Lights in the night

Giancarlo Livraghi – October 2012

anche in italiano     también en español

Usually I write and publish text, with images
occasionally added where they are useful.
But here it’s the other way round.

In this case, the substance is in the pictures.
Short captions are enough to explain the meaning.

These are, obviously, photographs from orbiting satellites.
But they are cleverly elaborated to look “flat”
as we usually see in “planispheres” and other maps.

The Nighttime Lights of the World projections
are developed by the National Geophysical Data Center.

A USA government institution for worldwide
geophysical and environmental studies.

Let“s start with “nighttime lights” for the whole planet “planisphere”.

The World


The contrast is remarkable between the brightly lit and the dark areas.
Darkness isn’t only in deserts and forests – it’s also where
there is low population density or electricity is scarcely available.



Obviously there is strong “nighttime light” in Europe.
The differences are due to population density
rather than greater or lesser use of electricity.

(This image includes also part of North Africa and the Middle East.)



In Asia he picture is complex. There are vast uninhabited regions
(mountains, deserts) but also large territories with low population density.
Some densely populated areas lack electtricity – or anyhow have scarce “nighttime lights”.

An extreme example of contiguous diversity is the illumination
in South Korea compared to the darkness in North.

North America


It’s pretty obvious that North America and Europe
have the highest intensity of “nighttime lights”.
With a clearly visible difference: the greater extension,
in America, of uninhabited or low population density areas.

South America


Wide territories are “dark” for absence or scarcity of human settlements.
And there are many populated areas where for lack of resources,
but also cultural tradition, lights don’t shine in the night.

This is one of many ways of looking at our planet
(particularly, human presence on its surface.)
They are all interesting, intriguing. And they all help us to understand.
Every different perspective increases our wealth of knowledge.


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