Wildfires light up western Australia

December 7, 2012
Wildfires light up western Australia
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

Careful observers of the new "Black Marble" images of Earth at night released this week by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have noticed bright areas in the western part of Australia that are largely uninhabited. Why is this area so lit up, many have asked?

Away from the cities, much of the night light observed by the NASA- Suomi NPP satellite in these images comes from wildfires. In the bright areas of western Australia, there are no nearby cities or industrial sites but, scientists have confirmed, there were fires in the area when Suomi NPP made passes over the region. This has been confirmed by other data collected by the satellite.

The extent of the night lights in this area is also a function of composite imaging. These new images were assembled from data acquired over nine days in April 2012 and 13 days in October 2012. 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.

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 , gas flaring, lightning, , or mining operations, which can show up as points of light. One example is in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota.

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1 / 5 (5) Dec 08, 2012
Judging from that photo, you'd think that there were cities in the remote parts of the outback. Seriously, though - that would be kind of cool.
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (6) Dec 10, 2012
Cities? The outback is where I go to get away from people like you.
1 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2012
Cities? The outback is where I go to get away from people like you.

I'm sorry. Have I done something, specifically, to piss you off?
1 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2012
I do understand, however. I respect the remoteness and the natural beauty of the outback. I often think about going there, to escape from civilization, myself.

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