After Thomas Pesquet gets off work and completes his exercise routine, he often whiles away his evenings with his camera, taking pictures he thinks others will enjoy—and those images recently exposed to the entire world the odd obsession Belgium has with leaving its lights on all night long. Pesquet, as the New York Times explains, is a French astronaut spending six months aboard the International Space Station. The images he's been posting recently to social media—mostly pics of Europe and his home country—have literally highlighted Belgium, glowing like a nightlight among its darkened Euro counterparts.
One photo posted Tuesday, for instance, shows a sprawled-out Europe, punctuated with the show-stopping aurora borealis, but it's Belgium that also catches the eye in the upper left of the image. Another pic tweeted that day shows London, Paris (at bottom), and Brussels (to its northeast) forming what Pesquet calls a "very European triangle." Belgium's brightness comes courtesy of the country's decision to keep its tightly packed roadways illuminated all through the night, even in the remote countryside. That's about 2.2 million bulbs (or 186 bulbs per square mile) shining until dawn, the Times notes. Phys.org in 2011 noted that most other countries, save for nearby Luxembourg, couldn't afford to do this even if they wanted to. Belgian officials shrug, saying people complain when the lights are turned off. (See an incredible shot of the ISS.)