Sunday, December 30, 2012

Times Square from Space

2012 is nearly over and soon hoards of people (this news account estimates attendance will be a staggering one million people) will gather in Times Square in New York City's Midtown Manhattan to watch the time ball drop at the stroke of midnight as they celebrate the passage of time. It is the world's biggest annual party.
The time ball marks 2012 in Times Square
Of course, in Times Square it is a party every night. I had the chance last fall to make my first visit.  I wasn't surprised at how bright it was, but as someone who likes peace and quiet and also advocates for light pollution controls, it was a bit of a shock to my system.

It is a 24/7 display of giant electronic TV's, excessive lighting and more. There certainly is a place for this kind of thing in a few places across the globe but the Times Square ambiance, with over the top lighting and advertising, is a far cry from what most cities need or would want. There currently is a lot of pressure from the billboard industry to bring this kind of advertising to many communities across the U.S. but some groups like Ban Billboard Blight are opposing this.

The lighting in Times Square isn't limited to giant video screens. The buildings themselves are generally illuminated too from within and without. 
Lights like this one at left shine upward to illuminate buildings.
Up light like what is shown above is illegal in communities that have controls on outdoor lighting. I wont argue the "need" for this, but a lot of this light completely misses the target shining up into the sky and not on the buildings at all.

All of this light (from the advertising too) adds up to a lot of light going upwards, which makes Manhattan easy to spot from space at night.
Credit: The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
The Expedition 16 crew of the International Space Station captured the above image of Manhattan and the surrounding area the night of February 10, 2008. Can you spot it?

Let's zoom in a bit:

The dark area just left of center is the Hudson River and the one at right is the East River.  The dark rectangle near the top is Central Park.  The bright area beneath it is Manhattan and Times Square.  Compare its brightness to just about everything else in the wide image.  Of course, Times Square is all about excess that's why a million people will be there tomorrow night.

1 comment:

  1. If you can see it from space at night, you can't see space from there at night.
    I've been to Times Square at midnight with my NYC wife, and I've been to Mauna Kea.
    The lights at Mauna Key impressed me more than those in NYC. I don't think mankind will ever achieve a blackout that could turn out the lights seen from Mauna Kea.