Illuminating the capabilities of Landsat 8 for mapping night lights

Noam Levin, Stuart Phinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Remote sensing of night-lights has been enhanced in recent years with the availability of the new VIIRS Day and Night band, the commercial EROS-B satellite and astronaut photographs from the International Space Station. However, dedicated space-borne multispectral sensors offering radiance calibrated night lights imagery are yet to be launched. Here we examined the capabilities of Landsat 8 to acquire night time light images of the Earth. Examining seven night-time Landsat 8 scenes, we found that brightly lit areas in both urban (Berlin, Las Vegas, Nagoya and Tel-Aviv) and gas flares (Basra, Kuwait) areas were detected in all eight bands of Landsat 8. The threshold for detection of lit areas was approximately 0.4 W/m2/μm/sr in bands 1-5 and 8 of Landsat 8. This threshold level was higher than Landsat dark noise levels, and slightly lower than post launch Landsat 8 OLI band dependent noise equivalent radiance difference levels. Drawing on this, we call on the USGS to plan an annual night-time acquisition of urban and gas flares areas globally, and to enable the performance of the future Landsat 10 to be established in a way that it will be sensitive enough to image the Earth at night, thus performing as Nightsat during the night.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Cities
  • Gas flares
  • Landsat 8
  • Night lights


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