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Las Vegas is famous for its spectacular display of nighttime lights. In fact, Las Vegas is one of the brightest cities on the planet. Having said that, can Las Vegas be seen from space?
Las Vegas can be seen from space as confirmed by NASA and images taken aboard the International Space Station. In fact, Las Vegas is known as the brightest spot on earth. This is due to the high concentration of lights from casinos, hotels, and other attractions along the Las Vegas Strip.
In this article, I’ll explain what makes this possible, and answer some other common questions about the glowing lights in the Neon Capital of the World, Las Vegas.
Why You Can See Las Vegas Lights From Space
It’s actually not that uncommon for major world landmarks to be visible from space. The Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Amazon River are just a few natural landmarks that can be distinguished from outer space using telescopic lenses and high-resolution cameras.
In addition to natural formations, a number of large global cities can be seen from space due to the number of lights they run at night, including the following:
- El Paso
Dozens of other cities are visible at night, but Vegas is considered to be the brightest of them all.
Even in the 1980s, Las Vegas was a large city and a major tourist attraction, but it wasn’t known for the glittering bright lights that represent it now. Back then (and as far back as 1905), casinos were the main attraction in Las Vegas.
Although the casinos were impressive, they weren’t the huge, brightly lit megaresorts found on the Strip today.
Since that time, the city has continued to grow. With the addition of family entertainment – tours, shows, and concerts – and, of course, more casinos and hotels, practically everything in Las Vegas begs for tourists’ attention down at street level.
But, nowadays, Las Vegas is unmistakable from outer space, for a couple of reasons:
Las Vegas Has Even More Lights on the Strip Today
Living up to its name as the City that Never Sleeps, Las Vegas has continually added more lights and round-the-clock entertainment to keep guests busy non-stop.
As early as the 1930s, Las Vegas has been synonymous with casinos and bright neon lights when owners saw the attraction power they had. Over time, neon has been replaced with even brighter LED bulbs – and a whole lot more of them.
It’s estimated that about 12,000,000 lights come on every night on the Las Vegas Strip!
While all these lights make for an extraordinary display of mesmerizing light pollution down on the ground, all that bright light makes it easy to find Las Vegas from up in space.
Easier to View Vegas From Space Due to High-Resolution Photography
NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite was launched in 1984. The satellite produced images with a resolution of 30 meters per pixel. This resolution is clear enough to see large Las Vegas landmarks, like the mountains surrounding the city and the nearby airports, as well as the mellow glow emanating from the city itself.
Now contrast this with satellites launched in 2020 that produce images with 6 meters per pixel, which allows us to pick out objects as small as trees and automobiles from space. With this technology, the mellow glow from individual street lights, hotels, casinos, and attractions has turned into an explosion of light.
Today’s photography technology is powerful enough to depict the grid system of the city and makes the Strip, in the middle of the city, easily recognizable from outer space.
Due to the mountains and extra dark expanses of the Mojave Desert surrounding Las Vegas, the view of the Vegas lights from space pop out even more!
Lights of Las Vegas From Space: How High Exactly?
When we use terms like “space” and “outer space,” it’s important to define exactly what that means. Exactly how high above Earth can Vegas be seen?
Passenger airplanes fly between 31,000 and 38,000 feet. This is roughly 6 to 7 miles above the Earth. In comparison, space is considered to be 62 miles above sea level (known as the Kármán line) according to international scientists and organizations.
Hello Las Vegas! The Las Vegas strip is shining brightly from 250 miles up on @Space_Station. Las Vegas is in a basin on the floor of the Mojave Desert and is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. It serves as the leading financial, commercial, & cultural center for Nevada. pic.twitter.com/X0aqFEP8BT— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) August 11, 2021
Las Vegas can be seen by satellites and the naked eye at this height, but Las Vegas can be seen from much higher than that. In 2021, astronaut Shane Kimbrough tweeted an aerial photo (image above) of Las Vegas from the space station 250 miles above Earth.
To snap pictures of Earth from space, astronauts have to take into account the speed and rotation of the planet. This requires them to use manual tracking devices that follow the Earth’s surface at a rate of 15,000 miles per hour.
Can You See The Las Vegas Strip From Space
Yes, the Las Vegas Strip can be seen from space. In fact, it’s quite easy to spot because it is the brightest place in the entire city. I’ve cropped in on the NASA image so you can see the Strip better.
Cropped in it’s not super sharp but it’s pretty obvious where the Strip is. It’s almost unbelievable that this image was captured from a couple of hundred miles out in space!
Can The Luxor Light Be Seen From Space?
Although there are millions of lights on the Vegas Strip, one is guaranteed to catch your eye.
Even if you didn’t know what it was called, you’d probably still recognize the larger-than-life black glass pyramid that is the Luxor Hotel & Casino. The Luxor is lined on each side with color-changing LED lights which help the dark building stand out at night.
But the brightest light in Vegas – and, coincidentally, the strongest beam of light in the world – is the Luxor sky beam. Atop the Luxor, concentrated xenon lights are reflected by mirrors to shine directly up into space.
Anyone or anything orbiting the earth would have no trouble seeing the Luxor beam from space.
On earth, this beam can be seen from up to 275 miles away on clear nights. For reference, this means the sky beam alone could be seen from an airplane flying over Los Angeles. This sky beam is visible starting at dusk, when it comes on automatically after a series of strobes that warn nearby pilots.
Although not nearly as bright as the sky beam, the lights of Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) and Nellis Air Force Base nearby are a part of the overall glow of the Las Vegas lights. In fact, when Las Vegas is viewed from above, the airstrips (obviously brightly lit areas) appear dark in comparison to the rest of the city’s lights (see satellite image above).
There are over 30 casinos on the Strip alone, with more on nearby streets, and dozens of hotels, motels, and resorts adding to the nightly glow. It’s no wonder Sin City can be seen from the dark reaches of space.
When you picture Las Vegas, the bright, colorful lights are probably the first thing that comes to mind. The city is well known for being a 24-hour entertainment hub, and this is only accomplished with the use of artificial light – and a lot of it!
Thanks to these lights, not only can Las Vegas be seen from space, but it is also easy to recognize at night from aircraft passing overhead in the general vicinity.