NASA spots holiday lights shining bright from space

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It’s official — our holiday lights are so bright we can see them from space.

Around many major U.S. cities, nighttime lights shine 20 to 50 percent brighter during the holidays when compared to light output during the rest of the year, as seen in the satellite data, NASA says.

In a joint mission between NASA and NOAA, scientists are presenting a new way of studying satellite data that can illustrate patterns in holiday lights.  An instrument called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) detects the glow of lights in cities and towns worldwide.

The holiday light algorithm filters out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles in order to isolate city lights on a daily basis, allowing scientists to track when – and how brightly – people illuminate the night.

In the U.S., the lights started getting brighter on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, and continued through New Year’s Day, NASA says.

Scientists say examining the light output in U.S. cities is a first step in determining patterns in urban energy use – a key factor in greenhouse gas emissions

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