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There’s a really cool time-lapse video from the International Space Station bouncing around the interwebs right now. Watch and you’ll see dramatic images of the Northern Lights and a string of lightning storms as the space station swirls around the earth.

Being a bit of a geography buff, though, I can’t help but try to figure out specific locations based on the lights of different cities. And as the video sweeps across North America, I noticed a couple of “cities” that won’t appear on any maps.

For instance, over Alberta, we can clearly see the oil sands near Fort McMurray:

But then as the video sweeps toward the east, at about 0:34 another strange, enormous “city” appears in the middle of nowhere.

What could it be? Billings? Saskatoon? The parking lot of the Super K-Mart in Glendive?

As we move further east, more familiar locations appear, revealing our mystery “city.” It’s the lights from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota (and probably a fair amount of natural gas flares as well).

There have been numerous stories about the scope and impact of oil development in North Dakota. But none put it in quite such stark terms as this image.

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Ken Paulman

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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