NASA: Earth becomes brighter during holidays

Posted at 11:54 AM, Dec 17, 2014

Earth gets brighter during the holidays, but not in the same way for every culture.

According to a video posted by NASA, the observation is based on their joint satellite mission with NOAA. A specialized orbiting instrument studied the brightness of lights in populated areas, creating images that compensated for factors like the reflection of the moon, terrain, clouds and gases in the atmosphere.

"The first thing they noticed was the effect of holidays," says the narrator of the YouTube video.

In the United States, the brightness of our lights hits a peak during December.

"We were really surprised to see the vibrant increase in activities during the holidays -- particularly around the areas in the suburbs," NASA Goddard Space Flight Center researcher Miguel Roman says during the video.

Meanwhile, in the urban centers, lights are actually turned off during the holiday as people migrate to celebrations in the suburbs.

Other cultures have similar seasonal changes. The first time researchers observed changes in holiday lighting patterns was during Ramadan in the Middle East. In those areas, people didn't change locations as dramatically, but they did increase activity at night.

During the month-long holiday, Muslims fast during the day and only eat after sundown.