To paraphrase an old expression: “all roads lead to Liège.” Or at least you could get that impression from this astronaut photograph. The brightly lit core of the Liège urban area appears to lie at the center of a network of roadways—traceable by continuous orange lighting extending out into the rural and relatively dark Belgian countryside. For a sense of scale, the distance from image left to right is approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles). The region to the southeast of Verviers includes agricultural fields and forest; hence, it appears almost uniformly dark at night.
The image was taken using the European Space Agency’s Nodding mechanism on the International Space Station (ISS), also known as the NightPod. This electro-mechanical mount system for digital cameras was designed to compensate for the motion of the ISS relative to the Earth. The primary goal was to take high-resolution, long-exposure digital imagery of the Earth from the ISS Cupola, particularly cities at night. While the official NightPod mission has been completed, the mechanism remains onboard for astronauts to use.
Liège is the third most populous metro area in Belgium, after Brussels and Antwerp. It includes 52 municipalities and the nearby city of Seraing. It is also an important economic center for the country, home to a diverse array of industries including mechanical, information and biotechnology; beer and chocolate; light armaments; and steel-making. The metropolitan area also boasts a wide array of cultural, historical, and artistic attractions that make it a popular destination for residents of France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Astronaut photograph ISS034-E-5935 was acquired on December 8, 2012, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 180 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 34 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.