Nighttime images have a way of dramatically revealing the amount of
land development in metropolitan areas. This astronaut photograph
features two of China’s most populous cities—Beijing and Tianjin—both in
the northeastern part of the country near the Bohai Gulf. The United
Nations estimated the 2010 population of the Beijing metropolitan area
to be approximately 12 million, with the population of Tianjin estimated
at more than 7 million.
The smaller city of Langfang, located midway between Beijing and
Tianjin, is also clearly visible, as are several smaller developments to
the northeast. The dark regions are mainly agricultural fields, with
wheat and corn being the major crops.
Beijing (also known as Peking) is one of the ancient capital cities
and the current capital of the People’s Republic of China. Its regular
grid pattern is clearly visible at image upper left; concentric rings of
major roadways around the city have been added as the metropolitan area
has expanded. Tianjin is a major trade center linked to seaports on the
Bohai Gulf. The city lies along the Grand Canal of China, a major
artificial waterway extending southward for 1,176 kilometers (1,103
miles) from Beijing to Hangzhou.
This photograph was acquired by astronauts on the International Space
Station (ISS) when it was located approximately 630 kilometers (391
miles) away, over the Yellow Sea near the western coastline of North
Korea. The flattened perspective of the urban areas is the result of the
viewing angle and distance from the ISS. The city light patterns are
very clear, indicating that there was little cloud cover or haze in the region at the time.
Astronaut photograph ISS026-E-10155
was acquired on December 14, 2010, with a Nikon D3S digital camera
using a 180 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations
experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space
Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 26 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab
to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest
value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely
available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and
cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.