Yes, you really CAN see our Christmas lights from space

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Hampton Roads, Va. – NASA has released proof – you really CAN see Christmas lights in Hampton Roads from space.

Newly-released data from the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, shows how patterns in nighttime light intensity change during major holiday seasons – Christmas and New Year’s in the United States and the holy month of Ramadan in the Middle East.

The lights in Hampton Roads are among the regions showing an increase over the holidays.

The new data shows lights start getting brighter on ‘Black Friday’ and continue through New Year’s.

Around many major U.S. cities, nighttime lights shine 20 to 50 percent brighter during Christmas and New Year’s when compared to light output during the rest of the year, as seen in the satellite data. In some Middle Eastern cities, nighttime lights shine more than 50 percent brighter during Ramadan, compared to the rest of the year.

Suomi NPP, a joint NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) mission, carries an instrument called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). VIIRS can observe the dark side of the planet – and detect the glow of lights in cities and towns worldwide. In 2012, NOAA scientists released “Earth at Night” maps, created from VIIRS data. These well-known images are composites – based on monthly long-term averages of data collected on nights with no clouds or moonlight.

The new analysis of holiday lights uses an advanced algorithm, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that filters out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles in order to isolate city lights on a daily basis. The data from this algorithm provide high-quality satellite information on light output across the globe, allowing scientists to track when – and how brightly – people illuminate the night.

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