• Aurora borealis
  • Chicago
  • Omaha
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Des Moines
  • St. Louis
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Lightning
  • Indianapolis...some love for Indiana. :)
  • Sioux City?
  • Sioux Falls?

Midwestern U.S. at Night With Aurora Borealis (NASA, International Space Station, 09/29/11)

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Editor's note: Incredible photos from the ISS! This has also been added to the NASA Views Earth at Night photoset: www.flickr.com/photos/28634332@N05/sets/72157625188331491/. Also, this has been selected as a NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day: earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=76201

The Midwestern United States at night with Aurora Borealis is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 29 crew member on the International Space Station. The night skies viewed from the space station are illuminated with light from many sources. For example, the Midwestern United States presents a night-time appearance not unlike a patchwork quilt when viewed from orbit. The artificial light from human settlements appears everywhere with a characteristic yellow tinge in this photograph. But green light of the Aurora Borealis also appears strongly in this view (top left)—even seeming to be reflected off Earth's surface—in Canada—beneath the aurora. A small white patch of light is almost certainly lightning from a storm on the East coast (top right). Part of the International Space Station appears across the top of the image. This photograph highlights the Chicago, IL, metropolitan area as the largest cluster of lights at center, next to the dark patch of Lake Michigan. The other largest metropolitan areas include St. Louis, MO (lower right), Minneapolis--St. Paul, MN (left) and the Omaha--Council Bluffs region on the Nebraska--Iowa border (lower left). City light clusters give an immediate sense of relative city size; demographers have used night time satellite imagery to make estimates of city populations, especially in the developing world where city growth can be very rapid. The U.S. northeast seaboard lies in the most oblique (meaning viewed at an angle) part of the image at top right, just beyond the Appalachian Mts., a dark winding zone without major cities.

Scales change significantly in oblique views: Omaha is only 200 kilometers from Des Moines, but appears roughly the same distance from Minneapolis—which is actually 375 kilometers to the north of Des Moines. In addition to the major metropolitan areas, the rectangular NS/EW-oriented pattern of townships is clearly visible in the rural, lower left part of the image. This pattern instantly gives the sense of north orientation (toward the top left corner) and is a distinctive characteristic of the United States, so that ISS crew members can quickly know which continent they are flying over even at night. In contrast to the regular township pattern, interstate highways converge on St. Louis (e.g. Hwy 44), Chicago and other large cities, much like wheel spokes around a central hub. Rivers—major visual features in daylight—become almost invisible at night. The course of the Mississippi River appears as a slightly meandering zone from Minneapolis through St. Louis (dashed line)—the river course continues out of the lower right corner of the image.

Image credit: NASA

Original image:
spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/crew-29/html/...

More about space station research:
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

There's a Flickr group about Space Station Research. Please feel welcome to join! www.flickr.com/groups/stationscience/

View more than 400 photos like this in the "NASA Earth Images" Flickr photoset:
www.flickr.com/photos/28634332@N05/

_____________________________________________
These official NASA photographs are being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photographs. The photographs may not be used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement by NASA. All Images used must be credited.

For information on usage rights please visit: www.nasa.gov/audience/formedia/features/MP_Photo_Guidelin...

View 7 more comments

  1. PharmieJim 42 months ago | reply

    yhat is beyond cool

  2. Shabdro Photo 42 months ago | reply

    That is unreal!

  3. Nick Mullins 42 months ago | reply

    Indianapolis not Detroit
    .

  4. HoosierJake 42 months ago | reply

    "Um Detroit" is actually Indianapolis

  5. GX67 42 months ago | reply

    This is downright amazing. Not much else I can say.

  6. stellamaris61 42 months ago | reply

    I don't think that is lightning. It looks like the Twin Towers light memorial in NYC.

  7. pitnyelder 42 months ago | reply

    Just below and to the left of the marker for the Appalachians would - I believe - be Louisville, KY.

  8. pauline.kehoe 42 months ago | reply

    A stunning beautiful capture.

  9. Francesco Littmann - Doc Savage 42 months ago | reply

    I love St. Louis, now I'm there! :)
    Awesome landscape from the space!

  10. nelsonmatt 41 months ago | reply

    that is awesome nice pic

  11. juandrob 39 months ago | reply

    This is totally awesome. Totally.

  12. creolumen 39 months ago | reply

    incredible... how amazing the earth is!

  13. G.CRIS 25 months ago | reply

    wonderful!!!

  14. pauline.kehoe 11 months ago | reply

    This is wonderful.

  15. Tazmanic 2 months ago | reply

    Goodness gracious

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