The Real World at Night

The night view of the earth has become a very popular depiction of this planet. Although the NASA itself says that “The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated” many people mistake this view as a representation of the inhabited places on the globe. Our gridded population cartogram can help to get a better understanding of the relation of people and light. The following map is a reprojection of the earth at night that shows the nightview in relation to the population distribution. The gridlines are kept in a light colour and thus allow to identify those areas where the lines converge (representing the unpopulated regions). In contrast, the populated areas are given the most space, so that one can easily see which populated areas are literally illuminated at night – and where there are people living in darkness. The resulting map is an impressive picture of an unequal world, with large parts of Africa living in darkness, and the affluent countries in Europe and North America glowing in the dark:

The Earth at Night projected on a gridded population cartogram(click for large image)
See here for an updated and more detailed version of this map


This map has recently been shown by Danny Dorling in the Monday night lecture at the Royal Geographical Society. The slides of this lecture are also available on Slideshare and in the Sasi lecture archive.

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin D. Hennig. You are free use the material under Creative Commons conditions (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0); please contact me for further details. I also appreciate a message if you used my maps somewhere else. High resolution and customized maps are available on request.