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Given the following world images:

night = Import["http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/55000/55167/earth_lights_lrg.jpg"]
day = Import["http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/57000/57752/land_shallow_topo_2048.tif"]

day and night maps

how would you use Mathematica to create an accurate “day and night map” (examples here and there) of the Earth for a given date and time?

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This question also has an answer (using MMA illustrations) on the GIS site. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    May 22, 2013 at 19:09

4 Answers 4

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Let me first name your maps correctly (you switched night and day maps):

night= Import["http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/55000/55167/earth_lights_lrg.jpg"];
day= Import["http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/57000/57752/land_shallow_topo_2048.tif"];

The images have different sizes:

ImageDimensions[day]

(*
==> {2048, 1024}
*)

ImageDimensions[night]

(*
==> {2400, 1200}
*)

so, I rescale the night image. Artefacts (if any) will probably be less visible there.

night = ImageResize[night, ImageDimensions[day]];

Now, for the calculation of the mask we don't need to use external sources. AstronomicalData will do:

mask =
 Rasterize[
  RegionPlot[
   AstronomicalData["Sun", {"Altitude", {2012, 6, 21}, {lat, long}}] <
     0, {long, -180, 180}, {lat, -90, 90}, Frame -> None, 
   PlotRange -> Full, PlotStyle -> Black, PlotRangePadding -> 0, 
   AspectRatio -> (#2/#1 & @@ ImageDimensions[day])],
  ImageSize -> ImageDimensions[day]
  ]

Mathematica graphics

Then, stealing the ImageCompose idea from Yu-Sung:

pl=ImageCompose[night, SetAlphaChannel[day, mask]]

Mathematica graphics

Borrowing and adapting some code from the Texture doc page:

Show[
 Graphics3D[{White, Tube[{{0, 0, -1.4}, {0, 0, 1.4}}, .04]}],
 SphericalPlot3D[1 , {u, 0, Pi}, {v, 0, 2 Pi}, Mesh -> None, 
  TextureCoordinateFunction -> ({#5, 1 - #4} &), 
  PlotStyle -> Texture[Show[pl, ImageSize -> 1000]], 
  Lighting -> "Neutral", Axes -> False, RotationAction -> "Clip"], 
 Lighting -> "Neutral", Boxed -> False, 
 Method -> {"ShrinkWrap" -> True}
]

Mathematica graphics

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    $\begingroup$ For day/night Earth textures with matching dimensions, this is one place to get them; you then no longer need to resize. $\endgroup$ Oct 3, 2012 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Actually the last plot does not work for me: I get !i.stack.imgur.com/peG10.png $\endgroup$
    – chris
    Dec 15, 2012 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @chris Do all the examples on the Texture doc page work for you? $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2012 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ @SjoerdC.deVries in fact they do. $\endgroup$
    – chris
    Dec 26, 2012 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @chris the final plot is not much different from what's in there. Could you try without Show and the Tube? For now, I suppose this is an issue of your graphics card. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2012 at 9:34
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Yes, the basic idea is here: Demonstration: Day and Night World Clock

Now, to use the images, create an alpha channel using the computed the day-night curve--called "terminator" curve (rasterize it in grayscale), and compose two images using ImageCompose with the generated alpha channels (SetAlphaChannel to the second image).

Try the following code:

a = Image[ConstantArray[{255, 0, 0}, {200, 300}]];
b = Image[ConstantArray[{0, 255, 0}, {200, 300}]];

(* This is just a made-up mask. Don't mind the Plot[] part *)
mask = Rasterize[
  Plot[Sin[x], {x, -Pi/2, 3 Pi/2}, PlotRangePadding->0,
    Filling->-1, FillingStyle->Black, Frame->False, 
    Axes->False, ImageSize->{300, 200}, AspectRatio->2/3],
  "Image", ColorSpace->"GrayScale"];

ImageCompose[a, SetAlphaChannel[b, mask]]

You should get an image with green and red mixed as below. Now you can replace a and b with your day and night textures.

mask

I have to tell you that although the code there computes pretty close approximation of the actual terminator curve, it is not exact. To compute it accurately (or based on actual data), see: NOAA: Day Night Terminator

The following code and output is for the actual images (again the mask is fake):

day = ImageResize[day, {2048, 1024}]; (* Match the dimensions *)

mask = Rasterize[
   Plot[Sin[x], {x, -Pi/2, 3 Pi/2}, PlotRangePadding -> 0, 
    Filling -> -1, FillingStyle -> Black, Frame -> False, 
    Axes -> False, ImageSize -> {2048, 1024}, 
    AspectRatio -> 1024/2048], "Image", ColorSpace -> "GrayScale"];

ImageCompose[night, SetAlphaChannel[day, mask]]

output

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    $\begingroup$ welcome to the time killer ;-) $\endgroup$
    – user21
    Mar 22, 2012 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ruebenko: you are scaring me :) $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2012 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ It is very easy to lose days here answering questions, editing text, cavorting with the others in the chat room, etc. But, welcome to the club. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Mar 22, 2012 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ Great many thanks for the editing, which adds a composition example I was actually getting nowhere with on my own :) $\endgroup$
    – F'x
    Mar 28, 2012 at 8:34
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Since version 10.0, the functions DayHemisphere[], NightHemisphere[], and DayNightTerminator[] are now built-in, and can be used with GeoGraphics[]. These three can either take a specified date, and will otherwise default to Now. One can now do things like this:

GeoGraphics[{GeoStyling[GrayLevel[0, 2/3]], NightHemisphere[]}, 
            GeoBackground -> GeoStyling["Satellite"], GeoProjection -> "Equirectangular",
            GeoRange -> "World"]

day-night map

which can then be used as a suitable Texture[] if wanted.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm slightly disappointed that this has more votes than my previous answer. :P $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 8:57
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As Sjoerd shows, AstronomicalData[] can be used to determine the altitude of the sun. However, if you do not need too much accuracy, such as in this application, you can use a low-accuracy method for computing the altitude. Most of the formulae I will be using are from (of course) Jean Meeus's Astronomical Algorithms.

Some auxiliary routines will be needed. First, one for computing the Julian Day number:

Options[jd] = {"Calendar" -> "Gregorian"};

jd[{yr_Integer, mo_Integer, da_?NumericQ, rest___}, opts : OptionsPattern[]] := 
  Module[{y = yr, m = mo, h}, If[m < 3, y--; m += 12];
         h = Switch[OptionValue["Calendar"],
                    "Gregorian", (Quotient[#, 4] - # + 2) &[Quotient[y, 100]],
                    "Julian", 0,
                    _, Return[$Failed]];
         Floor[365.25 y] + Floor[30.6001 (m + 1)] + da +
         FromDMS[PadRight[{rest}, 3]]/24 + 1720994.5 + h]

jd[opts : OptionsPattern[]] := jd[DateList[], opts]

Here's a method for computing the Greenwich Mean Sidereal Time:

GMST[{yr_Integer, mo_Integer, da_?NumericQ, rest___}, opts : OptionsPattern[]] := 
    Mod[6.697374558 + 0.06570982441908 (jd[{yr, mo, da}, opts] - 2.451545*^6) +
    1.00273790935 FromDMS[PadRight[{rest}, 3]] + 0.000026 ((jd[{yr, mo, da, rest}, opts] -
    2.451545*^6)/36525)^2, 24]

GMST[opts : OptionsPattern[]] := GMST[DateList[], opts]

Finally, here's the low-accuracy method for computing the solar altitude:

solarAltitude[date_List, {ϕ_, λ_}] := 
 Module[{t, ℳ☉, ℯ, s, ℰ, v, Ω, ℒ0, Λ, ε, α, δ, ℋ},

  t = (jd[date] - 2451545)/36525;

  (* ℳ☉ - mean solar anomaly *)
  ℳ☉ = Mod[(1.28710479305*^6 + t (1.295965810481*^8 + t (-0.5532 + t (1.36*^-4 -
            1.149*^-5 t))))/3600, 360] °;

  (* ℯ - eccentricity of Earth's orbit *)
  ℯ = 0.0167086342 + t (-0.004203654 + t (-0.00126734 +
      t (1.444*^-4 + t (-2.*^-6 + 3.*^-5 t))));

  (* ℰ - eccentric anomaly; approximate solution of Kepler's equation *)
  s = Sin[ℳ☉]; ℰ = ℳ☉ + ℯ s/(s - Sin[ℳ☉ + ℯ] + 1);

  (* v - true anomaly *)
  v = 2 ArcTan[Sqrt[(1 + ℯ)/(1 - ℯ)] Tan[ℰ/2]]/°;

  (* ℒ0 - geometric mean longitude *)
  ℒ0 = (280.46645 + t (36000.76983 + 3.032*^-4 t));

  (* Ω - Meeus's correction for apparent angles *)
  Ω = (125.04 - 1934.136 t) °;

  (* Λ - solar longitude, plus correction for apparent position *)
  Λ = Mod[v + ℒ0 - ℳ☉/°, 360] ° - (0.00569 + 0.00478 Sin[Ω]) °;

  (* ε - mean obliquity of the ecliptic, plus correction for apparent position *)
  ε = (84381.406 + t (-46.836769 + t (-1.831*^-4 + t (0.0020034 +
      t (-5.76*^-7 - 4.34*^-8 t))))) °/3600 + 0.00256 Cos[Ω] °;

  (* α - right ascension, δ - declination *)
  {α, δ} = {ArcTan[Cos[Λ], Sin[Λ] Cos[ε]]/(15 °), ArcSin[Sin[ε] Sin[Λ]]};

  (* ℋ - hour angle *)
  ℋ = 15 ° Mod[FromDMS[GMST[date]] + λ/15 - α, 24];

  ArcSin[Sin[δ] Sin[ϕ °] + Cos[δ] Cos[ϕ °] Cos[ℋ]]/°]

A few nice maps:

earthDay = Import["http://i.stack.imgur.com/KLrc8.jpg"];
earthNight = Import["http://i.stack.imgur.com/mCJik.jpg"];

Finally, the routine for making a day/night map:

Options[DayAndNightMap] = {Sphere -> False, TimeZone :> $TimeZone};

DayAndNightMap[date_List, opts : OptionsPattern[]] := 
   Module[{h = OptionValue[TimeZone], terminator, dayAndNight},
          terminator = Binarize[
          RegionPlot[Positive[solarAltitude[DatePlus[date, {-h, "Hour"}], {ϕ, λ}]],
                     {λ, -180, 180}, {ϕ, -90, 90}, AspectRatio -> Automatic, 
                     BoundaryStyle -> None, Frame -> False, ImagePadding -> None, 
                     ImageSize -> {2048, 1024}, PlotPoints -> 45, 
                     PlotRangePadding -> None, PlotStyle -> Black]];

          dayAndNight = RemoveAlphaChannel[ImageCompose[earthDay,
                        SetAlphaChannel[earthNight, terminator]]];

          If[TrueQ[OptionValue[Sphere]],
             ParametricPlot3D[{Cos[λ] Sin[ϕ], Sin[λ] Sin[ϕ], Cos[ϕ]},
                              {λ, -π, π}, {ϕ, 0, π}, Axes -> None, Boxed -> False,
                              Lighting -> "Neutral", Mesh -> None, PlotPoints -> 55,
                              PlotStyle -> Texture[dayAndNight], RotationAction -> "Clip",
                              TextureCoordinateFunction -> ({#4, 1 - #5} &)],
             dayAndNight]]

DayAndNightMap[opts : OptionsPattern[]] := DayAndNightMap[DateList[], opts]

I guess an example is in order at this point:

DayAndNightMap[{2013, 5, 21, 15, 30, 0}, TimeZone -> 0]

a day-and-night map

For the kids who prefer actual globes:

DayAndNightMap[{2013, 5, 21, 15, 30, 0}, Sphere -> True, TimeZone -> 0]

a half-lit globe

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  • $\begingroup$ Too bad this doesn't work in v7. Of course if it did I'd feel obliged to bounty it. It looks great! I'll break my usual rule of not voting for answers I cannot test and I'll consider the images proof of function. +1 $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    May 22, 2013 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.Wizard, which function(s) aren't in version 7? $\endgroup$ May 22, 2013 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ There's no Texture so the centerpiece is out. There is also no SetAlphaChannel thought it could be improvised, but please don't go to the effort to do so. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    May 22, 2013 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I keep forgetting Texture[] is new in 8... yes, it would be a bit more complicated to do in version seven. $\endgroup$ May 22, 2013 at 18:16

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