Whether seen at night or during the day, the capital city of Brazil is unmistakable from orbit. Brasília is located on a plateau—the Planalto Central—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 (image center right, between Lake Paranoá and the airport).
Following the establishment of Brasília in the early 1960s, informal settlements began to form around the original planned city. Ceilândia was one such settlement. In 1970, Ceilândia 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.