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Holiday calendar: Happy Hanukkah from space

Tonight marks the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights — which calls to mind this glittering picture of the Middle East, captured by the International Space Station as it flew more than 200 miles above in February.

Hanukkah, which tends to come around the same time of year as Christmas, is an eight-day holiday that commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem during the revolt of the Maccabees in the second century B.C. Jewish tradition holds that there was only enough oil to light the ceremonies for one night, and yet the lamps burned for eight days — giving Jerusalem's residents enough time to prepare a fresh supply of oil.

As a remembrance of that ancient miracle, Jews will kindle lights on their menorahs for the next eight nights.

The picture from the space station shows Jerusalem as well as Tel Aviv to the west and the Jordanian capital of Amman to the east aglow with city lights. The roads connecting the cities are also lit up — suggesting the connections of trade and heritage that tie the region together. During this holiday season, let's hope that peace will shine forth in the Middle East, and that we'll turn our attention to what connects us rather than what divides us.

Today's Hanukkah greetings serve as the latest entry in our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which features views of Earth from space every day until Christmas. Catch up on these previous images from the calendar:

Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.