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Earth never sleeps

It is commonly called "The Blue Marble" due to its primarily blue colour of its seas during the daylight hours. However, at night it takes on a darkened shade, and is known as the Black Marble.

Scientists have revealed a magnificent view of Earth at night showing the glow of natural and human-built phenomena in greater detail than ever before. The new images were taken by a Nasa-NOAA satellite that was launched last year.

Twinkling city lights, moonlight, northern lights, naturally-occurring fires and colourful auroras can all be seen from the satellite of earth in a new dazzling night time. As Steve Miller, a researcher at NOAA's Colorado State University Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere put it best , "Unlike humans, the Earth never sleeps."

The NASA-NOAA satellite is called the Suomi National Polar satellite and is named after Verner "Vern" E. Suomi (1915-1995), a meteorologist, scientist, and educator from the University of Wisconsin, in Madison who is considered the father of satellite meteorology.

The satellite was launched on October 28, 2011 and was placed into a Sun-synchronous orbit which is 824 kilometres (512 miles) above Earth.

Its sensor, the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), is sensitive enough to detect the nocturnal glow produced by Earth’s atmosphere and the light from a single ship in the sea. It is also able to detect a more complete view of storms and other weather conditions, such as fog.

Mitch Goldberg, program scientist for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System, said: 'NOAA's National Weather Service is continuing to explore the use of the day-night band.

The very high resolution from VIIRS data will take forecasting weather events at night to a much higher level.'