This image of Earth's city lights was created with data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS). Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map locations of permanent lights on the Earth's surface. The brightest areas are the most urbanised, but not necessarily the most populated. Cities tend to grow along coastlines and transportation networks. Even without the underlying map, outlines of many continents would still be visible.

Data: Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC. Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC.

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