energy usage, two variables which are tightly linked in prosperous (or flagrantly wasteful, take your pick!) societies.

Of course Phoenix, LA, and Las Vegas stand out in this view, but even small towns like Bisbee and Douglas here in my neck of the woods can easily be made out.

I recommend that you take a look at one of the high-resolution images of the entire planet available from the Earth Observatory site:

Images From Nasa

These images were assembled from many satellite images. For each region a view without any cloud cover had to be found. I think the stitched-together results are fascinating and thought-provoking, but what I’d really like to see is two analogous images: one from a century in the past and another from a century in the future. Of course the 1912 view would be mostly black, with just a scattering of lights along the eastern seaboard, but the 2112 view (one of those palindromic years) is difficult to predict. I imagine some emissary from the far future handing me an envelope, saying:

“So you want to see the earth from space a century hence? Take a look!”

I might be reluctant to look. It’d be like asking for the results of medical tests indicating the presence of an incurable genetic disease.

I’d be afraid I’d find within the envelope a view of blackness, with only a few volcanoes and wildfires to illuminate the gloom.

What I would hope to find within that ominous envelope is a view of a scattering of smaller, more decentralized glimmers of light, indicating perhaps that the human race had somehow acquired an infusion of sanity.




Filed under Arizona, Photos

3 responses to “Nocturnal Eye In The Sky

  1. Joan

    I saw a documentary last year about how hard it is for the average guy to view the stars and photograph them because of all the light interference from cities. Just as soon as they would find a place in some remote country and stake it out, they’d come back a few years later and increasing populations had brought more lights and messed it up.

  2. Let there be light, eh? Interesting satellite view. I imagine in 100 years it’ll be all lit up, with cities expanding out, etc.

  3. Virginia

    If your space traveler does show you a picture of continent one hundred years in the future, will you please post it? We may be pleasantly surprised that more cities direct light down on the street where it belongs rather than blinding us to the beauty of the nightsky. Have you visited The World at Night website? It frames the night sky view by landmarks below for the person standing on the ground looking up.

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