This is worth gaping at for a moment:
Some of the details on how the image was obtained:
These super-high-resolution images, made possible by a new type of infrared sensor on the satellite, were revealed here at the American Geophysical Union conference Dec. 5.
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite has a “day-night band” that can detect natural and man-made light with unprecedented resolution and clarity. It can resolve everything from the nocturnal glow of the atmosphere to the light of a single boat at sea. It can detect auroras, wildfires, the reflection of moon and star light off clouds and ice and the lights alongside highways. The sensor has six times better spatial resolution and 250 times better resolution of lighting levels than anything that came before it.
The VIIRS instrument works by scanning in 22 different wavelength bands. For each pixel, it uses a low-, medium- or high-gain mode to accurately depict the light from each source. Low-light signals are amplified and bright lights are kept from being over-saturated.
This could be an example of infrastructure at its finest. With a quick glance at this photo, you get an idea of the geographic dispersion of the American population. Of course, it could also tell you something about light pollution…