The long urban strip that is Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman in the night-time picture shows a habitat zone that is 7 to 10 kilometres wide.
In this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station, the largest cluster of lights is the urban continuum of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, almost in the centre of the photograph.
The image is oriented with north to the left, and in the lower right-hand corner, Abu Dhabi is seen, the main promontory of the city clearly distinguished by the lights from the areas of Mussaffah, Khalifa Cities A and B, the airport area and Yas Island. The long urban strip that is Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman in the night-time picture shows a habitat zone that is 7 to 10 kilometres wide.
The Palm Jumeirah is clearly visible, as is Al Quoz, Business Bay, the Al Mamzar area, and the mouth of the creek. The high-contrast white glare of Dubai airport can also be clearly seen. Further to the north-west (more towards the left in the photograph) are Al Mamzar, and the Sharjah and Ajman city centres.
Towards the right of the image is a densely lit node — this is Al Ain, and the roads to it form a triangle between Abu Dhabi, the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman conurbation and Al Ain city. Fujairah is visible as a narrower strip of light ‘above' Sharjah, linked to it by highways. Hence, to the left of the image the shape of the Musandam peninsula becomes discernible. The farthest glow of lights, at the top edge of the image and towards the right, is Muscat, the capital of Oman. Major highways join the cities in a brightly lit network, and a faint peppering of lights offshore shows the oil and gas platforms.
Geographers find night-time images of cities useful because aspects of the human landscape become immediately visible that are difficult or impossible to see in day images.
The shapes of cities become clearer, the brightest light clusters frequently indicate the city centres and in images with a large field of view (like this one) the position and size of cities relative to one another is also seen.
About this image: Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-16335 was acquired on December 11, 2013, and is provided by the International Space Station Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science and Analysis Laboratory.