John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The blindingly lit barrier is one of few international boundaries visible at night from low-earth orbit.
Sorry to bust a childhood myth, but it is nearly impossible for the unaided eye to see the Great Wall of China from space. But the India-Pakistan border—now that’s about as visible as a river of nuclear fire streaming across the land.
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station snapped this stellar view of the heavily lit and guarded barrier in late September. Writes NASA:
The port city of Karachi is the bright cluster of lights facing the Arabian Sea, which appears completely black. City lights and the dark color of dense agriculture closely track with the great curves of the Indus valley. For scale, the distance from Karachi to the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains is 1,160 kilometers (720 miles).
This photograph shows one of the few places on Earth where an international boundary can be seen at night. The winding border between Pakistan and India is lit by security lights that have a distinct orange tone.
The blinding border is “designed to discourage smuggling and arms trafficking,” the space agency writes of this similar nocturnal view from 2011:
For those who want to know what it looks like during the day, here are a few recent photos: