Culture

Holiday Lights Seen From Space!

christmas lights feature image

By Kristen E. Strubberg Editor-in-Chief

We’re not just talking about the new Guinness World Record haolder for most Christmas Lights (located in Australia).  Between 2012 and autumn 2014, NASA and NOAA scientists used the Suomi National Polar Orbiting Partnership satellite to monitor the increase in planetary lighting and energy use during the celebrations of Ramadan, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve/Day (December 31st) in over 1200 cities.  The Christmas season, beginning on Thanksgiving, showed a 20-30% increase in lighting around cities and larger 30-50% increase in suburban areas throughout the United States.  The researchers determined the increase was partly due to decreasing daylight hours but also to people coming home and turning on Christmas light displays.  The increase peaked at New Year’s after which lighting intensity slowly returned to normal amounts.

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An image captured by NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite of major US east coast cities demonstrates the increase in nighttime light during the Christmas holiday. Dark green coloration indicates significant lighting increases. (Image Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen)

Likewise, the scientist detected an increase in lighting around the summer months surrounding and including Islam’s holy month of Ramadan.  While there is no equivalent “Christmas lights” tradition associated with Ramadan, many urban locations in the Middle-East showed 60-100% light and energy increase..  Since Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month, work, social gatherings and shopping move later into the night. However, some regions facing political and societal unrest showed a decline in light and energy consumption.  Yet, on the festival of Eid-al-Fitr which marks the conclusion of Ramadan austerities, celebration increased lighting in every major urban area including those that initially saw a decrease in lighting.

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Another image recorded by NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite shows predominantly Muslim areas also increase nighttime lighting during the holy month of Ramadan. (Image Credit:NASA’s Earth’s Observatory/Jesse Allen)

The researchers hope this information can help maximize energy utilization during these times of celebration.

Read more at the BBC and NASA.

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