Reliable data on economic growth is hard to come by in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries. Yet according to scientists, outer space offers a new perspective for measuring economic growth.

Using satellite images of nighttime lights, J. Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, and David N. Weil from Brown University have created a new framework for estimating a country or region’s gross domestic product, or GDP by observing the changes in a country's "night lights" as seen from outer space.

“Consumption of nearly all goods in the evening requires lights,” they write in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. “As income rises, so does light usage per person, in both consumption activities and many investment activities.”

The researchers don’t envision the lights density data as a replacement for official numbers, but when added to existing data from agencies like the World Bank, the lights density can provide a better indicator of how these economies really are performing.


USA and Canada still going strong or are the lights dimming over there?


Absolutely devastating difference between Europe and Africa.


Japan brightly lid, India & China lighting up. The difference between North and South Korea is stark. Are those people in Australia energy saving perhaps?


South America is lighting up. Including the rain forest?

Source: Images: Night Satellite Photos. Related: World Mapper: Toys import/exports of the world, If the implications of Global Warming were fair, Constellation, Mapping the DNA world.

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  • it would be cool to see a some timelapse imagery of this....

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  • Idiot! There are cities in the middle of Amazônia.

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  • in other side this pictures discribe which countires were colony. like africa that colony with europe cenratl asia (turkmenistan,uzbekistan . . .)with russia

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  • Last night I was cycling through the dunes and I saw a lot of lights in the sky Whoooaa how many planes!!! I thought then I realized that it were no planes but stars a huge milestone in human history

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  • > Are those people in Australia energy saving perhaps? Most of Australia has a population density less than 1 person per square kilometre. As with western China (but more so), there's basically no-one there.

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  • Germ colonies in petri dish <img src="" width="530" height="398"/>

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  • Who'da thought. Brilliant thinking.

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  • this seems like a rather different way of reading the GDP. i like how one can really map densitiy of population as well and that many of the areas that aren't lit up are all deserts. overlaying this map with others would throw up really interesting data.

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