What Do Christmas and Ramadan Look Like From Space?

NASA’s new algorithm measures changes in light usage of major cities around the world.

City lights in the U.S. increased in brightness by up to 50 percent during the holiday season. Image by NASA's Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen.

For the first time, researchers are able to observe changes in light intensity and light output over time from images taken from space. Using an instrument called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed how patterns in nighttime light intensity fluctuated during the holidays in major cities. With an advanced algorithm, the VIIRS is capable of sifting through clouds, pollution and moonlight and isolating artifical city lights.

With data collected over a period of three years from 2012 to 2014, they found that lights shone as much as two times brighter during special holiday seasons. In the U.S. during Christmas and New Year’s, lights shine 20 to 50 percent brighter than the rest of the year. According to NASA Goddard’s research scientist Miguel Román, the lights began increasing in intensity on Black Friday and began waning after New Year’s Day.

In the Middle East, lights shine brighter by more than 50 percent during the fasting month of Ramadan – with some cities exhibiting a 100 percent surge in brightness. Because Muslims fast from dawn to dusk in Ramadan – abstaining from all food and drink during daylight hours—activities they would have usually performed in the day are deferred to the nighttime. This explains the extreme increase in light output. Still, some Middle Eastern cities with weak electrical grids actually experienced a decrease in brightness—among them the Syrian city of Damascus and other Iraqi cities.

Ramadan lights of major Saudi Arabian cities. Image by NASA's Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen.

Cairo and Amman lit up during the Ramadan holiday season. Tel Aviv did not exhibit a large change in light brightness. Image by NASA's Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen


Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.

It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less