Proud of your Christmas lights? You can see them from space. The NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NNP) satellite has seen nighttime lights shine 20-50% brighter during the holiday season.

NASA scientists used data from the Suomi satellite and an advanced algorithm to see just how much nighttime lights were brightened around the holiday season. Moonlight, clouds and other sources were filtered out.

Check out how much brighter the mid-Atlantic is during the holiday season. The dark green pixels show light shining more than 50% brighter.

mid Atlantic holiday lights

Suburbs and the outskirts of major cities saw the biggest brightness increases at 30-50%. Urban areas were also brighter, but a little lower at 20-30%.

The near universal increase in brightness during the holiday season “these lighting patterns are tracking a national shared tradition,” says Miguel Román, a member of the Suomi NNP Team.

Román and his colleagues were only able to look at cities in the southern half of the U.S. Snow reflects too much light in the northern parts.

Here’s what Christmas lights look like on the California coast.


It wasn’t the holiday season in the U.S. that first tipped researchers off on increased lighting. It was during Ramadan in the Middle East.

Researchers also noted a drastic shifting in brightness in the U.S. during the holiday season. Rural areas became much brighter as folks went home for the holidays. Some urban areas actually saw decreases in overall brightness.

During Ramadan, this shift didn’t happen. Communities stay where they are. Check out Cairo during Ramadan.

cairo ramadan lights

Here’s another image showing Ramadan festivities in several other Middle Eastern cities.

saudi arabia ramadan lights

Image credits: NASA

When I’m not playing Rocket League (best game ever), you can find me writing about all things games, space and more. You can reach me at alex@newsledge.com

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