An Indian city plagued by smog offers a dazzling view from space

A view that’s out of this world.
A view that’s out of this world.
Image: Flickr/Thomas Pesquet
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A French astronaut tweeted a snapshot of a glittering city from space—and the Internet’s guesswork began.

Thomas Pesquet, a 38-year-old astronaut currently posted at the International Space Station, tweeted his first nighttime photo from the ISS on Nov. 29. The image showed a cluster of light with several shimmering branches extending out from it in various directions. Pesquet took the picture “while waiting for Houston mission control to find the answer to a question when we were repairing the toilet,” he wrote on his Flickr page. Where was it? He didn’t know.

The Twitterverse lit up with guesses: Was Pesquet awaiting galactic toilet repair above Paris? Moscow? Madrid?

With a little astronaut “detective work,” the answer emerged: New Delhi.

In pollution-ravaged New Delhi, such moments of beauty can be hard to come by. The city has already this year been blanketed with a life-threatening smog, and its air-quality index is well above hazardous levels. Earlier this month, residents were issued a “severe” advisory to avoid any physical activity outdoors. The pollution has shuttered schools and pushed Indians and expats alike to consider relocating.

So New Delhi may be turning into a gas chamber on the ground. Fortunately from space, it’s still all sparkles.