Scientific organizations like NASA and NOAA use countless instruments to gather data about the world and beyond. Most of that data is something most people would not be able to interpret as anything interesting, but the images produced from that data are almost awe inspiring. The Black Marble is a new series of images of the Earth that show it at night when the most obvious illumination is that produced my man.
The name Black Marble is in reference to the Blue Marble image taken by the crew of Apollo 17, which shows the Earth like a blue glass marble floating in space. Since then numerous images sets have been taken of the Earth and also named the Blue Marble, including the Blue Marble: Next Generation which features complete, true color images of the Earth for every month of the year. Both the Black Marble and BM:NG were made from multiple images that were selected for their clarity and stitched together to form large mosaics, but the Black Marble was taken using the new NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite.
Part of this satellite's mission is to study the Earth at night because it is not well documented, relative to daytime-Earth, and it should do its job well. The satellite can observe the airglow of the night sky, spot light from ships at sea, as well as auroras and other natural light sources such as volcanos.
(Check out the source links for the more, fullsize images.)