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Italy at Night: Earth Image of the Week December 3, 2010
Astronaut photo of southern Italy.
The city of Naples and nearby Mount Vesuvius stand out along the coast of southern Italy.
International Space Station Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock returned to Earth on Friday, November 26, on a Russian Soyuz module after a five-month mission in which he captured some amazing pictures of the planet.

From the ISS' Cupalo bay window, Wheelock snapped dozens of pictures of his home planet, sharing them with the world through his Twitter account.

On August 22, 2010, he took the image to the right of southern Italy as the ISS orbited above Eastern Europe.

Looking southeastward from Cupalo, the night lights of Naples and other cities of southern Italy clearly show up against the surrounding darkness of the Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas.

On the south side of the Naples metropolitan area is a dark patch where the lack of night lights inside the Mount Vesuvius National Park contrast the surrounding populated area.

Scientists are forever vigilant in monitoring the sleeping volcano for which the park is named. It will threaten millions of nearby residents when it eventually awakens from decades of slumber.

While Vesuvius last erupted in 1944, it is best known for an eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Also visible in the image are the lights of Malta, just to the south of Sicily, and the distant coast of North Africa near the horizon.

The illumination of Tunesia’s night lights appears fuzzy because it is passing through more of Earth’s atmosphere on the way to Wheelock’s digital camera lens. The depth of field in this nighttime image also affected the clarity of distant objects.

Photo: Doug Wheelock - Nasa