How one NASA image tells dozens of stories

How much can a single picture tell us about
ourselves? This is a composite image of several satellite
photos. It can help us better understand the current
developments and conflicts underway. The amount of light pollution is most severe
in heavily populated areas, as well as in regions of high prosperity. In Europe, the Benelux region and the densely
populated Po-Valley are so bright, that the individual towns blend into one big sea of
light. Especially in the Arab world, the extraction
of oil creates bright lights from the flaring of gas. And in Africa, you can trace the path of the
Nile River, which, as the lifeline of egypt, attracts civilization and is filled with commercial
boats. In the mostly uninhabited regions of western
Australia, the satellites could even capture lights from wildfires that occurred over a
span of 22 days. And in Asia, the Indian subcontinent is clearly
standing out. Nearly 20% of the planet’s population lives
here, and the rapid population and economic growth can be seen by comparing the area from
how it looked in 2012 and then again in 2016. However, it is just as interesting to look
at the regions where there is no light. The Syrian civil war, which has wiped out
hundreds of thousands of lives, has darkened the country. Due to the ongoing fights, the electrical
grid is only partially available and the power supply is poor. Aleppo , the largest city in Syria is considered
an important cultural place. The old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage
Site since 1986. But the war has almost completely destroyed
the historic city. The darkening can also be observed in Raqqa,
which has long acted as the de facto capital of the terrorist Islamic State. When we see a city darken in these images,
it shows the annihilation of a place and its history and ultimately the end of many human
lives. These black pixels in such an image can say
a lot more than the lit ones. This also applies to the Korean Peninsula. While South Korea is brightly lit, North Korea
is almost completely black. The metropolitan area around the capital of
the south, Seoul now has more than 25 million inhabitants. The population density here is twice that
of New York City and eight times larger than that of Rome. Also, the waters surrounding Korea are brightly
lit from the numerous fishing boats off the coast. According to the UN Convention on the Law
of the Sea, there are clear rules for how far off the coast a country may explore its
resources. Additionally there are several agreements
between countries that regulate fishing. This creates odd looking shapes and perfectly
straight lines, bringing to light the absurdity of dividing our planet into arbitrary legal
zones. All these lights from South Korea and the
waters that surround it stand in stark contrast to the north, where only the North Korean
capital Pyongyang stands out a bit. North Korea’s energy infrastructure is obsolete
and power shortages are frequent. While South Korea is easily accessible, much
of what happens in the north remains in the dark. And the strictly guarded border, dividing
both nations, the DMZ, is clearly traceable. This image may be the most impressive illustration
of how big the impact of more than 70 years of division are. But the map also teaches us, the long lasting
impact such separations can have. Even those, that have already been overcome. At the time of the Cold War Germany was separated
into east and west and the city of Berlin was divided as well. And as a result of that, it’s city lights
still appears in two different colors. The western part of the city was cut off from
the rest of West Germany and relied on gas lamps because it wanted to be independent
from a possibly failing power supply. Although germany has been reunited since 1990
and this separation has been overcome for more than a quarter of a century, it can still
be seen from space. This image points to the global challenges
posed by the steadily increasing world population. And while man-made borders can not be seen
during the day, the lines of political origin become apparent at night, but appear all the
more absurd and artificial. When viewed during daylight, the human influence
on our planet is less obvious. But this single image highlights the social
divides and political strife from both the past and the present.

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100 thoughts on “How one NASA image tells dozens of stories

  1. 2012 ko andhar tha 2016 ko bharat lighting hua hai disto modi hai tho mumkin hai sufficient of electricity supply all over india by modi govt

  2. hey you lie .. why don't you discuss Mecca. the most luminous place in the world is the city of Mecca … Makkah is the center of the earth …

  3. the amount of light in several areas is because of the refraction or actually they increasing energy consumption? does anyone can answer my question?

  4. I am Muslim and the world are accusing us for terrorism act while we're the one who really suffering from it …… Many war are happening in Muslim countries and many civilian die and the world still looking at us as terrorist and not the victim

    "Oh God, please bless humanity and find solutions for this conflict that happens to us. We are taking it as task on not as disaster. Oh God, please bless and protect our brothers and sisters in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Wuhan, Uyghur, Yemen, Afghanistan and the whole creation, may God we are seeking refuge from you and you're the only can protect us.. Amen"

  5. Wow, interesting, but Africa doesn't actually stop with Egypt.
    Africa is the continent which use less energy by we have the same restrictions than the rest of the world.

  6. This may tell us the unsustainable world we r living in where we may have power 24/7 but on the other side there may be someone who doesnt even see light.

  7. Its a status symbol. Places that has more lights have more money and power. They all active even at night for businesses or something. Developed countries usually dont sleep

  8. You didn't mention our lovely nabhoure pakistan , look how dark they are from us , every country those who are supporting terrorism become darker day by day .

  9. Algeria is illuminated in the north and in the south very little because it is a desert in the south

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