Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pictures Of Earth From Space

Flat-Earthers claim, confidently, that there are no real pictures of the Earth from space. Which is, of course, poppycock, a claim made with no evidence, and stemming from gross ignorance of photography, scale, digital imaging, and the history of both manned and unmanned space travel.

There is no sense arguing this point with a dyed-in-the-wool flat-Earther; any image you show them is CGI or a painting, any explanation is an excuse or an outright lie.

But to those who are at least willing to listen, let's point out some of the more outrageous examples of what passes for proof of NASA fakery.

All Images Of Earth Are Composites

The first fallacy here is that composite is the same as fake. In fact, every digital color photo is a composite, and that's the sort of compositing used to create color images from Himawari-8 and DISCOVR, among others.

Some famous images of the Earth are composites of strips of satellite data digitally pasted together to form a single image. The Earth image dubbed "Blue Marble II" is such an image, and certain portions had to be cloned to fill in gaps in the data.

This has many flat-Earthers and space-hoaxers crying foul, as if the manipulation of available image data to create one single image, at a time in history when no camera could produce a single, full-hemisphere color photo of the Earth, negates every other photo of the Earth, and (in some conspiracy circles), everything else any space agency has ever said or done.

Much has been made of the fact that the artist who created this image was using "data" instead of "photographs." Really? Everyone who processes or manipulates digital photos refers to the image information as data. That's what digital photography does: it converts light into data. It doesn't mean the data are made up. Pick up your phone, snap a picture, you now have picture data. Open Instagram, crop, add a filter, and you've just manipulated the data. Does that mean that whatever you took the picture of does not actually exist? Nonsense.

And, of course, there were pictures of the entire Earth shot on film, starting in 1968, then brought back, processed in a lab, and printed. That practice stopped in 1972. Why? Because we stopped sending humans that far into space, and probes and satellites don't send film back to the lab, that's why.

The flat-Earthers, naturally, will claim that these famous photographs are paintings. Paintings, no less. I invite you to look at the Apollo archives on Flickr. Thousands of photographs, scanned directly from the original reversal 70mm films at 1800 dpi.

There, in a roll of film from Apollo 17, you will find not one but several shots of the planet Earth. These were not, as Bart Sibral so stupidly suggests, shot out of a round window in low-Earth orbit, for the Command Module had no round windows.

They are not all great shots. In fact, absent cropping by an art director, they are all pretty lousy. But one of them got picked to be the original "Blue Marble."

And that was just one mission. Apollo 8 took Earth's first full-length portrait. It's in the archives, too, somewhere. There are so many that it's actually hard to discern which one was published.

And yet, for the flat-Earth and space-hoax claims to be true, every single one of these has to be fake. And not CGI in this case, unless you want to posit that CGI and film scanning had reached this level in 1968.

And, "well, you don't know what kind of technology NASA had" doesn't constitute proof.

So let's look at some of the other "evidence" that flat-Earthers like to offer.

Relative Size Of the Moon and Earth

Just last year, the NOAA satellite DSCOVR, as one of it's very earliest transmissions, captured images of the moon transiting the Earth.

Space-hoaxers and flat-Earthers immediately labeled it as a fake for various reasons—the moon is not bright enough, no shadow on the Earth, not enough cloud movement, the moon is moving faster than the Earth's rotation—which I'll address presently. But the one that keep returning in memes, is the relative size of the moon and Earth in the DSCOVR shot compared with this:

This is earthrise as captured on film by the crew of Apollo 8. The argument goes that the relative size of the moon and Earth should not change from shot to shot. Actually, the argument is usually more along the lines of "did the moon shrink between 1968 and 2015?"

What seems to have shrunk is understanding of the basic principles of perspective and the effect of lens choice on photography. First, a couple of quick stats: the 1968 image was taken with a 70 mm film camera with a 250 mm lens, from moon orbit, so the distance to the Earth is somewhere in the neighborhood of 240,000 miles (I could get closer with some research, but in this case the exact distance isn't important).

The 2015 image was shot with a 1-inch sensor array. The focal length of the lens is in the neighborhood of 2800 mm, and the distance to the Earth was around 1,000,000 miles, and the distance to the moon about 750,000 miles. The effects of this should be obvious, but if you don't get it at this point, bear with me.

Consider this image:

We know that the golf ball is smaller than the baseball, but because the golf ball is closer to the camera than the baseball is, the baseball appears smaller. And now, without moving either ball:

The golf ball is still closer to the camera than the baseball, but now the camera is much further away from both, and we've zoomed in. The golf ball is now clearly smaller than the baseball, although the apparent size difference is still smaller than the actual size difference, because the golf ball is closer to the camera.

This is exactly the effect we see in the two shots of the Earth, one from very close to the moon, and one from very far away. You can duplicate this yourself; it's just simple perspective at work. There really is no mystery.

What of the other objections? The moon is not bright enough? Well the moon is not, actually, bright. It only reflects about 11% of the light that falls on it. It just looks bright compared with the night sky when we see it from Earth. No shadow? There is a shadow on the Earth from the moon. It's behind the moon because the sun is behind the camera. That's where DSCOVR is, between the sun and the Earth. Cloud motion? You're not really seeing individual clouds, just major storm systems. They don't move that much, relative to the size of the entire face of the planet, in the six hours of this transit. And as for the moon moving faster than the Earth's rotation? Well, it just does.

The surface of the Earth passes by the camera at over 1100 miles per hour at the equator. And it takes 27 days for the moon to circle the Earth. But, and I think this is the point that's lost on flat-Earthers, it has to travel about 1.5 million miles in those 27 days, which means it's moving more than 2300 miles per hour. Add the fact that the moon is 25% closer to the camera in this shot than the Earth, and that means that the moon will pass through the frame at least twice as fast as any feature on the Earth's surface.

Of course, none of this will convince any obsessive anti-NASA fanatic, but it shows that their objection are based on nothing other than ignorance.

Why Not Just Turn the Hubble Telescope Around And Take a Picture Of the Earth?

Boy, it just sounds so easy. But here's another experiment you can do yourself to see if this makes any sense. First, a couple of numbers. The Earth is about 7900 miles in diameter. The Hubble is orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 347 miles. That is to say, the Hubble is orbiting at about .044 Earth diameters.

Now, take a basketball, which has a diameter of about 9.5 inches. Hold a camera at .044 basketball diameters away from it's surface. That's less than half an inch. Now take a picture of the entire basketball. That's what flat-Earthers are asking NASA to do, and furthermore,they are asking them to do it with an instrument designed to collect light from deep space.

The Changing Globe Meme

Here is a popular meme among the "space doesn't exist" crowd:

The meme makes a big deal out of the fact that the pictures look different. But they were acquired using different methods and, again, as these come from media outlets, color-corrected by different art directors. That explains the colors. Let's address the other questions posed in the meme:

How big is America? Same size as it always it. If you perceive it as a different size from one image to the next, you have to consider that this is a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object, and is, of necessity, distorted. The nature of the distortion depends on the angle with respect to the Earth, and the distance from the camera to the Earth. You don't have to take my word for it; get a globe and a camera with a zoom lens, and take pictures of the globe from various angles and distances.

What color are the oceans, and the land? Again, it depends on the art director who did the color correction before the image was published. This isn't just true of images of the Earth; it's true of any image prepared for publication in national media. The reason you don't see as much variation in, for example, the skin tones in pictures of people, is that we all have seen people and have a much clearer idea of what skin tones look like. The colors of the Earth from space are more subject to interpretation, since only a relative handful of people have ever actually been there.

Why is there never any real video of the Earth spinning, only still? Because that's a lot of data to send from a satellite, the only object that could broadcast such a video, which would then need to be processed and stored, and there's no reason for that. It would be worse than watching paint dry. Any feature moving across the face of the Earth would take twelve hours to get from one side to the other.

The Himawari-8 transmits an image every ten minutes. Furthermore, the satellite is not up there to take pretty picture to satisfy some fanatic who might have gotten the idea that the Earth is flat; its 16-channel multi-spectral camera is there to do real scientific research. Satellites aren't in space for fun; they're there to do a job.

The other questions aren't worth addressing any further. Here you have people making fantastical claims about the nature of the Earth, and the best they have to offer is some ignorant memes.

And the ever-present tactic of calling all contrary evidence the product of some great conspiracy.

ADDENDUM: It has been pointed out to me that early Apollo CM capsules had a 10-1/2-inch round window on the hatch. I stand corrected; Apollo 14 and later craft had a rounded square window on the hatch. So, does this mean that Bart Sibrel could have been right? Well, let's think about that.

First of all, if you're sitting in the seats in the CM, where is the hatch? Imagine that you are in a very small car with a sunroof. The hatch window is where the sunroof is. So, you have this camera. What kind of camera? Well, the footage used in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Moon was shot with a 16mm film camera. One of the lenses available to the crew was a 5mm wide-angle lens. So, this sounds like it could be plausible. If you crouched down as much as you could and held the camera straight at the hatch, you could manage to get the whole circle in, with just a couple of inches to spare on each side.

But there are a few problems that show up when you actually look at the footage. One is that there's a lot more than a couple inches around that circle. To get that shot, you'd have to turn yourself around, lie with your back on the seat, with no place to put your legs to keep them out of the shot. Good luck with that.

Then there is the fact that the circle is wandering around in the shot, because it was being done handheld. Had that actually been a portion of the Earth shot through a circle, the image inside the circle would have shifted around. Try shooting a distance object through round opening and you'll see what I mean.

Speaking of shifting around, a craft in low-Earth orbit is moving around 17,000 miles an hour, just like the ISS. So why isn't the image of the Earth moving past the window? I think the answer is obvious.

Also obvious is that the image of the Earth, well, isn't round. It's not a fully-lit hemisphere, which is precisely the illusion you'd get if you shot through a round window. Add all of this up, and it doesn't pass the laugh test.

And one more thing: this has nothing to do with a flat Earth. There is no low-Earth orbit on a flat Earth. Even Sibrel thinks that flat-Earthers are crazy.


  1. Good metabunk thread on this also:

    The main cause of consternation I've seen is the compositing of Suomi-NPP imagery where the sizes of continents looks out of proportion but even the wiki page explains it - it's from only 518 miles up so you are only seeing a portion of the globe, it's not the nearly 50% you see from a million miles out.

    Good stuff, thanks.

  2. Your morons if you think the earth is spinning at 1000 mph and 60000 mph around the sun. Your dumb.

    1. I only published this off-topic comment to show the quality of thinking exhibited by flat-Earthers.

  3. There are intellectual beings and morons in both camps. That someone doesn't think as you do, it doesn't necessarily mean that he is a moron. We all have logic, more or less. But for me, the picture with 8 globes is telling something important to us.

    If you look at the last two globes (years 2012 and 2002) we can clearly see that - even if the angle is not exactly the same - the size of Nort America is a lot different in size compared to each other.

    I have done a lot of research with Google Earth. One of the things I have come to understand is, that if you move the North America more away from the middle point of the globe, in any direction, it becomes smaller in the perspective. But what has happened with the globe 2012 is that it has become a lot bigger than the globe 10 years earlier, even though the continent in the globe 2002 is more in the middle. And that is strange!

    So really, something is going on here... people have used their logic and they are allowed to do it in both camps, even though all don't have the same common sense.


    1. There aren't "camps." There are facts, and then there are fallacies. And the main fallacy here is that the Earth should look the same in flat pictures from every angle and distance. That shows only an ignorance of the function of perspective, the problem of representing three dimensions using only two, something that photographers and filmmakers understand and grapple with every working day.

      If a flat-Earther was to re-create the circumstances of how these images were created using scale models and the same processes, and then found unexplainable anomalies, then I might take notice. But none will make that kind of effort. It all comes down to "I don't understand this, and therefore the images are faked and the Earth is flat."

      They can't even be bothered to get their history right; the first image is not from 1975, but from 1972, the last year we sent a film camera far enough away to take an entire image of the Earth. There are reasons for these supposed anomalies. It requires investigation, not rejection out-of-hand.

      It isn't a matter of whether of not someone thinks as I do; it's a matter of whether they are using facts or just stirring the hornet's nest by ignoring the facts.

  4. Seems that you are right when you wrote about the year 1972 instead of 1975:
    However, it is different in color so there might be a chance that someone has taken the original image an adjusted the color saturation in 1975? I don't know.

    The globe from 1972 is said by NASA that it is filmed from Apollo 16 mission (which is said to be landed on the moon). The photo is taken with a hanheld-camera which means it should not be a composite image.

    Do you know a good reason why the image Blue Marble (2002) has fake clouds on it? Layers! Clones. Any good reason to destroy a "real photo" of the earth?

    1. Here is where it is helpful to know some history. I have an advantage on this one because I saw the Apollo missions as they were happening. I saw the original Blue Marble in 1973, blown up to four feet high. I saw the film grain, and I had already been processing my own film for four years by that time, so I was very familiar with what enlarged slides look like.

      The image you are looking at was color-corrected by a magazine editor, using photographic, not digital processes. It could have been LIFE magazine, although my recollection of their color correction is that is was a bit different. This could be a bad scan of the magazine page.

      The mission was Apollo 17, not 16. That's significant because it was the last mission to the moon, and in fact the last manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The reasons for that are more political than financial. We're lucky to have Blue Marble at all, because it was just a fortunately juxtaposition that put Cernan and his crew between the Earth and the sun at the right distance.

      In 2002, though, we didn't have anything with a high-definition camera that was far enough away to take the whole Earth at once. The 1997 image is a composite of satellite images, and so is the one from 2002. But there were gaps in the data used to create the 2002 image, and that's why the artist filled in with cloned portions.

      Now we do have high-definition cameras in places where the entire Earth can be photographed. DISCOVR/EPIC is located between the sun and the Earth, and shows the entire Earth lit at all time. Frames made into movies show the rotation of the Earth.

      Himiwari-8, from the Japanese Space Agency, is in geostationary orbit over the South Pacific. Frames made into movies from its images show the terminator line of the sun moving around the planet. When the camera is aimed directly into the sun, the sensor gets overloaded for a few shots (they are taken every ten minutes), but the rest of the images are of amazingly high quality.

      Less well-known is that a private company, just for entertainment, put a NTSC video camera into geostationary orbit and broadcast pictures of the Earth live, in real time, for at least three years (I know the end date, but not the start date), until the camera malfunctioned. That was Dish Network, and the channel was called Dish Earth. To my knowledge, it is the only time a camera has been put into orbit for the sole purpose of sending back pretty pictures to the public.

      It's easier to evaluate all of these claims if you dig deep for the facts. It's not enough to say "something's going on." You have to put every image in the context of its time, situation, and purpose.

  5. At the page NASA claims two times that it was Apollo 16. Seems that they can also make mistakes (as we all do), or is it you who made the mistake, when you wrote it was Apollo 17? If you are correct, NASA was wrong, when they say it was Apollo 16.

    1. You know, now that I look closer at the meme, that IS a shot from Apollo 16, though it's upside down from the original slide. It's also not the original Blue Marble shot; it has far more of the Earth in shadow than Apollo 17's shots (yes, there are actually quite a few).

      All of the pictures taken with film cameras are available as high-resolution, uncorrected scans from the original slide film reels are available on Flickr. Search "apollo flickr" on Google. It's a treasure trove!

  6. One can only be sure when one can see for himself. All astronauts are freemasons. I don't trust freemasons.

    1. I seriously doubt that believe only what you can see for yourself. For one thing, you believe without proof that all astronauts are Freemasons. How about you provide proof instead of just bald statements with no evidence?

  7. Hey there, i am, just like you, only looking at facts, so...
    Here the facts that I am considering when saying that i didn't know anymore wether earth is flat or a globe, but what i know is that it is not spinning and staying in the middle of our perfect universe.

    First of all i am considering history and what history tells me is, that the financial elite( The Establishment) is working in the shadows for more than 300 years. (Read the book the Insiders and get informed)

    Now what to do?
    Follow the traces of money! Who financed which project?
    What where the effects?
    Who does profit? Maybe what kind of agenda are they following?

    if I answer als those questions, than i come to the conclusion, that the establishment financed all sides of ww1, ww2, irak, iran, afghanistan, syrien, lybien, hitlers genozid. They are controlling our governments AND
    NASA and most of all spaceprograms.

    You lots always think, bit yeah those are all independent space programs
    ,but they are not.

    Always follow the money and the effects.

    Who was Kopernikus?
    Freemason 33 Degree

    Who who's Einstein?
    Freemason who invented non traceable, measurable and invisible dark matter and energy to make his equations work, and not even then it did work neatly.

    So what agenda are they following?

    You yourself said that the moon landing was politicly motivated.

    I tell you, Nasa and obama said themselves, that we CAN NOT LEAVE LOW EARTH ORBIT because of the 2000degree temperature plus free orbiting electrons, which kill all our technology and also astronauts when coming in contact with them.

    That are some facts.

    Where is it ending?

    They want a world gov where the establishment is in charge. They are using war to take our money, lives, and truth. So that we don't discover anything about there hidden operations, they need the volk to be dump as shit. just take a look at those younger generations.

    Why lying about globe or flat earth, heliocentric. vs geocentric world view?

    If they knew, that they are beings capable of using and projecting QI(life energy ) of different vibrational states to heal themselves, to leave their bodies, to get in contact with spirits and to be able to become a fully spiritual being, they would not listen to their bullshit.

    But instead they are taught to be completely materialistic, in a world orbiting around sun spiralling around galaxy through space.
    You think you are just this little tiny nothing.

    I can only advise you to get informed about the agenda of the NWO ( The Establishment) and make precautions.Get ready for ww3, learn martial arts, get equipment and learn to work with qi.

    I hope we will turn against them and stop spreading their propaganda, because if you don't, you are helping with killing millions of people in wars and millions trough the drugs they teach you to be able to "cure" you but instead are all killing you.

    Best wishes

    1. I published your diatribe in whole to show how far afield from facts people are willing to stray. There are so many suppositions here, so many "facts" that are just parroted from other conspiracy theorists, that I wouldn't know where to begin to address them.

      So I'll just address the one that actually pertains to pictures of the Earth from space, and then touch briefly on some of the others.

      No one has said "we CAN NOT LEAVE LOW EARTH ORBIT because of the 2000degree temperature plus free orbiting electrons, which kill all our technology and also astronauts when coming in contact with them."

      No one. NASA engineers have said that we have basicly destroyed (dismantled) the technology to go beyond low-Earth orbit, which is true. We had no missions planned for it, and there was no impetus to keep it intact for more than 40 years. It was a stupid thing to do.

      As for the Van Allen Belts, they are an issue, and the Orion engineers do have to test to make sure that current (high-circuit-density) computers can be properly shielded. We already know how to shield the astronauts from these high-energy particles.

      And as to temperature, this is a common physics error; temperature should not be confused with heat transfer. Learn some science before you start spouting "facts" about it.

      As to the rest, yes there is vast financial manipulation going on in the world, and people who would control us, who profit from war and even poverty. But it's people like you, who project that fact into areas where it is not germane, who make it easier, not harder, for powerful people to keep us in their control. Because you make anyone who wants to point out the ways in which we are truly being manipulated sound paranoid and crazy.

      And one more thing: stop with the Masons. Copernicus and Einstein were not Masons. Astronauts are not all Masons. Being a Mason does not make one a member of the elite. My father, a humble electrician, was a Mason, and even had a Masonic funeral.

      Just lay off; it gives you exactly zero credibility.

  8. It's been 4 days since I learned about the flat earth movement. I currently have to excercise physical restraint to keep from tearing my hair out. How can someone be so obstinately dumb? 2 things I want to point out.
    1. Anyone who starts by saying "I am just searching for the truth" is someone who is a fully indoctrinated flat earther. The only truth they are looking for is some more "fact" they can spout to defend their delude themselves

    2.When flat earthers say "research it", they mean watch flat earth videos, read flat earth websites and find a reason to delude yourself. It has nothing to do with maths, physics, geography, astronomy, history and millenia of scientific research.

  9. Mr Brooks I'm sorry but you are wrong saying people have not said we can't leave low earth orbit. Here is compiled video of NASA and others alike stating we cannot Infact leave or have the technology to do so.

    Now I hope you do watch this but probably won't matter or change a thing in your perception. Ignorance isn't stating something and you disagreeing with the statement, true ignorance is having real facts laid in front of you and ignoring those facts.

    1. I've seen the video, and others where knowledgeable people say, and rightly so, that we cannot low-Earth orbit. Let me give you some facts. First is that the entire concept of low-Earth orbit is nonsense on a flat Earth. So this dispatches any notion of the statements about our technological shortcomings proving anything about the Earth's shape.

      The second fact is that not being able to do something now is not the same as never having done it. I was alive in the 1970s, and we let our manned deep-space capabilities rot. Our computers and physics may have advanced in that time, but the actual rocket technology not only stagnated, but actually regressed in that period. It was shameful, but nevertheless true.

      So that also dispatched these statements as any kind of proof that we never went to the moon.

      As the flat-Earthers keep saying: Do your research. And as I keep saying: never assume that I have not done mine.


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