Holiday calendar: London and Paris light up the night

The lights of London and Paris glow in a view captured from the International Space Station. The station's robotic arm looms in the foreground. NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio's Twitter picture has been rotated 180 degrees to produce this perspective. Rick Mastracchio / NASA

Paris earns its reputation as the "City of Light" in this night view from the International Space Station — but off to the left, London gets its share of the orbital spotlight as well. "We now have incredible night passes over Europe," NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio reported as he shared this picture via Twitter on Monday. "City lights and stars make beautiful show."

The space station's Canadian-built robotic arm takes center stage — so much so that it sparked a humorous exchange on Twitter. "Canada, your arm is blocking the English Channel!" British designer-astronomer Matthias Carter tweeted. "Sorry, eh," the Canadian Space Agency responded. On the far horizon, you can see the faint green airglow of Earth's atmosphere. This glittering picture is part of the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which features daily views of Earth from space through Christmas. For more views from the space station, follow @NASA_Astronauts on Twitter, go through the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, visit the NASA Human Spaceflight gallery or browse through the NASA2Explore Flickr gallery. And for more holiday goodies from space, take a look at The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.