Terrestrial Tour: Earth at Night

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The longer we gaze at Earth's surface at night, the more we learn about ourselves and our planet. 

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory.

All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA

·       Daytime photo of lightning in Arizona courtesy of Wikipedia user ed ouimette
·       Photo of oil wells and flare in North Dakota courtesy of Tim Evanson
·       Photo of fracking equipment in North Dakota courtesy of Joshua Doubek
·       Photo of old and new San Francisco – Oakland Bay bridges courtesy of Frank Schulenburg
·       Sea creature illustration copyright The National Library of Israel, Shapell Family Digitization Project _and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Geography – Historic Cities Research Project
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music
Written by Tracy Vogel
Designed by Marc Lussier

Lights shine on the Earth. Text, Earth at Night 
Planet Earth on a dark background. Text, The glowing blue marble of Earth is a stunning sight. 
Sections of the Earth from space. Text, Satellites and observatories far above the surface trace the progress of storms and natural disasters, the changes among the land and ocean, and other global changes influenced by humanity. 
But sometimes we see better in the dark. 
The Earth during daylight, then at night, dotted with lights. 
One of the most obvious indicators of human activity is our lights. 
The glowing lines across the planet provide evidence of our presence. 
City lights provide a simple way to map urban versus rural areas, and to show where Earth's human population gathers. 
This image of the United Arab Emirates was taken from the International Space Station. 
It shows bright city centers on the coast, where they were nurtured by sea trade. 
A circle around a peninsula. Text, In contrast, the almost unpopulated Musandam Peninsula has very little light. 
Most lights cut off abruptly at the water's edge, but a glittering handful of oil and gas platforms glow offshore. 
City lights can paint a picture of both development and disaster. 
Before Hurricane Sandy. New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey. Text, In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, NASA recorded images before and after landfall. 
Photos Before and After, Hurricane Sandy. Text in the After photo, In this image, New York City and eastern New Jersey are dimmed, and power outages can be seen in Philadelphia. 
Some highways have gone dark. 
More than 8 million people lost power in the storm. 
East Asia at night. China, North Korea, South Korea. Text, City lights can indicate where people live – and sometimes the conditions that they live in. 
This image from the International Space Station shows the darkened country of North Korea - the poorest in East Asia - sandwiched between the blazing cities in South Korea and China. 
A glimmer of light surrounds North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, while the rest of the country is mostly dark. 
The United States at night. Text, Lights can also tell us how people are changing the planet. 
A white box around North Dakota. 
Text, This 2012 satellite image reveals a massive field of light in North Dakota. 
But it's not a city. 
It's a mixture of electrical lights and some burning gas flares from thousands of shale oil fracking rigs and related structures. 
Fracking equipment. Text, North Dakota has become the United States' second biggest oil-producing state due to fracking. 
Just as human activity continues after nightfall, our planet's natural processes also continue. 
Auroras dance in the dark. 
Wildfires smolder, spread, and die. 
Clouds change in night time temperatures and conditions. 
The longer we gaze at Earth's surface at night, the more we learn about ourselves and our planet. 
The dark just gives us a different way to see.