Marit Jentoft-Nilsen/Robert Simmon/NASA

The space agency gives a highly detailed look at the tournament's vast geography.

Proving its devotion to monitoring spheres that zoom through space, NASA has jumped into the football fray with images of the 12 Brazilian cities hosting World Cup games, lit up at night like blazing stadium lights.

The shots from the Suomi NPP satellite—which has a special tool to pluck the faintest of glimmers from the nocturnal landscape, such as the vessels spotted in the black ocean—show the broad geography of this year's FIFA tournament. Above is a zoom on the crowded metropolises of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the latter being the site of the final match on July 13. The former was the host of Thursday's kick-off game between Brazil and Croatia at Arena Corinthians. (Croatia lost to the historical Brazilian juggernaut, after being dinged by a suspect penalty.)

These two urban areas represent the country's most densely populated zone, but many host cities are strewn over the country's massive girth, which measures more than 2,500 miles from east to west and north to south. Below, find the remaining 10 World Cup stops in a wider satellite image, whose generation was probably more complicated than most would think. Explains NASA:

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured the images on August 4, 2013. The nighttime view was made possible by the VIIRS "day-night band," which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses light intensification to enable the detection of dim signals. The instrument can sense light 100,000 times fainter than conventional visible-light sensors, making it very sensitive to moonlight and city lights.

Unlike a film camera that captures a photograph in one exposure, VIIRS produces an image by repeatedly scanning a scene and resolving it as millions of individual picture elements, or pixels. The day-night band goes a step further, determining on-the-fly whether to use its low, medium, or high-gain mode. If a pixel is very bright, a low-gain mode on the sensor prevents the pixel from over-saturating. If the pixel is dark, the signal will be amplified.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  3. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

  4. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  5. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

×