Diffuse light is real light

Sánchez de Miguel, A., Kyba, C.C.M., Zamorano, J., Gallego, J. & Gaston, K.J. 2020. The nature of the diffuse light near cities detected in nighttime satellite imagery. Scientific Reports 10, 7829.

Diffuse glow has been observed around brightly lit cities in nighttime satellite imagery since at least the first publication of large scale maps in the late 1990s. In the literature, this has often been assumed to be an error related to the sensor, and referred to as “blooming”, presumably in relation to the effect that can occur when using a CCD to photograph a bright light source. Here we show that the effect seen on the DMSP/OLS, SNPP/VIIRS-DNB and ISS is not only instrumental, but in fact represents a real detection of light scattered by the atmosphere. Data from the Universidad Complutense Madrid sky brightness survey are compared to nighttime imagery from multiple sensors with differing spatial resolutions, and found to be strongly correlated. These results suggest that it should be possible for a future space-based imaging radiometer to monitor changes in the diffuse artificial skyglow of cities.