Whether seen at night or during the day, the capital city of Brazil is unmistakable from orbit. Brasília is located on a plateau in the west-central part of the country, and is widely considered to be one of the best examples of 20th century urban planning in the world. One of its most distinctive design features—as seen from above—suggests a bird, butterfly, or airplane traveling along a northwest-southeast direction, and is made dramatically visible by city light patterns.
Following the establishment of Brasília in the early 1960s, informal settlements began to form around the original planned city. Ceilandia was one such settlement. In 1970, Ceilandia was formalized by the government and is now a satellite city of Brasília with its own distinct urban identity.
The developed areas of Brasília and its satellites are clearly outlined by street grids and highway lights in this astronaut photograph taken from the International Space Station. The large unlit region to the upper right is the Brasília National Park. Other dark regions to the bottom and left include agricultural fields and expanses of the Cerrado tropical savanna.
Astronaut photograph ISS026-E-16368 was acquired on January 8, 2011, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using an 180 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. 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 William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC. Image Credit: NASA/USGS EROS Data Center.