NASA Goddard

This Is What Your Christmas Lights Look Like From Space

They see you when you're sleeping. They know when you're awake.

What's a better signifier of the holiday spirit than Christmas lights? And this year, thanks to NASA you can see just what Christmas cheer looks like from outer space.

The space administration released a handful of photos taken by the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite that actually show a 20 to 50 percent increase in bright lights around Christmas and New Year's Day compared to the rest of the year.

Jesse Allen / NASA’s Earth Observatory

Research scientist Miguel Román at NASA Goddard explains that in the United States, lights start getting brighter on Black Friday, and continue right through New Year's festivities.

"It's a near ubiquitous signal," Román says. "Despite being ethnically and religiously diverse, we found that the U.S. experiences a holiday increase that is present across most urban communities. These lighting patterns are tracking a national shared tradition."

Are you feeling the warm fuzzies yet?

Jesse Allen / NASA’s Earth Observatory

If that's not enough, Román even explains the annual phenomenon of cities like Los Angeles and New York becoming virtual deadzones of human activity.

"What we're seeing is this shift in location of activity, where people are staying in their homes and celebrating, or they're traveling to rural areas and they're celebrating and turning on the lights," Román says. "Whereas in the urban centers, people are turning off the lights, because they're going off for the holidays."

Jesse Allen / NASA’s Earth Observatory

Because snow reflects so much light, the researchers could only analyze snow-free cities. (Sorry, Northers!) They focused on the California coastline and citites south of St. Louis to Washington, D.C.

The group also examined lighting patterns across major towns in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, known for having one of the longest and most-vibrant Christmas holiday periods.

Jesse Allen / NASA’s Earth Observatory