The lights of Las Vegas have an angelic glow when viewed at night from the International Space Station.
Since Las Vegas is surrounded by desert, the brightly lit city pops out like a sparkling pendant on a black dress. The Strip — the 4-mile-long section of Las Vegas Boulevard where a few dozen of the world's largest hotels and casinos are located — is reputed to be the brightest spot on Earth. Its radiance will get another boost on Wednesday when the $3.9 billion, 2,995-room Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opens for business.
To make this and other nighttime images, astronauts track their target with a handheld camera as the space station zips along at more than 15,000 miles per hour relative to Earth’s surface. Advances in digital camera technology — combined with experience —have make it easier for space station crews to acquire striking images of Earth at night.
For those of us wishing we could forget what happened in Vegas ... well, let's just hope the crew doesn't take any close-ups.
Check in with Photoblog and Cosmic Log every day until Christmas for a new view of Earth as seen from outer space -- and check out the links below for the previous pictures in our Advent calendar, as well as three other online calendars with space themes:
- The Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar so far
- Door 1 for Dec. 1: Shuttle in spotlight
- Door 2 for Dec. 2: 'Alien' lake seen from space
- Door 3 for Dec. 3: Egypt's river of light
- Door 4 for Dec. 4: Tallest building reaches for the sky
- Door 5 for Dec. 5: Russia's dazzling delta
- Door 6 for Dec. 6: Space skipper vs. the world
- Door 7 for Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor from the heavens
- Door 8 for Dec. 8: Listening for E.T.
- Door 9 for Dec. 9: Blast from the past
- Door 10 for Dec. 10: Volcano caught in the act
- Door 11 for Dec. 11: Chronicling climate change
- Door 12 for Dec. 12: Happy St. Lucy's Day
- The Big Picture at Boston.com: Hubble Advent calendar
- Planetary Society: Solar system Advent calendar
- Zooniverse Advent calendar
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).