Abstract: Night satellite images may offer an interesting tool to generate socio-economically relevant data and to analyse the evolution of space, e.g. cities or rural areas, and how spatial units interact over time. This paper is just an essay with preliminary ideas for discussion; the approach is explorative-methodological rather than one putting an empirical focus on a defined research item. Empirics discussed in this paper are just various examples collected from tinkering.
The DMSP-OLS images and adequate image analysis software such as ImageJ (in some cases to be complemented by further statistics software) provide a useful perspective for the analysis of spatial change. Since there is a stable and significant correlation between social and economic variables (population density, GDP PPP) and luminosity, such image analyses contain important information on spatial economic development. Analysis of night imagery is certainly not adequate to replace the statistical analysis of regional data, but it is a good tool to confirm and illustrate patterns of spatial heterogeneity and spatial dependence over time.