An image recently captured over the north Atlantic by an unidentified ISS astronaut. Courtesy NASA, the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit

A new website lets you check out photos taken by astronauts of specific spots on Earth.

Who isn’t moved by images of the Earth at night?

In the contrast it shows between nature and settlement—in the civilizational network it reveals—it gestures at the mystery of human society. These composites are referenced in movies and in art and, especially, in data visualizations.

And I had assumed unthinkingly that the images above and below, last updated by NASA in 2012, were about as much as existed. A new database shows how much more there is.

(NASA)

Cities at Night collects images that astronauts have taken of Earth at night. It organizes them on a map, and draws them from a much larger resource: the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, a NASA-organized database of all photos taken by astronauts in space.

For me, that brings a depth to these pictures that’s not present in other images of Earth from orbit. These aren’t machine-collected images, like those a weather satellite or Landsat might capture. No program indicated that these images should be captured. Rather, a person—often, with a DSLR you could buy at a store—saw something on the surface that caught their attention, focused the camera, and took a picture.

These are the results.

Chicago:

(NASA)

New York:

One of the American members of the ISS captured this image of New York City on March 23, 2013, as the laboratory flew overhead. (NASA Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit)

Portland:

(NASA)

New Orleans:

(NASA)

The database showcases many cities beyond these, including smaller municipalities, like Phoenix, Virginia; Atlantic, Iowa; and my own Trenton, New Jersey. It was compiled by an organization of Spanish astrophysicists to help inform readers about light pollution.

And while you’re musing about what your home looks like from above, consider that we don’t know what the astronaut’s own home looks like: No one has taken a detailed picture of the ISS since 2010. 

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Trump to the Rust Belt: Move Somewhere Else

    The president told upstate New Yorkers to move to a red state with jobs, even as his planned budget cuts promise to make their lives more difficult.

  2. Videos

    5 Ways to Seriously Battle Traffic

    So long as cars are among us, road pricing, ramp meters, and diamond-shaped intersections can mitigate horrendous commutes, a new video explains.

  3. Transportation

    Do Driverless Cars Need Their Own Roads Around Manhattan?

    A concept for AV expressways promises to reduce travel times, but falls into an old trap of car-centric planning.

  4. Equity

    When It Comes to Housing Affordability, Are Cities Like Seattle Doomed?

    At their annual gathering this week, America's urban planners confronted a growing crisis in the country's most expensive cities.

  5. Design

    Where Edmonton Goes Next

    The city that hosted this year’s Habitat for Humanity build also wants to create a downtown that attracts people to stay around after the Alberta oil boom has faded.