Nighttime images provide a spectacular representation of a country’s geography, with the larger population centers shining brightly. Here the easily recognized boot of Italy is visible from a panorama taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The pattern of night lights shows populations concentrated mainly along the coastlines, but also in the Po River Valley of northern Italy.
Some of the brightest clusters of lights are Rome and nearby Naples, with island cities of Cagliari on Sardinia and Catania on Sicily. Even the unpopulated slopes of the active volcano Etna are visible in a small dark circle close to Catania. Hazy lights over the Po valley and Rome probably indicate thin clouds above.
A more detailed image of the toe and heel of Italy at night can be viewed on NASA’s Earth Observatory site.