Skip to navigationSkip to content

New NASA images reveal a dramatic change in the world’s nighttime landscape

  • Johnny Simon
By Johnny Simon

Deputy Photo Editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

This week, NASA released an updated “Earth at Night” map, which renders human density and development into bright glowing hubs of activity.

The map, dubbed “Black Marble,” is a massive composite of satellite images taken at night in 2016. Most of the Earth is covered in deep blues and black, but hubs of population and activity appear as golden clusters of light.

The most striking aspect of the new map is comparing the most recent data with the last black marble map, produced in 2012. In the span of just four years, there are several areas on Earth with clearly visible changes:

These images below, compiled by Joshua Stevens, a NASA Earth Observatory data visualizer, show relatively small details like the slight expansion of Chicago and massive trends like the development explosion across India.

Taking a look at some other areas around the world, noticeable increases in development large and small are made visible by the lights emitted at night.



United Arab Emirates and Oman

You can explore the entire map yourself and compare to years past through NASA’s Worldview map viewer.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.