The Black Marble

We’ve discussed the impressive “blue marble” overlay here on GEB a few times. It’s a beautiful overlay that makes Google Earth look awesome. The “pretty earth” update earlier this year made it much less important, but it’s still a fun overlay to play with.
Now NASA has released the “black marble” — an amazing view of the earth covered in darkness with only city lights glowing.


Here’s how they did it:

This new global view and animation of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012. It took satellite 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery to provide a realistic view of the planet.

You can read more on their site, or just grab this KML file to try it for yourself.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Micah Walton says:

    There’s an odd collection of lights right in northwest North Dakota that is bright enough to be a city of millions. There is no city there though. I wonder what could be causing this and if there are other areas of incorrect information

  2. Here you go:
    Those are oil drilling rigs burning natural gas.

  3. Micah Walton says:

    It’s amazing to see the change that happened almost overnight in that area. Thanks.

  4. Chris Hill says:

    An interesting view of the amount of energy that we waste in street lighting. That is one reason why must people cannot see all but the brightest stars.
    Google Earth always shows images taken during the day, as that is of more interest. Perhaps we also need a night time view as well.

  5. Sylvia Wilson says:

    There are numerous clusters of lights over the largely uninhabited area of Western Australia, but very few along the east coast of Australia where most of the population lives. How is that possible?

  6. Don Langston says:

    the lights in West Australia are probably open pit mining operations for Iron , Copper ,Coal Gold and Uranium. Most of it shipped to China and some to India.

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