The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Wednesday released global maps of Earth at night, including stunning images of India. The global maps provide a clear view of human settlements across the planet.

The satellite images of Earth, which are often referred to as “night lights”, are produced every decade or so. A research team at Nasa headed by Earth scientist Miguel Roman of Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US is working to find out if night lights imagery could be produced and updated yearly, monthly or even everyday.

“By studying Earth at night, researchers can investigate how cities expand, monitor light intensity to estimate energy use and economic activity, and aid in disaster response,” the organisation said on its website.

The images are captured using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. The instrument detects photons of light reflected from Earth’s surface and atmosphere in 22 different wavelengths, Nasa said.

Nasa also released a new global map showing the difference in night lights between 2012 and 2016. The difference in the two images highlights how populations and cities have changed in the past few years.

India night lights in 2012. Photo Credit: Nasa
India night lights in 2016. Photo Credit: Nasa
Chicago night lights in 2012. Photo Credit: Nasa
Chicago night lights in 2016. Photo Credit: Nasa
These three composite images provide full-hemisphere views of Earth at night. Photo Credit: Nasa