A Bird’s-Eye View of the Blackout

By on August 22, 2003

Check out this incredible image of the NY blackout, as seen via satellite. Give you an idea of what things must have looked like before electricity.

Update: Upon further review, this is probably a fake. See below.

Update of the Update: It almost certainly IS a fake, but NOAA News has the real thing. (Thanks Keith!) Very cool. You can see how Toronto, Ottawa, Cleveland and Detroit basically disappear.



  1. Well I’d say this is a fake just because a good portion of the area did have power back by this time, espcially in the Cleveland and Northeast Ohio area, for example we had our power back by 8pm just east of Cleveland and the rest of the suburban area did by 11pm or so, Also if you save this pic, open it in a phot editor then make it a negative the blackout area shows up white which shows that the photo was edited to show a blacked out area. Also the black out wasn’t 100% some areas never lost power thus some lights would show up in some areas A true and poorly done fake!

  2. Most satellite pics have a GMT time stamp, and if this was on local time, it would read EDT for Eastern Daylight Time, not EST for Eastern Standard Time.

  3. Other indicators —

    There is no cloud cover obscuring lights anywhere over the North America. Not likely.

    The projection appears Mercator. If you look at geosat images, landforms appear to contract east to west as you go further north. Not so here. Why make the correction?

    The image appears to be a photoshop of a montage of night images taken by DMSP/NOAA low polar orbit satellites. This montage has been released by NOAA.

  4. Yeah, the ‘GEOSTAR’ image isn’t even in satellite coordinates, unless the alleged beast is in a Molinya (sp?) orbit. Mercator projection is a good guess. Never heard of a GEOSTAR, and I work in the field. (Have been in our DMSP control center).

    The spot in the ocean probably is Bermuda.

    I’ve flow across the US at night, and you can see the city lights diffusely through clouds. However, from space you would see large fuzzy bright areas where there are clouds. In fact I once saw a proposal to use the OLS (Operational Line Scanner) on the DMSP to act as a cloud transmission measurement device. Hard to do in practice since the low-light channel it is not calibrated.

  5. I thought this was a fake imediatly. Look at Lake Michigan and Michigan. Too much of the state is still lite up.

  6. Uhh… if it’s 11;15 PM Eastern, why is the west coast (and beyond) so dark at 8 PM in August?

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