Published February 28, 2014
Can you pick out North Korea in this video? Here’s a hint: It’s the black spot.
Flying over East Asia, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) took this video of the Korean Peninsula on Jan. 30. The Earth as seen from above is a dramatic enough sight on its own; city lights at night flickering dramatically reveal the relative economic importance of the cities, the largest being obviously visible from space.
North Korea is remarkable in this video for what you can’t see: The reclusive country is almost completely dark compared to neighboring South Korea and China. The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.
North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang, appears like a small island, despite a population of 3.26 million (as of 2008). The light emission from Pyongyang is equivalent to the smaller towns in South Korea.
Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea’s eastern shoreline, NASA noted in an online explanation of the video. But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect. These differences are illustrated in per capita power consumption in the two countries, with South Korea at 10,162 kilowatt hours and North Korea at 739 kilowatt hours.