May 17, 2022 7:00 am

Rare night lights in the Yellow Sea

A jumble of lights greeted astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS-ISS) as they gazed over East Asia and the Korean Peninsula in October 2021. What were they and who made them?

Francis Martin Leon 3 min
Astronaut images ISS066-E-25062 from October 30, 2021 with a Nikon D5 digital camera, detail below. See text for more information. ISS-ISS

Lightning flashed through clouds in the distance, and the glow of human activity emanated from land and sea surfaces. Densely populated urban centers were particularly bright, with Seoul, Vladivostok and Tokyo each measuring a factor of 27 or more above natural sky brightness. (Note that its brightness in this photo is affected by cloud cover and relative distance from the ISS.)

This photograph also contains another man-made light source: fishing boats that navigate the shallow waters of the Yellow Sea.

Several marine species feel attracted by the light, so night fishing is often favored by the use of high power spotlights to improve the catch. The projectors also make the ships visible from space. While some individual fishing boats can be identified in the photo, others are packed so densely that they can almost appear as bright as urban centers on land.

Autumn is the peak season for Yellow Sea fisheries, where more than 1,600 fishing boats on an average night. A wide variety of species are caught in the sea, including anchovies.

The region is divided into separate Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), which are claimed extensions of a country’s borders out to the ocean. According to a study, China can extract up to 20 percent of its fish production from the Yellow Sea.

Astronaut photograph ISS066-E-25062 was acquired on October 30, 2021 with a Nikon D5 digital camera with a focal length of 28 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Johnson Space Center Earth Sciences and Remote Sensing Unit. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 66 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and blemishes have been removed. artifacts of the lens. Legend of Alex Stoken, Jacobs, JETS contract at NASA-JSC.

NASA Earth Observatory

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