Holiday Lights Make Cities Visibly Brighter from Space

With the extra lights shining in cities across the world at this time of year, we are outputting a significant number of photons into Space.  So many that Satellites in orbit have been able to see the difference.  In the maps below, the areas in green are locations where the brightness has increased by as much as 50%.

Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen
Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen
Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

Being able to see the difference from Space is amazing.  The maps also exist for Caribbean nations, where much of the population celebrates Christmas.

Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

Now I’m not avoiding any one particular holiday in my use of the phrase ‘holiday lights,’ because it turns out the brightening viewed from Space is happening in North America from Christmas and also from Ramadan in the Middle East.

Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

Now why would we spend many Millions of dollars on a satellite and then use it to look at bright lights on Earth? Well there is a scientific point to all of this, and it comes down to energy use, and the phase ‘Knowledge is Power.’

By understanding how human being use power at different times of year and in different places, we can conserve energy effectively by making sure there is enough power for everyone, but not too much being produced all at once.  In our evolving culture of sustainability, this is a big step in ensuring a healthy planet for future generations.

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