The agency's Suomi NPP spacecraft reveals the country's energy bankruptcy.
Pyongyang has a probable population of more than 3 million people, but you wouldn't know it looking down on the city from space. Only the faintest of glimmers rise from the metropolis, as if all its residents are huddling in the dark for their Supreme Leader's surprise birthday party.
The world has known of North Korea's night-invisibility for a while. On imagery captured by military satellites in the '90s, the country shows up like a gaping hole in the flaming latticework of light that is Japan, South Korea and China. But recent overpasses by NASA's Suomi NPP spacecraft – the one that provided those marvelous shots of nocturnal America – has revealed the country's energy bankruptcy in a level of detail never seen before.
Suomi took these images in September with its mega-sensitive Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which can pick out dim light sources such as reflected moonbeams and boat beacons. Today, NASA featured the material on its Earth Observatory site, pointing out that North Korea has fewer lights than the Yellow Sea where glowing fishing vessels "appear to form a line, as if marking a watery boundary between nations.