Unless you somehow have the ability to fly like a bird, it’s pretty hard to imagine what your street or city looks like from above, especially at night. Sure, you can board a plane and hopefully spot your house from the window, but what about even higher than that? How about 250-ish miles high? While this is a tough task, even for those of us who are blessed with the superpower of flight, we’re actually in luck because astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been documenting what our cities look like at night for years now. Thanks, astronauts!
So, without further adieu, here are ten of the best (so far!).
A Dark North Korea
The Expedition 38 crew captured this image of the Korean Peninsula on January 30, 2014. As you can see, South Korea is all lit up with life while North Korea is almost complete darkness. In fact, the only dash of light inside that sea of dark is North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang. This image is a pretty clear reminder of how two very similar societies can live so differently.
The Glowing Boot of Italy
Clearly captured here is the ‘boot’ of Italy. This image, which was captured by Expedition 25 crewmembers in 2010, shows much of Europe and Africa. In fact, the amount of the globe that this single image encapsulates is pretty mindboggling.
The Olympic Games in Sochi
The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia captured by Expedition 38 crewmembers. You can clearly make out the large coliseums as they cut through the darkness along the coast of the Black Sea, which, at night, truly lives up to its name.
Moscow: A Spiderweb
Another view of Russia from the Expedition 38 crew shows Moscow looking a lot like a huge spiderweb made of lights. This image was taken back on January 29, 2014 from 240 miles up.
The Grid of Salt Lake City
Yet another Expedition 38 image (those guys killed it with the nighttime pictures), this one shows Salt Lake City, Utah’s grid system. It also highlights just how dense the populations get in some cities because the only darkened areas are golf courses and ranches.
Good Morning, USA
This image was captured on September 17, 2015 by famed astronaut Scott Kelly during his year in space onboard the ISS. Though he doesn’t describe what cities are all pictured, it shows just how much activity goes on when the country is asleep. The lefthand side of the image shows the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights).
The Slithering Thames
Astronaut Kjell Lindgren captured this image of London in 2015. The most interesting part, besides the confusing street patterns, is the Thames, which appears to slither through the middle of the city like a giant snake made of darkness.
The Island of Las Vegas
Surrounding by utter black, Las Vegas looks like an island of its own in this November 2010 image captured by the crew of Expedition 28. The city’s perfectly laid of grid system created a stark contrast compared to the darkness of the Mohave desert. Taking center stage, though, is the strip, which is insanely bright compared to the already bright city.
Follow the Nile
Expedition 25 crewmembers snapped this image of Cairo and the Nile River from 220 miles above Earth’s surface in October 2010. Above Cairo, you can see the Mediterranean. The coolest thing about this image is that it shows how humanity is attracted to water. Thanks to all of the cities and towns, the Nile River is seemingly created by light.
The Outline of Florida
Captured from 220 miles up, the Florida peninsula is outlined in lights since most of its cities are on the water. This image also shows both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic as they surround the state.