Yep, economists are now using outer-space to proxy for growth:
GDP growth is often measured poorly for countries and rarely measured at all for cities. We propose
a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. Our statistical framework uses light growth
to supplement existing income growth measures. The framework is applied to countries with the lowest
quality income data, resulting in estimates of growth that differ substantially from established estimates.
We then consider a longstanding debate: do increases in local agricultural productivity increase city
incomes? For African cities, we find that exogenous gricultural productivity shocks (high rainfall
years) have substantial effects on local urban economic activity.
Check out the pictures in the back in case you can get access to the paper.