America by Air: 'The Land of a Billion Lights'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Now that our aerial feature has grown to include videos, I figured I’d throw a new medium in the mix: I snagged this (cinemagraph? Boomerang?) short video back in 2015:

That bright part on the righthand side? That’s Downtown Los Angeles. Here’s another grab from the same flight, as the plane neared landing at LAX:

This flight path never gets old, and the sheer amount of L.A. sprawl astonishes me. I love how there are speckles of light in every direction, like endless constellations in the night sky. (Of course, the actual constellations are blocked by the city’s smog.) As the band Thirty Seconds To Mars put it in their 2013 song, Los Angeles is truly “the land of a billion lights.”