FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– A rare cloud-free night allowed NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to take a satellite photo of the U.S. and much of North America showing the man-made glow of lights.

The nation’s major cities can be made out, including Denver and the entire Front Range.

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“At night we’ve had a very limited ability to do that,” said Colorado State University research student Steven Miller.

Miller and other researchers at CSU’s Atmospheric Sciences are looking for ways to best use the images.

“We develop different techniques and tools to get into the data and tease out the information in a way forecasters and operational users can readily determine where the hazards are,” said Miller.

The new satellite image works by picking up light, even when there is no moon, be it from a city, a forest fire or even an Aurora Borealis.

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“We can do things with the daylight band that we simply can’t do with conventional sensors from satellites,” said Miller.

Images taken after Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the East Coast show how much damage was caused.

“Where you see the gold areas are city lights, where power has not gone out. And the red areas are city lights where in the after image there are no more lights,” said Miller.

Miller said the images could be used in the future by first responders to identify the areas hit the hardest. They could also be used in fighting forest fires by pinpointing where the active fire is and where it’s headed.

“This certainly translates a lot of capability we can do during the day for improved weather forecasting and it translates that into the night-time hours,” said Miller.

Miller believes above all, the technology will improve and the overall ability to track, study and predict weather patterns.

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The National Weather Service is already starting to use the new satellite images as part of its forecasting.