These images were taken by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, a satellite run jointly, as the name suggests, by NASA and the NOAA. In these shots, the satellite is using a Visible-Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, to see the difference between vegetation-rich and arid land. It bounces beams off Earth and detects changes in its reflection, allowing it to see vegetation, since vegetation reflects infrared and near-infrared light in a different way than other materials. But it’s even more useful than that; VIIRS is used to monitor not just the existence of vegetation, but how it changes and expands and contracts over time.
Check out the gallery above to see just how green various parts of the globe are.