North America Blackout

Home Up



August 14, 2003

AIR FORCE WEATHER AGENCY, Offutt AFB, Neb. -- A United States Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite, captured these images as it flew over the northeastern United States. The image taken on August 14, 2003, clearly shows the cities that were effected by the blackout.

The DMSP satellites have a low-light sensor on board that is sensitive enough to see city lights from space, a capability that is unique to the Air Force's weather satellites.

For high resolution versions of the images, contact the Air Force Weather Agency Public Affairs Office, (402) 294-2862.


On Thursday, August 14th, 2003, millions of people had an unexpectedly good view of a dark night sky. Usually, the reflection of city lights off of local air impurities makes it hard for casual observers to see more than a handful of stars from a bright urban area. A large power outage in northeast North America, however, dimmed most city lights and brought unfamiliar celestial wonders to many who looked up. The unexpected starscape was perhaps a small perk in the face of hardships endured by many during the black out. Prominent in the above four-image digital montage are two of the few celestial wonders that can be seen even above the usual glare of city light pollution: the Moon and Mars. Both appear on the far left, with Mars to the upper right of the Moon. Scrolling right will show how eerily dark New York City appeared from across the Hudson River in New Jersey at about 10 pm on 2003 August 14. Visible lights are mostly attributable to cars, local power generators, flashlights, and candles.


Copyright 2010 Tim Stouse
Last modified: December 10, 2010
All 3rd Party Copyrights are acknowledged.
Material reproduced here is for educational and research purposes only.