Aerial view Cities at Night

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has an incredible 62-picture album on Flickr that shows stunning views of the Earth at night. All photographs were taken from the International Space Station since May 1st, 2003. Below is a collection of 30 of the most outstanding shots, but we highly recommends you check out the entire album on Flickr:

Aurora Australis Over New Zealand, Tasman Sea

2. Milan, Italy at Night from Space – 02/22/11

The metropolitan area of Milan (or Milano) illuminates the Italian region of Lombardy in a pattern evocative of a patchwork quilt. The city of Milan forms a dense cluster of lights in this astronaut photograph, with brilliant white lights indicating the historic center of the city where the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) is located. Large dark regions to the south (image left) contain mostly agricultural fields. To the north, numerous smaller cities are interspersed with agricultural fields, giving way to forested areas as one approaches the Italian Alps (not shown). Low, patchy clouds diffuse the city lights, producing isolated regions that appear blurred. The Milan urban area is located within the Po Valley, a large plain bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the south and the Italian Alps to the north. Milan has the largest metropolitan area in Italy, and the fifth largest in the European Union. It is one of Europe’s major transportation, industrial, and commercial hubs, and is also a global center of fashion and culture. It is considered an “alpha” world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network

3. Tokyo, Japan at Night from Space – 01/09/11

From 220 miles above Earth, one of the Expedition 26 crew members aboard the International Space Station exposed this night time picture of the metropolitan area of Tokyo, Japan. The large majority of the heavily lighted, highly populated area is Tokyo proper. Yokohama is to the left, below center, along Tokyo Bay.

4. Nile River and the Sinai Peninsula at Night from Space – 08/18/11

5. Europe, and Africa at Night from Space – 10/28/10

The view “looks” northward over Sicily and the “boot” of Italy, with the Mediterranean Sea representing most of the visible water in the view and the Adriatic Sea to the right of center. Tunisia is partially visible at left. Part of a docked Russian spacecraft and other components of the ISS are in the foreground.

6. City Lights, France-Italy Border at night from Space – 04/28/10

City lights at night along the France-Italy border, Europe are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 23 crew member on the International Space Station (ISS). The brightly lit metropolitan areas of Torino (Italy), Lyon, and Marseille (both in France) stand out amidst numerous smaller urban areas in this dramatic photograph. The image captures the night time appearance of the France-Italy border area between the mountainous Alps to the north (not shown) and the island of Corsica in the Ligurian Sea to the south (top). The full moon reflects brightly on the water surface and also illuminates the tops of low patchy clouds over the border (center). This image was taken by an ISS crew member at approximately 11:55 p.m. local time when the station was located over the France-Belgium border near Luxembourg. Crew members orbiting Earth frequently collect images that include sunglint, or sunlight that reflects off a water surface at such an angle that it travels directly back towards the observer. Sunglint typically lends a mirror-like appearance to the water surface. During clear sky conditions reflected light from the moon can produce the same effect (moon glint) as illustrated in this view. The observer was looking towards the southeast at an oblique viewing angle at the time the image was taken; in other words, looking outwards from the ISS, not straight down towards Earth.

7. Las Vegas, Nevada at Night from Space – 11/30/10

The surrounding dark desert presents a stark contrast to the brightly lit, regular street grid of the developed metropolitan area. The Vegas Strip (center) is reputed to be the brightest spot on Earth due to the concentration of lights associated with its hotels and casinos. The tarmac of McCarran International Airport to the south is a dark feature by comparison. The airstrips of Nellis Air Force Base on the northeastern fringe of the metropolitan area are likewise dark compared to the well-lit adjacent streets and neighborhoods. The dark mass of Frenchman Mountain borders the metropolitan area to the east. Acquisition of focused night time images such as this one requires space station crew members to track the target with the handheld camera while the ISS is moving at a speed of more than seven kilometers per second (15,659 miles per hour) relative to Earth’s surface.

8. Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt at Night from Space – 10/28/10

9. Brasilia, Brazil at Night – 01/08/11)

Whether seen at night or during the day, the capital city of Brazil is unmistakable from orbit. Brasilia is located on a plateau (the Planalto Central) in the west-central part of the country, and is widely considered to be one of the best examples of 20th century urban planning in the world. One of its most distinctive design features-as seen from above-suggests a bird, butterfly, or airplane traveling along a northwest-southeast direction, and is made dramatically visible by city light patterns (center left, directly to the west of Lake Paranoa). Following the establishment of Brasilia in the early 1960s informal settlements began to form around the original planned city. Ceilandia, located to the west of Brasilia, was one such informal settlement. In 1970 the settlement was formalized by the government and is now a satellite city of Brasilia with its own distinct urban identity. The developed areas of Brasilia and its satellite cities are clearly outlined by street grid and highway light patterns at night in this photograph taken from the space station. The large unlit region to the northwest of the city is the Brasilia National Park (lower left); other dark regions to the south and southwest contain agricultural fields and expanses of Cerrado tropical savanna.

10. California’s Bay Area at Night from Space – 12/26/10

11. Night View of India-Pakistan Borderlands from Space – 08/21/11

A night time view of India-Pakistan borderlands is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 28 crew member on the International Space Station. Clusters of yellow lights on the Indo-Gangetic Plain of northern India and northern Pakistan reveal numerous cities both large and small in this photograph. Of the hundreds of clusters, the largest are the metropolitan areas associated with the capital cities of Islamabad, Pakistan in the foreground and New Delhi, India at the top — for scale these metropolitan areas are approximately 700 kilometers apart. The lines of major highways connecting the larger cities also stand out. More subtle but still visible at night are the general outlines of the towering and partly cloud-covered Himalayan ranges immediately to the north (left). A striking feature of this photograph is the line of lights, with a distinctly more orange hue, snaking across the central part of the image. It appears to be more continuous and brighter than most highways in the view. This is the fenced and floodlit border zone between the countries of India and Pakistan. The fence is designed to discourage smuggling and arms trafficking between the two countries.

12. Montreal at Night from Space – 12/24/10

This photograph of the Montreal, Quebec, Canada metropolitan area (center) illustrates the extent of urbanization made clearly visible by city lights at night. Major roadways and industrial areas are traced by bright white lighting, while the adjacent residential and commercial land uses are characterized by more diffuse yellow-gold lighting. Rivers and other water bodies appear black, while the surrounding rural countryside is faintly illuminated by moonlight. Blurry areas at top and bottom left are caused by cloud cover. Montreal is the largest city in the dominantly French-speaking Province of Quebec. The metropolitan area is the country’s second-largest, having been surpassed by Toronto in 1976. While the city of Montreal proper is located on-and almost completely covers-the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the St. Lawrence (center) and Ottawa Rivers (not visible), the city takes its name from Mont Royal located at the city’s center . Several smaller urban areas form a loose ring around the Montreal metro region: Sorel-Tracy, Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Saint-Jerome, and Joliette are among those that can be readily identified.

13. Istanbul at Night from Space – 12/18/10

14. Northwestern Europe at Night from Space – 08/10/11

While the landscape is dotted with numerous clusters of lights from individual urban areas, the metropolitan areas of London (United Kingdom), Paris (France), Brussels (Belgium) and Amsterdam (Netherlands) stand out due to their large light “footprints”. The metropolitan area of Milan, Italy is also visible at lower left. This photograph was taken with a short camera lens, providing the large field of view recorded in the image. To give a sense of scale, the centers of the London and Paris metropolitan areas are approximately 340 kilometers distant from each other.

15. New Orleans at Night from Space – 01/26/11

16. Baltimore-Washington, D.C. Area at Night from Space – 11/30/10

17. Northern Coast, Gulf of Mexico at Night from Space – 10/29/10

18. Atlantic Coast of Europe Into Africa from Space – 11/05/10

One of the Expedition 25 crew members aboard the International Space Station, 220 miles above Earth, took this night time photo, looking south along the Atlantic coast of Europe and into Africa, from Lisbon, Portugal south across the Strait of Gibraltar. The lights can be followed down the coast of Morocco to Casablanca, and beyond.

19. Southern Italy at Night from Space – 06/11/11

This photograph highlights the night time appearance of the southern Italian Peninsula; the toe and heel of Italy’s “boot” are clearly defined by the lights of large cities such as Naples, Bari, and Brindisi as well as numerous smaller urban areas. The bordering Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, and Ionian Seas appear as dark regions to the east, west, and south of the boot. The city lights of Palermo and Catania on the island of Sicily are visible at image bottom center.

20. Florida Peninsula at Night from Space – 12/28/10

A southerly looking night view of the upper two thirds of the Florida peninsula was recorded by one of the Expedition 26 crew members aboard the International Space Station on Dec. 28, 2010. Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are very well lighted on the left (Atlantic Ocean) side of the peninsula. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area is seen on the Gulf of Mexico or right side of the frame. At the bottom or in the north areas of the picture are portions of the state’s panhandle as well as cities and communities in southern Georgia.

21. Houston, Texas from Space – 02/28/10

Houston, Texas has been called the “energy capital of the world” due to its role as a major hub of the petroleum and other energy resource industries. The Houston metropolitan area covers almost 2,331,000 hectares (approximately 9,000 square miles) along the southeast Texas coastline, with an average elevation of 13 meters (approximately 43 feet) above sea level and a population of over 5 million (2006 US Census estimate). The Houston metropolitan area is also noteworthy as being the largest in the US without formal zoning restrictions. This has lead to a highly diverse pattern of land use at the neighborhood scale; nevertheless, more general spatial patterns of land use can be recognized in remotely sensed data. This is particularly evident in night time photography of the urban area taken by crew members onboard the space station. The image depicts the roughly 100 kilometers (approximately 62 miles) east-west extent of the Houston metropolitan area. Houston proper is at center, indicated by a “bull’s-eye” of elliptical white to orange-lighted beltways and brightly lit white freeways radiating outwards from the central downtown area. Suburban and primarily residential urban land use is indicated by both reddish-brown and gray-green lighted regions that reflect a higher proportion of tree cover and lower light density. Petroleum refineries along the Houston Ship Channel are recognized by densely lit areas of golden yellow light. Rural and undeveloped land circles the metropolitan area, and Galveston Bay to the southeast (upper right) provides access to the Gulf of Mexico. Both types of non-urban surface appear dark in the image.

22. Mediterranean Riviera from Space – 11/04/10

23. Florida at Night from Space – 10/31/10

24. Aurora Borealis Over Europe from Space – 11/07/10

25. City of Dubai, United Arab Emirates from Space – 09/11/09

The city of Dubai is the largest metropolitan area in the emirate of Dubai, one of the member states of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is located along the southern Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, and its signature city is known for high profile architectural and development projects. Among the most notable is the Palm Island Resort, a manmade peninsula and surrounding islands built from over 50 million cubic meters of sand. Two other island projects, one similar to the Palm Island Resort and another crafted to look like a map of the world, are also underway along the Dubai coastline. This night time photograph of the city of Dubai was taken at approximately 2:00 a.m. local time. Orange sodium vapor lights trace out the major highways and surface street grid in and around the metropolitan area, while grey-white mercury vapor lamps fill in the commercial and residential areas. The lighted islands and peninsula of the Palm Island Resort are clearly visible along the coastline. An interesting spiral pattern of lights on the southeastern fringe of the urban area is a camel racetrack.

26. Capetown, South Africa at Night from Space – 11/15/10

27. Sao Paulo, Brazil, at Night from Space – 04/12/03

This image shows the sprawling urban footprint of São Paulo, Brazil, South America’s largest city with roughly 17 million people. The different colors (pink, white, and gray) define different types and generations of streetlights. The port of Santos, on the right side of the photograph, is also well defined by lights.

28. London at Night from Space – 02/04/03

29. California, Mexico’s Baja California & the Gulf of Cortez from Space 08/19/11

30. Aurora Australis Over Indian Ocean from Space – 09/17/11