Strange, beautiful, unexpected: planned cities from space
These very high-resolution images, made possible by a new type of satellite infrared sensor, were unveiled here at a conference of the American Geophysical Union on December 5th. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite has a “day-night-band”. recognizes the light of nature and man with unprecedented precision and brightness. It can solve everything from the night glow of the atmosphere to the light of one boat at sea. It can detect northern lights, forest fires, reflections of moon and star light from clouds and ice, and lights along highways. The sensor has six times better spatial resolution and 250 times better accuracy of illumination levels than ever before. The VIIRS instrument works by scanning in 22 different wavelength bands. For each pixel, it uses a low, medium, or high gain mode to accurately capture the light from each source. Low light signals are amplified and bright lights are prevented from oversaturating. The data from the Finland satellite will be freely available to the public in a few hours and will provide most researchers with a first overview of the Earth at night. In the past, the U.S. Air Force had a series of night satellites with dim light sensors, but the data were nowhere near as good, they were mostly classified, and were only available to a few scientists.
This image is a combination of data taken by the VIIRS instrument on a satellite from a Finnish nuclear power plant in April and October 2012.
Image: NASA / NOAA (high resolution version)