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Holiday Light Show from Space: Lecture with NASA’S Dr. Miguel Román December 7

This post was authored by Stephanie Marcus, Science Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

Even from 512 miles above the Earth, holiday lights shine bright. Miguel Román, who is a research physical scientist and remote sensing specialist in the Terrestrial Information Systems Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, has been looking at daily data from the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite and has identified how patterns in nighttime light intensity change during major holiday seasons– Christmas and New Year’s in the United States and the holy month of Ramadan in the Middle East. In comparing the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the U.S., he and his team noticed large areas where night lights were from 20-50% brighter than the rest of the year.

Suomi NPP, which circles the Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole and back about 14 times a day, carries an instrument called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Dr. Román is the principal NASA scientist for the VIIRS Day/Night Band. VIIRS can observe the dark side of the planet and detect the glow of lights in cities and towns across the globe. The analysis of holiday lights uses an advanced algorithm that filters out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles in order to isolate city lights on a daily basis. The data from this algorithm provide high-quality satellite information on light output across the globe, allowing scientists to track when – and how brightly – people illuminate the night.

Dr. Román will discuss the need to better understand the driving forces behind energy use, including how dominant social phenomena, the changing demographics of urban centers, and socio-cultural settings affect energy-use decisions. The satellite data can help cities estimate the timing of their peak energy use and even predict how much electricity they will use in a given time period.

Date:  December 7, 2017

Time:  11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Place:  Pickford Theater, 3rd floor, Madison Building, Library of Congress

For inquiries about this program, contact Stephanie Marcus in the Science, Technology & Business Division at [email protected] or the division office at: (202) 707-1212. Individuals requiring accommodations for this event are requested to submit a request at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

The lecture will be later broadcast on the library’s webcast page and YouTube channel “Topics in Science” playlist.

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