NASA scientists created the most complete map of Earth at night to date—showing humans in all of their electric glory. But, while the photos are magical, they also show human's extreme effect on the planet.
The map, which shows a nightly Earth as it was in 2016, was made through a composite of images collected from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite.
According to NASA, creating a night map is very challenging and can only be updated every four or fives years. One large glowing obstacle is the moon, which can effect the clarity of the night lights depending on where it is positioned during each month of observation. So, the scientists had to gather moonlight-free images and color correct the ones that weren't so it all matched.
The goal of the partnership is to create a real-time night map that shows the earth as it is in any given moment. This will help scientists understand how light evolves throughout a certain period.
"We can monitor cyclical changes driven by reoccurring human activities such as holiday lighting and seasonal migrations," said Miguel Román of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "We can also monitor gradual changes driven by urbanization, out-migration, economic changes and electrification. The fact that we can track all these different aspects at the heart of what defines a city is simply mind-boggling."
Electricity has really only taken hold in human life in the past century. So, this map opens a lot of doors for scientists still trying to understand how humans are creating light pollution and the effect it has on natural habitats.
Light is most disruptive to nocturnal wildlife, and can confuse an animal's migratory patterns, affect their ability to compete for and catch prey, and even cause physiological harm. Life depends on the natural fluctuation of light and dark; so disruption to these patterns impacts the ecosystem in a major way.
Now, thanks to NASA, we have a more complete understanding that will help humans and wildlife alike.
By Robin Scher
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.
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The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The Big Idea
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