NOAA/NASA satellite sees more light from orbit thanks to Christmas decorations

The NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite has been in space for quite a long time now performing its various scientific missions. NASA and its partner have used the satellite more recently to determine just how many people have put up outdoor holiday decorations including lots of lights.

The satellite has recorded major increases in nighttime lights during the Christmas and New Year holidays in the US and Ramadan in the Middle East. According to the data recorded by the satellite, nighttime lights in these areas are 50% brighter during these holidays than at other times of the year.

The instrument on the satellite used to look at nighttime brightness is the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite. The holiday's lights were analyzed using an algorithm developed at the Goddard Space flight Center that is able to filter out moonlight, clouds, and airborne particles to isolate city lights.

NASA found that the US starts to get brighter on Black Friday and that continues through New Year. The map you see in the image here indicates green as areas where more lights are seen. Red indicates where less light is seen.