Help using

Table of contents



Changing map content


Extended toolbar

Other functionalities



Privacy policy

About is a mapping application that displays light pollution related content over Microsoft Bing base layers (road and hybrid Bing maps). The primary use was to show VIIRS/DMSP data in a friendly manner, but over the many years it received also some other interesting light pollution related content like SQM/SQC measurements, World Atlas 2015 zenith brigtness, almost realtime clouds , aurora prediction and IAU observatories features. If you have a permanent SQM reader installed you can add it to the map by contacting me.

If you want a more detailed analysis of radiance (VIIRS/DMSP) changes over a period of time, please use the Lighttrends application.

Send comments about the map, new feature requests and bug reports to Jurij Stare

Data credits:

VIIRS: Earth Observation Group, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center.
Aurora 1h forecast: NOAA.
Observatories: Wikipedia (updated: 16.01.2021).
World Atlas 2015: Falchi, Fabio; Cinzano, Pierantonio; Duriscoe, Dan; Kyba, Christopher C. M.; Elvidge, Christopher D.; Baugh, Kimberly; Portnov, Boris; Rybnikova, Nataliya A.; Furgoni, Riccardo (2016): Supplement to: The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness. GFZ Data Services.
Falchi F, Cinzano P, Duriscoe D, Kyba CC, Elvidge CD, Baugh K, Portnov BA, Rybnikova NA, Furgoni R. The new world atlas of artificial night sky brightness. Science Advances. 2016 Jun 1;2(6):e1600377. You can support the authors of World Atlas 2015 by visiting: The New World Atlas of Light Pollution - Paperback and buying it on Amazon

Mobile app

You can now get for your mobile device (Google Android / Apple iOS). It has the same features as the web version plus a few additional ones (offline mode, high DPI basemaps, mobile friendlier menus) and has NO advertisements. Because of the latter it comes at a small price (less than 5 €).




Left click and drag the map in desired direction or slide your finger if you are using a touchscreen capable device.

Change zoom

Use mouse scroll wheel to change zoom or press +/- buttons on the toolbar. You can also zoom to a desired rectangle by drawing it using shift-left mouse drag. Another way to zoom in is to just double-click the map and it will zoom-in.

Changing map content

The right menu contains controls which you can use to change map contents and view the legend. The menu can be hidden or displayed by clicking on menu button in the top right corner. You can click on the “i“ icon to get additional information about data displayed,

Overlays, features and base map

The “Map layers” section of the right menu contains controls which enable you to select a desired overlay, features and base map. Overlay and features have a slider below the selection which you can use to change its opacity. The default opacity is set at 60%. Base

There are two base layers available, Bing Road and Hybrid which is a mix between Satellite and Road type map. These two base maps are provided by Microsoft REST service.

VIIRS/World Atlas 2015 options

When you have VIIRS/World Atlas 2015 overlay selected, you can check the "Color blind" option to have the selected overlay displayed in an alternative color style which is color blind friendly.

Clouds options

When you have clouds overlay selected, there are two additional controls next to the dropdown menu.
The play icon creates a cloud animation of the last 12h.
Clicking the hour label changes the animation loop speed (it iterates over 4 different speeds, max speed by default).

SQM/SQC/Observatories options

click on the “cog wheel” to display additional options for the selected feature. You can ie. filter SQM points by the name or date. Observatories option contains additional fields used for finding them and assessing their light pollution levels

Map legend

Shows the legend of the currently visible overlay and feature.

My locations

You can create a list of locations to quickly access them later. To start making an entry click on "Edit". When you click on the "New" button, a new entry will be created (it creates a snapshot of your current map position). You can name it, reposition it (click & drag far left button up/down) or delete it (far right button). Optionally you can add a pushpin to desired coordinates by clicking the pushpin icon (located between name and delete button), then click on the map. Click "Edit" again to exit the edit mode. The list is saved in a cookie on the device where it was created.


The toolbar contains basic tools listed below.


Zooms in the map.


Zooms out the map.


Positions the screen where the user is located. The location is provided by a HTML5 Gelocation API using GPS, GeoIP, Cell network or other means.


Measure the distance and azimuth. Left click to start the measurement, double click to end.  Azimuth is available if the line is not segmented and it represents the angle from start of the line to the end. Multiple measurements are supported. To clear all measurements, click again on the ruler icon to deactivate it.

Radiance statistics per country

Displays the statistics of VIIRS data per country land and territorial waters for each year.


Prints the map to a PNG image.

Extended toolbar

Shows or hides the extended toolbar. The extended toolbar can be repositioned by grabbing it by its right side frame.


Shows this document.

Extended toolbar

The extended toolbar contains various measurement tools and tools for adding your own measurements. You can reposition the toolbar by grabbing it by its right edge and move it.

Point information

Left clicking on the map shows a popup displaying clicked coordinates (WGS84 coordinate system in degrees, minutes, seconds format), value of the visible VIIRS/DMSP overlay and elevation (250m SRTM 4 in meters at clicked location. For World Atlas there is a bit more information available. If no other control is active, this is the default control when left clicking the map unless a feature layer is visible. In such case a feature info is shown first if cliking on a feature point.

Area information using a polygon

Displays statistics of visible VIIRS/WA layer that intersects the drawn polygon. To draw the polygon use left clicks and double left click to finish. The resulting popup can be moved by grabbing its’ frame and repositioning it. The Raw GeoTIFF button will export the original raw data clipped by the polygon. Export is only available for VIIRS overlay.

Area information using a circle

Displays statistics of visible VIIRS/WA layer that intersects the drawn circle. To draw the circle left click, then move mouse and then left click to finish at desired radius. The resulting popup can be moved by grabbing its’ frame and repositioning it. The Raw GeoTIFF button will export the original raw data clipped by the polygon. Export is only available for VIIRS overlay.

Area information using a square

Displays statistics of visible VIIRS/WA layer that intersects the drawn square. To draw the square left click, then move mouse and then left click to finish at desired length. The resulting popup can be moved by grabbing its’ frame and repositioning it. The Raw GeoTIFF button will export the original raw data clipped by the polygon. Export is only available for VIIRS overlay.

Add a marker

By left clicking the map it adds a pushpin marker on the map. To remove markers, left click on them.
Markers are added to the URL, so you can send the link over the e-mail and all markers on the map are preserved upon opening the link.

Add a SQM measurement

Activating this option enables you to add your own SQM (what's an SQM?) measurement to the map.

"Name or location" should contain your name or place name (non-obligatory field).
Local Date/Time field should contain local time (very important!) the measurement was taken. You can either select the date from calendar applet or enter it manually. Must be in YYYY-MM-DD HH:mm format.
SQM value contains the value.
Make sure you check either SQM or SMQ-L device used.
Comment should contain your comments about the measurement or additional information about the place or weather conditions (non-obligatory field).
Press submit to submit the form.

If successful, the form will close and show you your added measurement. Make make sure a filter in SQM options is not active and possibly hiding the added point. Added points cannot be edited or deleted by you, so double check data you enter.

Zenith sky brightness simulation (experimental!) - available only on desktop

Activating this option enables you to simulate what happens if an area near a specified location changes it's radiance output.

You are first required to specify a location you wish to simulate ie. an observation point. With a click on the map a location is marked and a 200km circle in drawn indicating the area which has an impact on the observation point zenith brightness.
Next you are required to select an area (inside the 200km circle) by drawing a polygon around it (or a circle or provide a custom polygon in a WKT format). It should not take more than a couple of seconds for the calculation to complete. The calculation uses the currently selected VIIRS overlay in this window, which you can change anytime!

Description of results:
Observation point - Latitutde and longitude of the selected observation point (clicking it will copy it to the clipboard and toggle decimal/deg format)
Polygon area - The area of the drawn polygon in square kilometers
World Atlas 2015 ref. - World Atlas 2015 reference value in MPSAS (magnitudes per square arc second) for the observation point
Simulated World Atlas 2015 - World Atlas 2015 value in MPSAS changed by altering polygon radiance. You can edit (manually or mouse wheel) this value and other values will recalculate accordingly
Difference (sim. - ref.) - the difference between simulated and World Atlas 2015 reference MPSAS
Polygon contribution (100%) - A percentage of zenith sky brightness the selected polygon contributes
Polygon contribution (X %) - A percentage of Simulated zenith sky brightness the selected polygon contributes modified by X %

By moving the slider you modify the contribution of the light sources within the polygon by a percentage and instantly see the impact it has on the observation point values. 100% means no change, 50% means a 50% reduction while 500% means a 5 fold increase of the original value.
You can also change the "Simulated World Atlas 2015" value to your target value and all other fields will recalculate.

The method of calculating the contribution of light sources is described in this paper. Acknowledgements: Fabio Falchi, Salvador Bará, Raul Lima and Pierantonio Cinzano for providing the suitable PSF.

Other functionalities

Search places

Located on the upper left corner of the map. Enter a place and by selecting it from a dropdown menu it will reposition the map to it. It is also possible to enter coordinates manually in a “latitude, longitude” format and selecting (or pressing enter) it from a dropdown menu which will zoom to those coordinates.

Scale bar

Located on the bottom left corner of the map. Shows the current map scale

Coordinate display

Located on the bottom right corner of the map. Shows the current coordinates of the mouse cursor or last touch if you are using a touchscreen device. Left click on the coordinate display toggles between decimal and degrees/minutes/seconds display modes.

Toggle right menu

Located on the upper right corner of the right menu. Shows or hides the right menu.

Share map view on social media

Located under the right menu. A quick way to share the current view of the map on certain social media web sites.


Located on the bottom left corner of the map. Shows attributions associated with visible overlays and base layers.

FAQ (frequently asked questions)

1.  Why is Canada lit up like a christmas tree?

Two words. Aurora borealis

2.  Why is on ie. VIIRS 2014 overlay less light pollution than on 2013? Isn't it supposed to get worse each year? Then again 2016 compared to 2017, the 2017 is a lot worse!

There are numerous reasons for this. One could be lack of good data. For example some areas have always some clouds and as VIIRS overlay is composited monthly, it is impossible to get good quality data coverage for that month. It is also possible that the proccess used to make the global image is not perfect. It could simply be that the radiance actually decreased or that HPS lamps have been replaced by high color temperature LEDs to which VIIRS sensor isn't too sensitive.

3.  Why are swath trails visible on some VIIRS maps?

Maybe because of not perfect onboard calibration? Best to direct the question to NOAA.

4.  What's an SQM?

SQM stands for Sky Quality Meter. It's a small device that can measure sky quality ie. darkness. It's widely used by amateur astronomers because it's fairly cheap and gives you fast results which can be easily compared to other SQM users. Be aware that two versions exist (SQM and SQM-L) and their readings are not comparable. More about the SQM product visit the manufacturer website.

5.  How can I add my own SQM data?

To add your SQM measurements click on the +SQM icon in the extended toolbar. Please note that the time entered should be your local time the measurement was taken. The only mandatory fields are time and the SQM measurement

6.  What's an SQC?

SQC stands for Sky Quality Camera. It's a calibrated Canon dSLR with a fisheye lens bundled together with a software suite. It produces a 360 degree all-sky image with MPSAS (magnitudes per square arc second) or CCT (color temperature of a black-body radiator) measurements. The result adds another dimension to a standard SQM measurement. More about the SQC product contact Andrej Mohar.

7.  How can I add my own SQC data?

Adding SQC measurements is done through SQC software.

8.  I have hundreds of measurements. How can I submit them all easily?

If they have at least coordinates, date/time, then contact me.

9.  What is the map projection?

The original VIIRS/WA data is in a WGS84 geographic coordinate system. To have it display as overlays on top of Bing maps the data needs to be projected to a Spherical Mercator projection. When you export VIIRS to raw GeoTIFF the data is in the original WGS84 coordinate system.

10.  What is the resolution of the overlays?

The original VIIRS data has a resolution of 15 arc seconds, while World Atlas has 30 arc seconds for each pixel. When projected the resolution is around 500m for each pixel for VIIRS and 1000m for World Atlas. When you use measurement tools in the extended toolbar and zoom in close enough, you will see a faint red grid which represents individual data pixels.

11. How do you convert VIIRS data to MPSAS (magnitudes per square arc second) or Bortle scale? What does W/cm2 * sr mean anyway?

W/cm2 * sr is a SI radiometry unit for radiance. Radiance is radiant flux emitted, reflected, transmitted or received by a surface, per unit solid angle per unit projected area. It sounds complicated right? Well that's because it is. Things get a bit more (actually a lot more) complicated if you want to do a simple conversion to MPSAS. I'm not even going to touch the Bortle scale issue because it is highly subjective scale. Anyway if you are still interested in a "conversion" I can try to explain the problem. Imagine you have a small light source aimed at the sky and this light source gets picked up by the VIIRS detector detector. The VIIRS detector is monochromatic and has its own spectral response curve. It has no idea of the spectral curve of the light source. MPSAS or more specific magnitude is a measure that is measured in a “specific wavelength or passband”. See the problem? That's one major issue. The other major issue is that light from the light source passes through the atmosphere and while doing this it scatters due to air molecules and aerosols. So you need to create a model of light propagation for the entire Earth taking into the account local air conditions, earth curvature, light absorption, Earth terrain and what not. You can read more about it here. If you got skills to do this and willing share the result I'll be glad to include it! If not be sure to check the World Atlas (WA 2015) overlay.

12. Where was the data sourced?

VIIRS overlays are made from avaraging monthly VIIRS DNB Cloud Free Composites (vmccfg conf) and applying zero point calibration (paper). If you want to view or inspect monthly VIIRS composites then use the Lighttrends application.

World Atlas 2015 overlay data is sourced from

SQM and SQM-L layers are partially sourced from Unihedron database, the rest from users.

SQM-LE layer contains permanent SQM-LE installations submited by users. How to submit yours see FAQ #24.

SQC layer contains measurements submited by users of SQC (sky quality camera).

Observatory data is sourced from Wikipedia. Be advised that coordinates may be a bit off (see FAQ #25).

Cloud layer is made from data found on the public websites of the following organisations: EUMETSAT, NOAA, MOSDAC/SAC/ISRO and CIRA.

Aurora 30min forecast sourced from NOAA.

13. How can I view the raw VIIRS data from NOAA/EOG website? The files are too big to be opened by Photoshop or similar software!

To work with this kind of data you need to have GIS software installed (QGIS, uDig, ArcGIS, etc...)

14. How should I credit the use of data or images (screenshots)?

On the map there is an "i" button on the far bottom left. Clicking it will show you how to credit the current map view.

The use of data from should be credited to "Jurij Stare,".
If VIIRS data is used or displayed it should also include "Earth Observation Group, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center".
If World Atlas data is displayed it should also include "Falchi, Fabio; Cinzano, Pierantonio; Duriscoe, Dan; Kyba, Christopher C. M.; Elvidge, Christopher D.; Baugh, Kimberly; Portnov, Boris; Rybnikova, Nataliya A.; Furgoni, Riccardo (2016): Supplement to: The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness. GFZ Data Services.
Falchi F, Cinzano P, Duriscoe D, Kyba CC, Elvidge CD, Baugh K, Portnov BA, Rybnikova NA, Furgoni R. The new world atlas of artificial night sky brightness. Science Advances. 2016 Jun 1;2(6):e1600377."

15. I see the coordinate display is in a decimal format, but can you display them as degrees/minutes/seconds?

Click on the coordinates and it should toggle between those two display modes.

16. What is the precise date when VIIRS satellite data was collected?

"layer VIIRS 2020" data was taken between dates 20200101-20201231
"layer VIIRS 2019" data was taken between dates 20190101-20191231
"layer VIIRS 2018" data was taken between dates 20180101-20181231
"layer VIIRS 2017" data was taken between dates 20170101-20171231
"layer VIIRS 2016" data was taken between dates 20160101-20161231
"layer VIIRS 2015" data was taken between dates 20150101-20151231
"layer VIIRS 2014" data was taken between dates 20140301-20141231
"layer VIIRS 2013" data was taken between dates 20130101-20131231
"layer VIIRS 2012" data was taken between dates 20120401-20121231

17. VIIRS version 1 series is run globally using two different configurations. Which one are you using?

I'm using vcmcfg which excludes areas impacted by stray light.

18. Exported GeoTIFF is all black!

Exported GeoTIFF is the raw VIIRS data. VIIRS is in a 32bit floating point pixel type GeoTIFF. Use GIS software (QGIS, uDig, ArcGIS, etc...) to stretch the histogram, reclassify etc...

19. How are the country statistics made?

The calculation is done by using boundaries (modified in the north to avoid aurora as much as possible) from GADM database and VIIRS radiance data. Radiance data is derived from averaging monthly VIIRS vcmcfg to get an annual VIIRS composite. From this composite a zero point layer (described in this paper) is substracted to reduce the variability of natural light. Radiance sum is area weighted, so comparison between countries on different latitudes is possible.

Countries with asterisk (*) after their name have a large parts above 55 degrees of latitude where high aurora activity is present which can have a strong influence on radiance values. Some countries like Iceland may be missing because of their high latitude where aurora totally covers them.

20. We want to use your WMS/WMTS service

You can download the rendered VIIRS/WA overlays in GeoTIFF format (EPSG:3857 projection). Links can be found under FAQ29. If that doesn't work out for you then contact me and we'll work something out.

21. How do I search by coordintes?

Just enter coordinates into the "Search" field located top left in a "latitude, longitude" format.

22. How was the World Atlas 2015 made?

You can read it in the original article here.

23. What is the difference between VIIRS and World Atlas overlays? They look so different.

VIIRS is radiance map while World Atlas is a sky brightness map. VIIRS shows you light sources, while World Atlas tells you how dark is the zenith based on a model calculated from VIIRS data.

24. How can add my SQM-LE installation to the map?

First create a regular SQM reading point and then contact me to get a unique key (with instructions) that you use to send readings to the server.

25. Some observatories have their positions way off!

This is intentional. In order to protect the privacy of smaller observatories (under 1m aperture) in remote areas, the locations of those observatories have been "anonymised". If you want the original list, you can access it here.

26. My locations data does not sync between devices!

The website does not store ANY personal information (apart from users willingly posting SQM measurements) and as such "My locations" cannot be shared between devices. You will have to enter them again.

27. How often is the cloud layer updated?

The cloud layer is created every hour at about 15 min past full hour. It takes almost half an hour to collect all the data from 5 different geostationary satellites and process it to make a global image which can then be used on a map.
GOES satellite data (NASA/NOAA) is typically refreshed every 10min (near real time data is freely accessible), but other providers such as EUMETSAT refresh it every hour with up to 2h latency (near real time data is not freely accessible). It's not unusual for EUMETSAT (Europe) or MOSDAC (India) to have old data (more then an hour or two old) on their server at the time I fetch it, but GOES (Americas) and CIRA (east Asia) are updated frequently.

28. How often is the aurora layer updated?

The aurora layer is created every 5 minutes from the NOAA data file. You can see the forecast time under the overlay dropdown menu. If the data is older than it should be (60+ min) then there is probably an issue with the NOAA server and not much I can do about it. The layer will update whenever they will update the file.

29. Where can I download rendered maps, so I can display them in "my software of choice"?

You can download all rendered VIIRS and WA maps from the following links:
VIIRS 2012
VIIRS 2013
VIIRS 2014
VIIRS 2015
VIIRS 2016
VIIRS 2017
VIIRS 2018
VIIRS 2019
VIIRS 2020
World Atlas 2015


On 24th of July 2019 I have switched the funding of the website from donations to advertisements.
This was done because donations in the 2019 didn't even cover the server rent costs.

There have been some requests to have an option of not showing advertisements if a donation was made, so I created an option if you donate any ammount you will receive a passkey valid for 3 years, to not see advertisements. If you donated previously and wish to have the key, please let me know. Those who use an Adblocker (about 15% of all visitors) and wish to donate, can also use this Paypal form:

Support by

In the last couple of years I have had numerous contributions which helped me with keeeping the site working and developing new functionalities.
Below is a list of people who made a substantional contribution:

K. Pendoley
H. Bardenhagen
R. Wilson
S. Wallner
First Light Optics Ltd
A. Dainty
R. Hendricks
K. Maruf
T. Wellington
C. Voirol
relay2me, LLC
M. Lockett
J. Wischmann
D. Stavrogiannopoulos
A. Dremali
A. Petrie
A. Tsiotos
J. Opie
L. Tibbals
R. Krcmar

Privacy policy

Privacy policy ie. what data is collected and what is done with it can be read here

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