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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains What Hap­pens If You Fall into a Black Hole

The Auro­ra Bore­alis Viewed from Orbit (and What Cre­ates Those North­ern Lights?)

What a Hur­ri­cane Looks Like From Out­er Space

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