December 27, 2013
(4 Dec. 2011) --- One of the Expedition 30 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station photographed this night time scene of the Iberian Peninsula on Dec. 4, 2011. The city lights of Spain and Portugal define the peninsula. Several large metropolitan areas are visible, marked by their relatively large and brightly lit areas, such as two capital cities -- Madrid, Spain, located near the center of the peninsula's interior, and Lisbon, Portugal, located along the southwestern coastline. Ancient Seville, visible at image right to the north of the approximately 14 kilometer-wide Strait of Gibraltar, is one of the largest cities in Spain. All together, the Principality of Andorra, the Kingdom of Spain and the Portuguese Republic total approximately 590,000 square kilometers of landmass. The peninsula is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the northwest, west, and southwest and the Mediterranean Sea to the east. Its northeastern boundary with the rest of continental Europe is marked by the Pyrenees mountain range. The view is looking outwards from the orbital outpost toward the east. The network of smaller cities and towns in the interior and along the coastline attest to the large extent of human presence on the Iberian landscape. Blurring of the city lights is caused by thin cloud cover (image left and center), while the cloud tops are dimly illuminated by moonlight. Though obscured, the lights of France are visible near the horizon line at image upper left, while the lights of northern Africa are more clearly discernable at image right. The gold to green line of airglow, caused by excitation of upper atmosphere gas molecules by ultraviolet radiation, parallels the horizon line (or Earth limb).
Topics: Geography, Geography of Europe, Earth, Spain, Airglow, Peninsula, Iberian Peninsula, Plasma physics, Observational astronomy