High-resolution imagery of earth at night: new sources, opportunities and challenges



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Kyba, Christopher C. M. and Garz, Stefanie and Kuechly, Helga and Sánchez de Miguel, Alejandro and Zamorano Calvo, Jaime and Fischer, Jüergen and Höelker, Franz (2015) High-resolution imagery of earth at night: new sources, opportunities and challenges. Remote sensing, 7 (1). pp. 1-23. ISSN 2072-4292

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rs70100001


Images of the Earth at night are an exceptional source of human geographical data, because artificial light highlights human activity in a way that daytime scenes do not. The quality of such imagery dramatically improved in 2012 with two new spaceborne detectors. The higher resolution and precision of the data considerably expands the scope of possible applications. In this paper, we introduce the two new data sources and discuss their potential limitations using three case studies. Data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Day-Night Band (VIIRS DNB) is shown to have sufficient resolution to identify major sources of waste light, such as airports, and we find considerable variation in the peak radiance of the world's largest airports. Nighttime imagery brings "cultural footprints" to light: DNB data reveals that American cities emit many times more light per capita than German cities and that cities in the former East of Germany emit more light per capita than those in the former West. Photographs from the International Space Station, the second new source of imagery, provide some limited spectral information, as well as street-level resolution. These images may be of greater use for epidemiological studies than the lower resolution DNB data.

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© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). This paper was conceived of and planned during activities of the EU COST Action ES1204 (Loss of the Night Network). The researchers were supported by grants from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF-033L038A), the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research (Lichtimmissionen im offentlichen Raum) and an FPU grant (FormaciÓn de Profesorado Universitario) from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MCINN) to Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel. The support of AYA2012-31277 and AYA2013-46724-P and the Spanish Network for Light Pollution Studies (AYA2011-15808 E) is also acknowledged.

Uncontrolled Keywords:Electric-power consumption; Light-pollution; Satellite imagery; Population-density; Economic-activity; Capabilities; Propagation; Emissions; Models; System
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Sciences > Physics > Astronomy
Sciences > Physics > Atmospheric physics
ID Code:29216
Deposited On:16 Mar 2015 10:57
Last Modified:10 Dec 2018 15:05

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