In this paper, an Urban Light Index (ULI) is constructed to facilitate analysis and quantitative evaluation of the process of urbanization and expansion rate by using DMSP/OLS Nighttime Light Data during the years from 1992 to 2010. A unit circle urbanization evaluation model is established to perform a comprehensive analysis of the urbanization process of 34 prefecture-level cities in Northeast China. Furthermore, the concept of urban light space is put forward. In this study, urban light space is divided into four types: the core urban area, the transition zone between urban and suburban areas, suburban area and fluorescent space. Proceeding from the temporal and spatial variation of the four types of light space, the pattern of morphologic change and space-time evolution of the four principal cities in Northeast China (Harbin, Changchun, Shenyang, Dalian) is analyzed and given particular attention. Through a correlation analysis between ULI and the traditional urbanization indexes (urban population, proportion of the secondary and tertiary industries in the regional GDP and the built-up area), the advantages and disadvantages as well as the feasibility of using the ULI in the study of urbanization are evaluated. The research results show that ULI has a strong correlation with urban built-up area (R2
＝ 0.8277). The morphologic change and history of the evolving urban light space can truly reflect the characteristics of urban sprawl. The results also indicate that DMSP/OLS Nighttime Light Data is applicable for extracting urban space information and has strong potential to urbanization research.