View from space: US Midwest at night with aurora borealis

Check out this incredible nighttime view of the U.S. Midwest with the green – and magenta – light of the aurora borealis (also called the “northern lights”). The picture was taken by a crew member aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In fact, you can see part of the ISS across the top of the image.

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

In this panoramic image, taken on September 29, 2011, you can see the yellow light from the cities (what NASA calls “human settlements”) and a small white patch of lightning from a storm on the East Coast (image top right).

In addition to the major metropolitan areas, the rectangular north-south-east-west layout of townships is clearly visible in the rural, lower left 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 that helps astronauts quickly know which continent they are flying over at night.

View from Space: Toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie

You can see the light lines of the interstate highways converging on St. Louis, Chicago, and other large cities, much like wheel spokes around a central hub. Meanwhile, rivers – like the Mississippi – become almost invisible at night.

Read more from NASA’s Earth Observatory

October 26, 2011

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