For all those people who have ever said, “I bet you can see my neighbor’s Christmas lights from space!” well, we now have proof that they’re right — at least in aggregate. For the first time, NASA researchers have measured the increase in Earth’s night lights during both the holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Years, in the U.S., and for the holy month of Ramadan in the Middle East.
While we may not be able to see individual front yards, the satellite data has such good resolution that researchers from Yale University have been able to find correlations between political and socio-economic data for individual neighborhoods and the brightness measured from space. Researchers say being able to monitor our lighting output in this way is like being able to measure traffic on a highway, rather than just map the road itself.
If we can understand the behavioral aspect of lights and energy use throughout the year it can shed light on our understanding of energy efficiency and human drivers of climate change.