India at night on Diwali: a could-be-but-isn’t-true story

Deepavali ki shubhkamnayein, Tiwari”

Diwali mubarak, sirji! What are you looking at with such purpose, Mishraji?”

“It is this beautiful satellite image of the Indian night sky taken by NASA showing all of the lights over this wondrous country of ours. Lovely, no?”

“Yes, Mishraji. It is quite spectacular. How did you come about to find the photo, sirji?”

“My eldest son, the one who is studying business management, he saw it on the Facebook and sent it by email to everyone.”

“Mishraji, I think I have some doubt regarding this photo…”

“What? Why are you such a doubting fellow, Tiwari? It is 100% genuine. I think some newspapers like International Business Times are also carrying it only. So many people cannot be wrong, no?”

“Yes, but if you take a close look at the photo, you will notice the different colour patterns over India. That looks highly suspicious to me. For example the lights are red over Odisha…”

“Red? Well, that must be because it is a Naxalite infested area, Tiwari. Naxalites want whole country will be red. So I cannot doubt they will only light red lights.”

“…Also there are green and blue portions on the map. For example much of Madhya Pradesh is lit up green. This is odd, no?”

“Why it is odd? If Madhya Pradesh wants to light the green lights, who are you to say no to that great state of our nation? Also, how you know it is not some effect from the Bhopal gas tragedy that from space, the lights in MP look green?”

“Next, Mishraji you will say the colours are an Amreeki consipiracy!”

“Cannot be ruled out… but this one is from NASA. I have read that the brains drained from our premier institutions all work at NASA. If Indians leave, US will be closed for business. So I trust it is honest photo verified by all Indian chaps in US like Mohan Bhargava.”

“Okay, Mishraji, leave it. But why are you not enjoying firecrackers and diyas outside with bhabhiji and the little ones?”

“Are you completely duffer, Tiwari? How can I enjoy? It has been cloudy all day with heavy thundershowers along the coastal region. We can’t even see the sky – it is so dark!”


Note: here is a brief history of the photo which everyone on Facebook and even news-organizations are sharing as a photo showing the night sky over India on Diwali. It is a composite image taken over many years to show the changing patterns of lighting usage in the country. It is a false colour-image using a technique quite standard in remote sensing and GIS. Satellite data from 2003 is coloured red, 1998 is coloured green and 1992 is blue.

Also, it was cloudy and did rain in parts of India. Something which would have shown up in a one-day snapshot taken by any satellite. In fact INSAT-3A does have cloud coverage imagery for that date.

Please excuse my flippancy.


8 thoughts on “India at night on Diwali: a could-be-but-isn’t-true story

  1. Ani,
    I am laughing again. I just read your blog entry once again. The funniest thing is that after you clearly referenced the reasons why it isn’t a real photo following your very clever exchange…the very first person to leave a comment writes… fake. Ha, Ha. Just like I forwarded the picture without using my critical thinking skills and just glancing superficially and passing on a very pretty picture which I wish COULD be true, others probably saw your blog post, didn’t read it fully commented and moved on. I guess we learn a lesson everyday. Miss you Ani!!!!


    P.S. Just like some people believe there is a toy shop at the North Pole and that some little winged creature leaves coins under your pillow for pulled teeth, I am going to suspend reason and logic and believe in this picture deep in my heart.

    1. Haha… thanks Jenee. Spot on observation.

      Miss you too. Why don’t you hop into the car and come on down to DC? In other news, I’ll be in Columbus for half a day next week. 🙂

  2. Good one.. this picture troubled me as well.. you put it into words 😀

    My FB wall was littered with folks sharing this pic and commenting on how good it is. Spending half a moment on this picture (not withstanding the cloud cover and the duration over which this was taken) would have shown that this has nothing to do with Diwali.

    A quick glance at the lit up areas around the Indus valley and Gangetic delta, traditional areas that DO NOT celebrate Diwali are also lit up. All this forwarding and sharing is a classic example of letting your heart rule your head 🙂

      1. hehe.. the last year has just rushed by – having fun with my son who is turning one pretty soon.. that and a new role in the office has kept me away from twitter and blogging.

  3. This article of your’s made me laugh….Though i was not inundated with this pic in FB but i did see it earlier, and now i understand its foolish context!!! False Indian pride??

  4. You need to get a Like button … oh wait, found it!

    Just to say that I read and enjoyed the post. I like your references to the Naxalites and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Quite clever. Once I realised the picture is a fake, I felt kinda sad, like the romance of Diwali in India had been taken away by science. Oh well…

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