The music video on the NASA Johnson YouTube channel The Sound (& Visions) of Silence shows images and video of Earth taken from the ISS by astronauts Sergey Ryazanskiy, Paolo Nespoli, and Commander Randy Bresnik.

Between 01:02 and 01:10 there is shown a photo of a city(?) area with bright sodium street lighting and dimmer white lights, and in the center is a bright lit white area and what looks like light shining straight up.

Any ideas where in the world this is, and if this is a concert, or a brightly lit public area, or what else has produced all of this light? Are these spotlights, or is this somehow reflected moonlight?

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Captured by astronauts Sergey Ryazanskiy, Paolo Nespoli, and Commander Randy Bresnik, the video features stunning footage of Earth and outer space from the International Space Station in low-earth orbit during the months of August through October in 2017.

As an aside, this is a re-recording of the Simon and Garfunkel classic Sound of Silence by the band Disturbed, and their performance of it on Conan received a Grammy nomination. (if you're particularly fond of the original, a caution that this one is very different)


Well I confirmed via Google Maps that this is Mecca. As shown in the map and image below the roads align with those lighted in the image. The dark areas in the first image are steep hills to the East. enter image description here

The brightly lit region is the Kaaba and large Masjid al-Haram Mosque, and the bright up light is indeed the Makkah Royal Clock Tower.

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  • $\begingroup$ That is really cool. $\endgroup$ – 10 Replies Nov 18 '17 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the graphics and explanation of the dark areas. I'd assumed those were water and thought this was some very interestingly built-up harbor. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 18 '17 at 23:47

Possibly Mecca, Google image search indirectly led me to a facebook post dated 4th September claiming to be Sergey Ryazanskiy's claiming the images were of Mecca.

If this is the case the uplight may be the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, which according to wikipedia "On special occasions such as new year, 16 bands of vertical lights shoot 10 km (6.2 mi) up into the sky."

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    $\begingroup$ 10 km up? What happens after 10 km and how can the ISS sees it if the lights go only "10 km" up? ;-) $\endgroup$ – gerrit Nov 16 '17 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ It almost seems like they might mean "10 km (10 miles)" - i.e., "10" is a nice round number, and makes for a good-sounding boast. Alternatively, it might be referring to the point at which the light stops scattering and producing a visible beam. $\endgroup$ – Ethan Kaminski Nov 16 '17 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit Related question over on Physics.SE: Why do beams of light (from torches or other directed sources) not extend to infinity? $\endgroup$ – 8bittree Nov 16 '17 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ 10 km (5 miles) might be the better conversion $\endgroup$ – JCRM Nov 16 '17 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ @8bittree Oh, I know why. It's just a silly claim. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Nov 17 '17 at 1:27

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