Great Cities at Night: Views from the International Space Station

During his time on the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Don Pettit endeared himself to me in two ways. First, he invented a handy-dandy “zero-g coffee cup” that lets you drink coffee in space without using a straw — something we’ll all hopefully use one day. Next, between 2002 and 2008, he took some striking images of great cities and their lights shining at night. The opening minutes explain how the shots were actually taken. Then, at the 1:45 mark, the tour begins. Zurich, Milan, Madrid, Athens, London, Cairo (including the Pyramids), Jerusalem, Mecca, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Las Vegas (the brightest spot on earth) — they’re all included on the tour.

Pettit narrates the entire video. And, along the way, he takes care to underscore an interesting point — each culture creates its cities in its own way, using differently geographic layouts and technologies. Those differences we can see on the ground from one perspective, and from outer space from yet another vantage point.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.