Calibrated Images – NoktoSat

NOKTOsat Satelite Images from Space

Radiance calibrated nocturnal multispectral (RGB true colour) images taken from the International Space Station (ISS).

The images of the earth at night taken from the International Space Station are of the highest quality available. These high resolution photographs were taken by astronauts and are in colour, which means they offer a rare view of the earth at night in its true colours. Understandably, many people are under the impression that such photographs already exist due to the famous Black Marble image by NASA. However, the Black Marble image is a collection of black and white photographs to which a fake colour technique was applied, making it an artistic, instead of a realistic representation of the earth at night.​

Although the ISS images are the highest colour resolution available, the originals have not yet been scientifically processed. Fortunately, due to a collaboration between the Complutense University of Madrid, NASA and ESA, NOKTOsat is now able to offer a scientific data reduction pipeline for the ISS images. NOKTOsat images are radiance calibrated in three channels RGB corrected by Vignetting nonlinear response of the cameras and other technical features that need correction in order to have images of scientific quality.  

NOKTOsat images are ideal for tracking human activity globally. All of the following fields have at some point benefitted from the use of black and white nocturnal satellite images. Now, NOKTOsat offers satellite images in colour that provide far more quality data than what was previously available. Some examples of uses are: 

  • Geographical Studies – Population estimation, Land use, Cultural difference.
  • Economical Studies – Tracking economic activity, GDP estimation, Poverty assessment, Oil production.
  • Environmental Studies – Energy efficiency, Air pollution, biodiversity protection, Illegal fishing, Sky brightness estimation, light pollution, Co2 level estimates.
  • Human Health – Cancer research, Mosquito related illnesses.
  • Safety and Security – Civil safety, Monitoring disaster areas.
  • Policy Making – regulations for light pollution, construction, traffic safety).
  • Commercial Purposes.
  • Big Data Analysis.

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This image of Milan was acquired after the transition to LED technology in the centre. The illumination levels appear to be similar or even brighter in the centre than the suburbs, and the amount of blue light is now much higher, which suggests a greater impact on the ability to see the stars, human health and the environment. Since the European Space Agency’s NightPod device was installed on the ISS in 2012, astronauts have been taken systematic night images. It incorporates a motorised tripod that compensates for the station’s speed and the motion of the Earth below. Before that motion could blur images even though astronauts compensated with high-speed films and manual tracking. In 2003, NASA astronaut Don Pettit’s “barn door tracker” — a lower-tech precursor to NightPod using a motorised drill and assorted parts he accumulated on station — enabled the first motion-compensated night time imagery from the ISS. This image was taken by Samantha Cristoforetti.