News & Politics

Two Galaxies Intertwined on Camera the Other Night—No Wait, That’s Just an Aerial Shot of DC and Baltimore

Why does DC look so orange?

Yesterday, the International Space Station posted a photo on its Instagram of DC and Baltimore as seen from space. “Like two galaxies swirling near each other, this nighttime shot from the station shows the well-lit cities (from left) of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland and their surrounding suburbs,” the caption reads.

Why though, does DC look like it’s about to explode into a giant orange flash? Blame it on street lights. Baltimore, a fully LED-lit city, has a cooler, bluish light, whereas DC has more of a golden hue thanks to its high-pressure sodium lights. The District is slowly switching over to LED lights, but even so, its LEDs are much warmer than other cities and more closely resemble the color of the sodium lights.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.