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Remote Sens. 2015, 7(1), 1-23; doi:10.3390/rs70100001
Article

High-Resolution Imagery of Earth at Night: New Sources, Opportunities and Challenges

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1 Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany 2 Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany 3 Institute for Space Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin, Carl-Heinrich-Becker Weg 6-10, 12165 Berlin, Germany 4 Dept. Astrofísica y CC. de la Atmósfera, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Avda. Complutense s/n, Madrid 28040, Spain
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Christopher D. Elvidge and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 12 September 2014 / Accepted: 15 December 2014 / Published: 23 December 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing with Nighttime Lights)
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Abstract

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.
Keywords: artificial light; energy; international space station; light pollution; night; remote sensing; visible band artificial light; energy; international space station; light pollution; night; remote sensing; visible band
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).

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Kyba, C.C.M.; Garz, S.; Kuechly, H.; de Miguel, A.S.; Zamorano, J.; Fischer, J.; Hölker, F. High-Resolution Imagery of Earth at Night: New Sources, Opportunities and Challenges. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 1-23.

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