Imagine the battlefield of Kurukshetra and that famous conversation that happened between the two personalities: Krishna and Arjuna. This forms the situation in which the poem, Bhagavad-gītā, is set.

At one point (Chapter 11, verse 8), Krishna has decided to reveal his cosmic form (viśva-rūpa) to Arjuna. However, he tells Arjuna,

न तु मां शक्यसे द्रष्टुम् अनेनैव स्वचक्षुषा    |
दिव्यं ददामि ते चक्षुः पश्य मे योगमैश्वरम् ||

na tu mām shakyase drashtum anenaiva sva-cakshushā |
divyam dadāmi te cakshuh paśya me yogam aiśvaram ||

“You will not be able to see me with your present eyes,
Therefore, I shall bestow upon you divine sight with which you may behold my great form.”

I always remember this when I think of satellites – our eyes in the sky. With ordinary eyes, we cannot make so much of what is happening on Earth ­– among us, above us, around us, under us. So, we have given ourselves “divine sight” with which to witness the awesome (and sometimes awful) Earth system.

We are able to see and understand a great many things about Earth and about us through those eyes. Once we get the information back from them, we interpret them to get the meaning. This is where geographers, geologists, meteorologists, and others become very important. From their own disciplinary perspectives, each group analyzes and interprets the information. This leads to better understanding of Earth system.

This is only one small part of the process. The disciplinary perspective has to be inter-disciplinary in its application. A geographer cannot interpret satellite derived information without also taking into account social, mathematical, and physical contexts. Thankfully, by its very nature, geography fosters inter-disciplinary thinking.

Lights, camera …

NASA have recently released some fantastic images of Earth at night. The artificial lights on Earth are revealed in a new … well, new light. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that poor joke!)

Wherever two things occur:

  1. A certain degree of economic development, and
  2. Collection of human settlements

we see more lights. Absence of lights cannot be simply interpreted as absence of population settlements! (Remember, geographers work with context in interpreting these data.)

Look at these astounding images.

Things you can do:

No more words from me. I invite you to interpret these images and tell me what you think each image shows. Example questions (you may think of others, and if you do, you get two geography stickers from The Institute of Geographical Studies):

  1. What patterns of lighting do you observe?
  2. How would you, a geographer-in-the-making, interpret those patterns?
  3. When you look at some of the dated (2012, 2016, etc.) images / animations, what differences do you observe? (You will find this easier to do this if you are a regular solver of the “spot at least six differences between these two pictures” frequently found in newspapers!)
  4. Why do you think those differences have occurred?
  5. How could you use this kind of information? This is application of geography and it will inevitably be inter-disciplinary.

Here are the links to the images (enlarge the still images to see greater detail). These are large files and may take some time to load.

  1. Earth at night – the Americas
  2. Rotating black marble – 2012
  3. Rotating black marble – 2016
  4. Earth at Night, Asia and Australia
  5. Earth at Night, Africa and Europe

Write your responses in an email and send them to me at You may also leave your answers in the comments section below. In either case, be sure to give your full name, class, school name, and location.

I will respond to them in a future article on this blog.

Depending on what and how you write, I may also choose to include your responses (with your name) in the article and blog.

A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition in July 2017

Featured image, courtesy: NASA


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