Nothing makes me feel more connected to the rest of the human race than seeing the Earth from space at night.
National borders vanish, and rivers of light unite our 21st-century towns and cities into a single glowing tapestry.
Just look at this incredible view of Europe, sparkling with artificial light:
Er, wait a minute.
If you’ve seen enough images of Earth from space at night, or you care to look closely enough, this image looks… funny.
Compare it to this photograph of the Iberian Peninsula, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in July 2014:
As it turns out, the first — and arguably more breathtaking — image is actually a computer rendering created by Russian graphic artist Anton Balazh (Антон Балаж).
Scroll to see more of Balazh’s mind-boggling views of Earth and learn how he pulled them off.
They're computer renderings created by Anton Balazh, a graphic artist who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Balazh liked working with 3D programs, he tells Tech Insider, and thought a model of Earth would be fun to make.
For realism he downloaded countless gigabytes of real satellite images from NASA's Visible Earth catalogues.
And, using NASA-based topography data, lifted up mountain ranges that would normally look flat from space.
'There are many different tweaks' to polish a shot, he says: amping up city lights, raising mountains, or casting artificial moonlight in just the right way.
And the 5,000-by-5,000-pixel files would take dozens of mobile phones to display at full resolution.
'Rendering a single image takes ... tens of hours on a multi-core computer with 32 GB of RAM,' he says.
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