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NASA and NOAA's New Photos Show Earth as a Planet of Lights

New photos taken from space show a nighttime view of Earth in stunning detail.

Taken by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, which was launched by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and the Department of Defense in 2011, the images show a "black marble" sparkling from afar. But that's just the wide-angle portrait (which was stitched together from extremely high-resolution photos of the planet's surface). The low-light cameras aboard the satellite are sensitive enough to capture closeup stills of the light from cities, wildfires, even boats afloat on the sea.

These images "show the glow of natural and human-built phenomena across the planet in greater detail than ever before," according to a statement on NASA's website, where you can read more about the satellite and how the images were captured, download high-res photos, and explore a pretty mesmerizing interactive map.

Not everyone is seeing the light, though.

"The new 'Black Marble' images of our Earth show that there is still much work that needs to be done in tackling the problems of light pollution," said Bob Parks, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, in a statement released online.

The IDA is a nonprofit advocating to reduce light pollution around the world. Parks raises an interesting point (whether or not he may be simply exploiting the moment). Should these images be sparking a conversation about light pollution, as well, or at least keeping that conversation going?

We've met activists who think light pollution has become a serious environmental concern, especially in densely populated regions like Southern California. Check out our report, "Bright Lights, Big City," which we re-aired tonight, to find out more about the causes and consequences of light pollution.

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