"Black Marble" Images Showed Lights In Uninhabited Western Australia - What Gives?
    By News Staff | December 7th 2012 05:53 PM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    If you looked at the "Black Marble" images of Earth at night released by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week, you may have noticed bright areas in the largely uninhabited western part of Australia.

    What's the story?

    The night light observed by the Suomi NPP satellite images comes from wildfires. In those bright areas of western Australia, there are no nearby cities or industrial sites but there were fires in the area when Suomi NPP made passes over the region.   

    The extent of the night lights in this area is also a function of composite imaging. The new images were assembled from data acquired over nine days in April and 13 days in October. This means fires and other lighting (such as ships) could have been detected on any one day and integrated into the composite picture, despite being temporary phenomena.

    This nighttime image of Australia was cropped from the Suomi NPP "Black Marble" released by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in December 2012. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC

    Because different areas burned at different times when the satellite passed over, the cumulative result in the composite view gives the appearance of a massive blaze. These fires are temporary features, in contrast to cities which are always there.

    Other features appearing in uninhabited areas in these images could include fishing boats, gas flaring, lightning, oil drilling, or mining operations, which can show up as points of light. One example is natural gas drilling in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota.


    not convinced by this answer for bright lights in uninhabited space. Fires brighter than the most populous regions?perhaps let someone else (peer) review the original data.

    You think there is someone more qualified than NASA and the NOAA to peer review???
    Obviously hb has never seen any wildfires, more commonly known as bush fires, in Australia. Perhaps a little research could aid knowledge - sometimes expressed as 'mouth before brain'. In fact, the Australian native people used the method of setting fire to the bush to regenerate vegetation after they passed through on their travels. Much of the vegetation can only regenerate this way as the seeds are contained in very hard shells that burst in extreme heat thus releasing the seed.

    The brush fires weren't as bright as large cities. The imaging system in the satellite amplified low-intensity light and desaturated the brighter sources. The result is dim fires looking as brilliant urban areas; but the tradeoff is that all sources are equally crisp.

    And really, what do you suppose the alternative is? A vast complex of secret cities in the Outback?

    Gerhard Adam
    A vast complex of secret cities in the Outback?
    Hmmm ... not so secret any more eh?

    Anyway, here's a link for anyone interested.
    Then, the day-night band reviews the amount of light in each pixel. If it is very bright, a low-gain mode prevents the pixel from oversaturating. If the pixel is very dark, the signal is amplified.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Secret cities?

    There is Pine Gap for one.. And it is a 'complex'.

    Don't tell anyone, it's secret!