NASA's latest photos of Earth are stunning — and they're also the clearest-ever view of human settlement across our planet.
The organization released a composite satellite image of the planet Wednesday, showcasing how the world lights up after night falls. A series of images, taken by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) last year, make up the first global night composite since 2012. And it's mesmerizing.
Click on the photo below to zoom in. It's worth seeing.
But it's more than a pretty picture.
About every 10 years, a new "night light" composite of Earth is created, and for the past 25 years they've helped researchers track human settlement. The images show bright lights coming from major cities around the world, and areas of darkness where population is lower.
According to NASA, scientists are on the verge of collecting night data more frequently. Later this year, the organization will receive night light data on a daily basis, which could be monumental in understanding energy use around the world.
That's not all though. Night data can help social, economic, and environmental researchers in several other ways. NASA's website says during Hurricane Matthew, scientists were able to detect power outages the storm caused by studying the map.
Pretty neat, eh? Watch the video above to learn more.