Nighttime Lights 2012 and 2016

Global nighttime lights in 2012 and 2016

  • Source: NASA

The "Earth at Night" map images were generated by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) using the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, managed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Suomi NPP observes nearly every location on Earth at roughly 1:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. (local time) each day, as it images the planet in vertical 3,000 km (2,000-mile) strips from pole to pole. The satellite’s workhorse instrument is the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which detects photons of light reflected from the Earth’s surface and atmosphere in 22 different wavelengths. The final Earth at Night products show the areas of man-made visible and infrared light in the world at night, excluding moonlight, fires, and other natural sources of light. Areas with the brightest light points tend to be population centers and are often located in coastal areas. Earth at Night maps are available for the years 2012 and 2016, in both color and grayscale, in both JPEG and GeoTIFF formats and with resolution from 500 m to 3 km. The 2016 images were processed using a compositing technique that selected the best cloud-free nights in each month over each land mass. Resource Watch shows only a subset of the data set. For access to the full data set and additional information, see the Learn More link.

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Formal name

Earth at Night: Flat Maps


No formal cautions.

Suggested citation

NASA. 2017. "Earth at Night: Flat Maps." NASA Earth Observatory. Retrieved from Accessed through Resource Watch, (date).


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Geographic coverage


Spatial resolution

750 m

Date of content

2012, 2016

Frequency of updates


Published language



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