Skip to main content

NASA images from space show North Korea shrouded in darkness

By Sophie Brown, CNN
updated 4:01 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Where did North Korea go? Pyongyang looks like a tiny island in a sea of darkness in recent photos captured by NASA .
Where did North Korea go? Pyongyang looks like a tiny island in a sea of darkness in recent photos captured by NASA .
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Images taken from space at night show North Korea as a black spot
  • Lights from cities and infrastructure flicker across other East Asian nations
  • NASA says lights at nighttime illustrate a city's "relative economic importance"

(CNN) -- Give an astronaut on the International Space Station a digital camera and you're bound to end up with some astounding images -- especially if they're flying above North Korea.

When the space station passed over East Asia one night recently, a member of NASA's Expedition 38 crew took a series of photographs that show just how off-the-grid the Hermit Kingdom really is.

While thriving cities and major roads are seen glowing across South Korea and China, the landscape between the two countries is so dark that it's difficult to tell where the sea ends and North Korea begins.

Pyongyang "appears like a small island," says NASA, noting that the light emission from the North Korean capital is equivalent to the smaller towns of its neighbor to the south.

The space agency, which turned the images into a timelapse video, says city lights at night are a good indicator of the relative affluence of cities.

Looking at the images, it's hardly a surprise that energy use is dramatically different on either side of the 38th parallel. In South Korea, per capita power consumption is 10,162 kilowatt hours while in North Korea the figure is 739 kilowatt hours, according to World Bank data.

Read: Images from space track relentless spread of humanity

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT