Astronauts can see your holiday lights from space


New images released by NASA show how satellites are able to see the additional illumination from high above the planet.

The series of pictures, taken in the past few weeks by satellites, show cities much brighter than normal, and illustrate the great lengths some people go to in celebrating the holiday season.

From full-fledged displays down to nativity scenes, all the lights combine to glow brighter than at any other time of the year.

The extra lights cause metropolitan areas around the country to shine as much as 50 percent brighter than usual, according to NASA. The phenomenon usually begins to show on Black Friday.

"It's a near ubiquitous signal. Despite being ethnically and religiously diverse, we found that the U.S. experiences a holiday increase that is present across most urban communities," NASA's Miguel Román wrote in a blog post about the pictures.

Only cities without snowpack were analyzed, because snow reflects too much light for an accurate observation to be made.

"Overall, we see less light increases in the dense urban centers, compared to the suburbs and small towns where you have more yard space and single-family homes," said Eleanor Stokes, a NASA Jenkins Graduate Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at Yale University who co-led the study with Román.

The effect was also noticed in Middle Eastern cities as well, but during Ramadan.

The Muslim holy month usually occurs during the summer and involves day-long fasting until dusk. Cities such as Cairo, Egypt and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia come alive at night.

Light use increases as much as 100 percent, especially at the end of the month.

"Whether you're rich or poor, or religious or not, everybody in Egypt is celebrating the Eid, or the end of Ramadan," Román said.