Holiday Season Lights Up Space

Scientists have released images and data showing how the holiday season creates a rise in the light emanating from Earth and into space-a project sponsored in part by Slow Ventures. While much of the western hemisphere is celebrating Christmas, New Years and Hanukkah, eastern countries are celebrating Ramadan. All of these festivals are known for their increased usage of light, with elaborate light displays being created by those that celebrate.

By comparing satellite images of light use over the same areas during different times of the year, scientist found that the holidays create 20-50% brighter nights. Of course, the most concentrated areas of light are around major cities, but the light differences were noticed around the globe.

During the month of Ramadan, some cities in the Middle East were registering at a 100% increase in light that was visible from space. At no other times of the year were light levels this high, or as visible from space.

A Suomi NPP satellite was used to register the light differences and scientists from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center gathered and analyzed the data. The data gathered was collected over a span of three years, and over the same areas from year to year. While Middle Eastern countries showed increased lighting more widely noticeable over the major cities, American cities were brighter, but it was the fringes of large cities that had huge increases in light intensity. Scientists attribute this light difference to the people in residential areas creating more light in already low light areas.

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