You have to admit that there is a special—yet strange—feeling when you have the opportunity to look at our planet from the perspective of astronauts in space.
An overwhelming feeling takes over after seeing how beautiful our world is from space at night.
These views show Earth as it really is a naked planet, stripped from religion, borders, and conflicts.
The entire planet is seen as one, and we finally see that we are as one.
The only thing that remains, in addition to Earth’s unprecedented natural beauty are artificial lights which are spread out across the entire planet, covering almost its entire surface.
The view is spectacular, it’s unique and mysterious.
Just look at this image of sparkling like a star in the night sky with artificial light.
But not everything is at it seems.
In fact, the above image is in fact not as it seems. It wasn’t taken from outer space, and it is not an actual image of Earth, despite the fact that the above image, as many others have been shared across social networks and different websites as original images from Earth from Space.
You can see the difference between a real image taken from space and the above photographs if we take a look at an image of the Iberian Peninsula snapped by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in July 2014.
The stunning image of the Iberian Penineusla—with those strange yet beautiful lights isn’t fake. It is a computer rendering created by a talented artist called Anton Balazh (Антон Балаж) who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In an interview with Tech Inside, Anton said he liked working with 3D programs and thought a model of Earth would be fun to make, so he set off to make, although it wasn’t an overnight job.
According to Balazh, he spent several years working on his project making more realistic and more complicated.
In order to create a computer rendering as real as possible, he turned to NASA’s satellite images and downloaded several gigabytes of images from NASA’s Visible Earth catalogs.
After that, Balazh spliced in bathymetry data for a realistic-looking ocean floor and even sea level data for in order to come up with real coastlines.
But there was something missing. The Earth looked flat (as in barren mountainless). In order to solve this issue, he used NASA-based topography data and lifted up mountain ranges that would normally look flat from space.
Using data collected by the Suomi NPP satellite, Balazh layered in city lights.
‘There are many different tweaks’ to polish a shot, he says in the interview: amping up city lights, raising mountains, or casting artificial moonlight in just the right way.
In order to understand just how complex his work is, each image has about ’20-30 million polygons’ to form realistic 3D terrain.
‘Rendering a single image takes … tens of hours on a multi-core computer with 32 GB of RAM,’ said Balazh.
Anton has created several other mind-boggling views of Earth with the help of computers.