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The Tale of Why Perth Is Called “The City of Lights”

The Tale of Why Perth Is Called “The City of Lights”

Curious to know why Perth is called “The City of Lights”? I’ll share the tale of how my lovely city got its nickname through a short and awesome story!

Why is Perth called “The City of Lights”?

Perth got its nickname as “The City of Lights” after astronaut John Glenn commented on the city’s intense lights, which he saw while his spacecraft was above Western Australia.

Perth’s intense lights during that night was due to the city’s residents and businesses leaving all of their lights on to make the city as bright as it could be.

Eager to know more about the details? Well, sit back as I discuss in detail the events that occurred on the fateful day when Perth earned its famous nickname.

Our little story begins on February 20, 1962, the day when the American spacecraft Friendship 7 was launched with the goal of orbiting the Earth. It was the first attempt by the USA to let a spacecraft orbit the planet with a human onboard.

On board was astronaut John Herschel Glenn, Jr., a highly decorated man best known for his impressive career as a fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War.

Friendship 7 was launched at Cape Canaveral at 10:47 pm (Western Australia Time). The spacecraft orbited the planet three times within almost five hours on its flight path towards the night side of Earth.

As the Friendship 7 travelled eastward, it passed over continents, including Australia. All three of its orbits passed through our continent.

The most memorable for Perthites, though, was the first orbit. The first orbit went directly above Perth and its satellite town of Rockingham.


Knowing that Friendship 7 would be directly above the city within a few minutes, the residents and businesses of Perth left their lights on as the spacecraft passed over the city.

My parents told me about their first-hand experience during that fateful night. They left all the lights on in their houses and went outside to shine some torches up to the sky as Friendship 7 was approaching Perth.

Perth’s stunt was successful. As John Glenn was above the shores of Australia, the first thing he saw was the bright lights of Perth.

He commented on the city’s extraordinary brightness with his capsule communicator, Gordon Cooper. He said, “That sure was a short day. That was about the shortest day I’ve ever run into.”

Perth was so bright that night, that Glenn couldn’t help but think that he encountered daylight on the night side of Earth!

This comment caught the media’s attention, and that’s how our city became “The City of Lights.”

Pro tip: Curious to see how Perth looks at night from space? Google Earth has an “Earth at Night” feature that’ll allow you to see how cities around the world look at night.

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