This wide-angle, nighttime photograph was taken by International Space Station astronauts looking southeastward over the Gulf of Mexico. Moonlight reflects diffusely off the waters of the Gulf, making the largest illuminated area in the image.
The sharp edge of light patterns from coastal cities trace the long curve of the shoreline from New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, to Brownsville, Texas, in the westernmost Gulf. City lights on the horizon—from Florida (left) and Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula (center, near the moon reflection)—hint at the full extent of the Gulf basin.
Other city light patterns in the scene include Mexico City (far right) and the arcing string of the Austin–San Antonio conurbation in central Texas. In recent years a new pattern of lights has appeared on the landscape and revealed the oil- and gas-production zone of south-central Texas. This long, less dense swath of pinpoints spreads across 330 kilometers (210 miles) of what is now known as shale-fracking country.
Astronaut photograph ISS042-E-241898 was acquired on February 11, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 20 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 42 crew. The image 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 M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.