This Viral Photo Of Yesterday's Eclipse From Space Is Fake. Duh.

Illustration for article titled This Viral Photo Of Yesterdays Eclipse From Space Is Fake. Duh.

Yesterday's solar eclipse was one of the most spectacular in recent memory. So it's a shame that thousands of people were duped into thinking this image — supposedly taken from the International Space Station — was the real deal. It's obviously not, and here's why.

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Photo credit: @Shyman33.

As Telegraph science editor Sarah Knapton reports, a Twitter user — possibly @Shyman33 — claimed the photo was taken by ISS astronauts. A subsequent tweet by a teacher was retweeted 12,000 times and favorited by another 7,000.

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But as Knapton correctly points out, there are a couple of things that make this photograph an obvious fake.

First, the Milky Way Galaxy, so conveniently located above the Earth's horizon line, cannot be seen with such clarity, even from low orbit.

Secondly, and perhaps more obviously, if the Moon and Sun were in this particular alignment, then it wouldn't have appeared as an eclipse on Earth! In fact, as witnessed by this spectacular shot taken by French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haignere aboard the Russian Mir space station in 1999, the shadow of the moon should have been visible on Earth (in this case, over Britain and France). According to Haignere, the shadow of the moon measured about 93 miles (150km).

Illustration for article titled This Viral Photo Of Yesterdays Eclipse From Space Is Fake. Duh.
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Photograph: CNES/Jean-Pierre Haignere/EPA.

Sadly, the viral photo was never intended to be a hoax, but a work of art for DeviantArt.

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DISCUSSION

Secondly, and perhaps more obviously, if the Moon and Sun were in this particular alignment, then it wouldn't have appeared as an eclipse on Earth!

I understand this should be true most of the time, but is it necessarily true?

The ISS orbital distance is anywhere from 205-250 miles. The eclipse appears as a moon-shadow that arcs its way across the surface of the Earth.

Now - I would say that the idea that there could be an eclipse visible from the ISS is self-evident - if the sun and moon were in the right positions, they should be able to cast a shadow at a point in Earth orbit.

But the question here is - could a single solar eclipse event create a shadow that encompasses both the Earth and the ISS? Or both, but at different times over the course of its arc across the Earth's surface and orbit?

Depending on the relative position of the ISS to the Earth, Moon, and Sun, it doesn't even seem like it would need to go very far past the curvature of the Earth - if the ISS were, say, right near the horizon (i.e. almost on the opposite side of the planet) from the direction of the eclipse, the shadow would only need to go *just* past the Earth's surface to encompass the ISS. The resulting image doesn't seem like it would be too dissimilar from the one above (minus the fake Milky Way, of course).

Does this seem plausible?