NASA has released a global map of the Earth at night for the first time since 2012, using the powerful Suomi NPP satellite and complex computer algorithms to give us our best look yet at our planet in darkness.

The newly improved, high-resolution graphics can help scientists plot population patterns, energy demand, the expansion of cities, and even shipping lanes.

What's more, NASA scientists plan to release daily snapshots of the world at night later this year, and that means researchers would be able to use the data to aid disaster recovery operations and monitor energy use on a day-to-day basis.

At the heart of the Suomi NPP satellite is the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite or VIIRS, which can capture night-time shots at an unprecedented resolution, and is able to detect photons of light in 22 different wavelengths.

On the Europe image, you can see the snow-capped mountains of Norway.

With more tweaking, VIIRS will soon be able to identify individual boats and street lamps.

You can see the US urban sprawl, though mining operations still shine bright in rural areas.

Here, urban settlements follow the Nile in Egypt.

And the best part is, scientists can get their hands on the data within minutes, thanks to the partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on this project.

NASA has even released whole hemisphere photos too, like this one of Asia and Australia. Oh, Earth, you're looking good.

Once the daily updates are ready to go, NASA hopes they can be used for tracking sea ice, monitoring unregulated fishing, assessing the impact of war on power grids, reducing light pollution, and more.

With such a high-resolution image available, the data will even be useful for urban planning and local government use – in times of a power outage, perhaps.