We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

The Nile as Seen From Space: A Glowing Ribbon of Life

ImaGeo iconImaGeo
By Tom Yulsman
Jul 27, 2015 9:10 AMNov 19, 2019 9:07 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The Nile River at night, as photographed from the International Space Station by astronaut Scott Kelly. I wasn't intending to post anything on a Sunday night, but I happened on this mind-blowing photograph shot and posted to Twitter by Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. So I just had to share it. You're looking at his astronaut's-eye-view of the River Nile, all aglow at night. In this inverted view, North is toward the bottom of the frame, south toward the top. The Nile flows from the heart of Africa in the upper right quadrant to the dark Mediterranean Sea. Near where the Nile empties into the Mediterranean you can see the bright glow of Cairo, and the intensively farmed and populated Nile Delta. Most of Egypt's population lives along the river, a green ribbon of life in a dry, relatively empty desert region. That population density is reflected in those glowing lights — which give out toward the border with Sudan. Nestled along that big looping bend in the river south of Cairo is the city of Luxor, site of ancient Thebes. Here are some of the most magnificent monuments of pharaonic Egypt — and the ancient world generally. Thebes was the capital of a united Egypt as long ago as 2040 BC. By conventional standards, the Nile is the longest river in the world. It flows 4,132 miles, from south of the equator all the way to the Mediterranean. It drains an area more than one third the size of the United States (including Alaska), and its basin takes in parts of 10 countries. More than 300 million people depend on it for their water. The photographer, Scott Kelly, began on a year-long mission to the International Space Station in March of 2025. Spacefaring runs in the family. His identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, is a former astronaut. The brothers are the only siblings to have traveled in space.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.