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Losing Darkness: Satellite Data Shows Global Light Pollution On the Rise

Around the globe, in both developed and developing nations, Earth's night skies are being filled with artificial light more and more each year, according to a new study. Using data from an Earth-observing weather satellite called Suomi NPP, the new study shows that between 2012 and 2016, artificially lit regions on Earth increased in brightness by 2.2 percent. In addition, the total area where artificial lighting appeared also increased by 2.2 percent, providing an illustration of humanity's expansion into previously undeveloped areas. When broken down by country, the results show that in many developing nations, the increases in artificial lighting are well above the global average, as more people gain access to electricity and outdoor lighting equipment for highways, city centers and residential areas. But even in many developed nations, the output of artificial light may be increasing as well, despite some regional efforts to curb it, the study shows. Light pollution has many side effects, including disrupting the circadian rhythms of plants, animals and humans. The view from space The data for the new study comes from the Suomi NPP satellite, which was designed as an operational testbed for critical hardware components that will go on a next-generation series of weather satellites from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The first of those satellites launched into space this month. The new additions will help meteorologists develop seven-day forecasts, as well as manage things like wildfire tracking and management, monitoring of storms and natural disasters, disaster relief efforts and a slew of other applications. One of the instruments aboard Suomi NPP is called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which includes a sensor called the Day/Night Band (DNB). The DNB was designed to provide high-resolution images of clouds at night to assist in weather forecasting, according to Christopher Elvidge, a physical scientist at NOAA who spoke at a telephone news conference held yesterday (Nov. 21). Suomi NPP orbits the globe from pole to pole, while the planet spins underneath it, so that it captures a view of the entire planet about twice per day. It has a "footprint" of 750 meters square, which means that's about how large each pixel is on the VIIRS images.

Read More: Spacw.com

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