Here’s an interesting image: New Zealand from space at night:
No, it’s not a blank image: if you look carefully, there are actually some spots of light. It really highlights how sparsely we New Zealanders are spread across these long islands.
You can make out more detail by looking at the city level. Here’s Auckland’s broad and confident sprawl:
Wellington, by contrast, has a couple of spindly antennae streaking out from a compact head:
In Christchurch, the influence of topography is less marked, but Hagley Park and a great wedge of industrial land show clearly against an otherwise even urban fabric:
The more observant among you may have twigged that I’m actually pulling your leg here: these aren’t satellite images at all. They’re actually based upon 2006 Census data for population density, and are an offshoot of a project I’ve been working on. I’ve inverted the usual light-to-dark colour scheme for thematic mapping, given it a slight “street light” hue and overlaid a touch of Gaussian blur to enhance the glowing effect.
The result may not be the most informative visualisation (there’s no context and no legend), but I think it’s quite an evocative one. I like the sense of floating above the earth at night, unable to distinguish between land and sea, but being acutely aware of humanity in the form of thousands of motes of light merging into gauzy urban clouds. They are still information-rich visualisations (every pixel tells a story), and students of urban form can glean a lot from the comparative shapes of our major cities, but these images are as much about feeling as they are about data.