There is a new, incredible image now available of the US at night. NASA and NOAA’s new mosaics from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), on the Soumi satellite detects light from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to see dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires and even reflected moonlight. Here I have made a few close-ups cut from the larger NASA image, all at the same scale for comparison.

First is of all is New York City and Long Island, which are very bright indeed — as expected. You have to go a long way — or out to sea — to find darkness.

Next is Atlanta, which has more of a classic urban sprawl with no large natural boundaries around it, so lights spread out in all directions.

The San Francisco bay area is seen here on the left, with some bridges visible and off to the right is part of California’s Great Central Valley. There are big dark areas very near the cities of California.

Here’s my home region, New Mexico, with the big blob of light being Albuquerque. Interstate 40 forms a tentacle of light eastward from the city. Santa Fe is in the upper right. New Mexico is a relatively dark state, with dark, starry skies within easy reach of most people.

Here is New Orleans in the upper center, with offshore drilling platforms dotting the Gulf waters to the south. Notice the tentacles of light which are, I believe, the towns along the narrow bands of high ground (sometimes artificially high) in the Mississippi Delta.

Image credit: NASA/NOAA