An unreal Mars skyline

By Phil Plait | August 10, 2012 9:59 am

Well folks, it’s been a while, so it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned BA debunking.

This morning I got an email from BABloggee Joshua Frost as well as a note on Twitter from scifi author Diane Duane telling me about a picture making the rounds on teh interwebz, purporting to be taken from Mars. It shows the Martian landscape at twilight, and claims that the three lights in the sky are Earth, Venus, and Jupiter:

Pretty, isn’t it? You can find endless copies of it online; just search on the term "mars skyline". It’s been picked up on tons of Tumblrs and other social media.

But yeah, there’s just one problem: it’s not real.

I knew right away it wasn’t legit, but it’s hard to say exactly how. I’ve run into this problem before; I have a lot of experience looking at space images, and you just get a sense of what’s real and what isn’t. This one screams fake. The landscape color is a bit too saturated for Mars*. The sky’s the wrong color. The clouds are too numerous, the wrong color as well, and they have that "rendered by software" look to them.

But that’s not proof, of course. Gut sense may not be a bad place to start, but it makes for lousy evidence. The thing is, there is solid evidence the picture isn’t real! Look to the lower left corner of the image; see the letters there? Here’s a zoom:

See? The arrow points to the letters, and I zoomed in and enhanced the brightness and contrast a bit. The letters are "NE". As in, "northeast".

This is exactly what you see when you use planetarium software on a computer to display the sky. Programs like Starry Night, SkySafari, and so on will put the cardinal directions (north, south, and so on) along the horizon to indicate what direction you’re looking. And many of them will display the appearance of the sky from other planets. It’s clear that’s what we have here: a rendered view from Mars using planetarium software. I’m not sure which one (there are quite a few packages available) but I bet someone out there in BAland would recognize it. Any takers?

Interestingly, fiddling with some of software I have that displays solar system planetary positions, I found that a couple of years ago (mid-2010) the view from Mars right after sunset would show Venus, Earth, and Jupiter lined up something like that. Had you been on Mars looking west you would’ve seen something very much like the vista in the picture. Thing is, had one of the rovers taken this picture, it would’ve been all over the web at the time… including here on Bad Astronomy. I wouldn’t have passed up the chance to post a picture that cool. [Note: there is a real picture of the Earth seen by a Mars rover: from Spirit, in 2004, inset above.]

Mind you, the picture itself isn’t a hoax! It’s just a computer generated image probably meant to represent a real scene. But it got spread around the net, and before you know it people think it’s real.

I’ll note that I love that people think images like this are so beautiful and interesting that they pass them around and get a sense of wonder from them. But it bugs me that it’s possible that an unreal picture gets treated as real. In this case there’s no harm done, but it’s not hard to imagine a case where a forged image showing something damaging to someone’s reputation gets treated as real and spreads like wildfire. It’s happened before, many times.

The problem here is that people pass it from one place to another without attribution, without a link to the original source (usually it’s linked to the place they got it from, one link down the line in a very long chain). In this case, I searched for a while and still have no idea where the original for this came from. It got picked up wholesale from blog to blog and Tumblr to Tumblr so rapidly that the pedigree of it got lost. Maybe someone more patient than me can find the source.

I’ve been fooled on Twitter by fake posts before, too. Everyone has at some point. I’m just glad to be able to interject a little dose of reality in this case.

And remember: we have actual, real, amazing, breath-taking images coming from Mars right now. And the fact that they are real, and mean we have a presence on another world, is far more moving and stirring than any fake could ever be.


* I’ll note that the color of the landscape in the picture does look similar to that from the old Viking images of Mars from the 1970s. The color of those images was probably too saturated when displayed, in my opinion; getting the color right in those old shots was actually fairly tough.


Related Posts:

- An unreal picture of sunset at the north pole
- A fake and a real view of the solar eclipse… FROM SPACE!
- NASA FAKED A SHUTTLE IMAGE!!!!! (a joke post I put up that some folks took seriously; see the followup post for more silliness)
- Holy UFO hoax!
- Latvian meteorite impact: fake

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Debunking, Pretty pictures, Skepticism

Comments (99)

  1. David V.

    The letters are in the lower LEFT corner. :-)

  2. Lorena

    I saw the color of the land and the color of the sky and it looked so fake to me….

  3. Scottynuke

    I prefer the one where Marvin’s photobombing Curiosity’s landscape shot… :-)

    And I totally agree the ACTUAL photos from the rover (and the orbiter that caught the descent!!!) are mind-boggling enough for most anyone with a functioning grey cell or two.

  4. Matt L

    “And remember: we have actual, real, amazing, breath-taking images coming from Mars right now. And the fact that they are real, and mean we have a presence on another world, is far more moving and stirring than any fake could ever be.”

    Just to play devil’s advocate, one could argue that real or fake doesn’t really matter. The picture is no less beautiful because it isn’t real. In fact, if someone believes it is real then it might as well be real in this case. For them it holds all the same magic that a ‘real’ picture would, because they don’t know the difference.

    I’m a big believer in stories and the power that stories have and that includes tons of books, stories, and poems that are complete fabrications filled with characters who never lived and worlds that never existed. All the same many of these stories are just as powerful to me as ‘real life’ stories.

    One could argue that a picture is a story. In the case of this picture, a story of a rover on another planet staring up into the sky and seeing other worlds. Real or fake, if you ask me, that’s a powerful story.

    In any case, obviously this blog isn’t about supporting fake photos and I’m glad you’re around to help us keep things straight.

  5. steve

    Didn’t Joe Rogan teach you about leading with you gut and credentials about things like this?

  6. Jeremy Quinn

    You might find this interesting, Phil. I managed to track down a picture from late June 2010 with the exact same landscape, but the planets dimmer. The post that goes along with it doesn’t explicitly say it wasn’t a real photo, but the wording implies that it isn’t. (Talking about how this is what it “would” look like at that moment, and saying that there’s been no communication from the rover for a month.)

    http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.com/2010/06/earthrise-gusev-crater.html

  7. Also they forgot to include the giant turtle that holds up the Earth. A rookie mistake.

  8. Daniel J. Andrews

    Matt makes a good point. Fake or fictional worlds can be just as powerful as the real ones if you don’t know the difference…and many many times even when you do know the difference. The power of myth, and all that. I’ve read books fictional books that left me feeling I’d just lost close friends when the book finished. And there has been one tv series, just the one, that left me feeling the same way.

    Actually, Matt makes a few good points, but I won’t belabour what he’s already said much better. I’ll end on the same note though. I love a good debunking and glad you’re there to do it.

  9. Endyo

    I had this sneaking suspicion, but with all of the cool Mars stuff bombarding me lately that often seems beyond belief, I just accepted it as an amazing thing.

    I guess down the line I should be a little more skeptical, but I do know that at some point in the future, this may be an image we can view for real, whether taken by an early Mars visitor or one of the many rovers that will inevitably be scooting around the surface.

  10. amphiox

    Obviously there is only one possible course of action now. We have to go out there and get a real version of this simulated image. Does Curiosity have cameras capable of taking a shot like this? Or will we have to wait until we can get an actual human photographer/astronomer up there?

  11. I posted the intro at Museum Of Hoaxes´forum under “hoaxes”.
    Just to spread your wise debunking explanation.
    http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/forums/viewthread/15011/

  12. davem

    …The clouds are too numerous…

    Mars has clouds?

  13. Chris

    @10 davem
    Yep. Most are pretty close to cirrus clouds. Nothing like cumulonimbus clouds we have on Earth. Way too dry for those.
    http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/MPF/science/clouds.html

  14. Diederick

    I thought it looked fake. The uniform white dots reminded my of Celestia, which shows that this way as well. It doesn’t have the landscape though.

  15. Chew

    Neatorama posted it on their FB page then wrote an article about how rapidly it was liked. http://www.neatorama.com/2012/08/10/Mars-Photo-Sets-Record-on-Neatorama-Facebook

    I told then it was fake and linked to this BA post.

    Stellarium shows Jupiter almost directly behind the Sun as seen from Mars.

  16. Tony Palms

    Not an astronomer nor well verse in space geography, which one is Earth, Venus and Jupiter if this had been a genuine photo taken by one of the rovers?

    P.S.: Love this blog and all things reported therein.

  17. dessy

    @ Matt – yes, it is a beautiful, evocative and inspiring image. The problem, however, is when people claim it to be something it is not.

    I have already come across this ‘Curiosity’ image a number of times on the interwebz today – a simple link to this BA post has set people straight (and surprisingly, I have been offered thanks a number of times too).

  18. What’s the difference between the ISS and NCC-1701? You can actually go to the ISS. The Enterprise only exists in our minds. Reality trumps fiction every time for truly awe inspiring stories.

    Though I do agree that stories, real or not, are powerful and can speak to truth and beauty, if someone asked what’s cooler, a Goa’uld Death Glider or a Falcon 9, the Falcon 9 wins hands down – It really, truly, actually exists. And that’s friggin’ mindblowing!

  19. Xavier (#9): The time stamp on that comment indicates it went up a half hour after I posted my article here. :) Whoever was first, it hardly matters; once you see that “NE” the answer is pretty obvious!

  20. And this is how it could look like if a good picture of a planetary conjunction is taken from Mars:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/djulik/5698162272/
    I hope to see something like this soon, so exciting!
    Cheers,
    JG

  21. That sky looks like a Bryce sky.

  22. Dan Gomiller

    In case anyone is curious, I found the source. It was a blog showing what WOULD have been seen, if communication with the Spirit rover hadn’t been lost. He was following along the whole time:

    http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.com/2010/07/latest-on-spirit.html

  23. truthspeaker

    Gut sense may not be a bad place to start, but it makes for lousy evidence.

    Well said!

  24. Steve D

    Matt L. said “real or fake doesn’t really matter. The picture is no less beautiful because it isn’t real. In fact, if someone believes it is real then it might as well be real in this case. For them it holds all the same magic that a ‘real’ picture would, because they don’t know the difference.”

    Wow, all the money we could have saved by faking Apollo. And if the creationists publish pictures of Jesus riding a dinosaur, that’s just as real to the believers as a genuine fossil. And if we teach kids that slavery never existed in the U.S., that will be real, too, “because they don’t know the difference.”

    Post-modernist claptrap at its finest.

  25. CatMom

    Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a T. Rex. Now that is one funny mental picture.

  26. Neal Gray

    Whats cool is that after these rovers have spent all their days exploring and no longer work and respond they will be up there FOREVER !!!

  27. It’s not originally a Curiosity hoax anyway. I found a post from a month ago: http://theweeklyansible.tumblr.com/post/25344841712/see-commentary-below-earth-jupiter-and-venus , so too soon.

  28. I think Jeremy found the original blog all right. There’s at least four similar images, three in July and one in June:
    http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.ie/2010_07_01_archive.html http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.ie/2010_06_01_archive.html

    If you were following the blog, you’d know from context she wasn’t claiming them as real photos. It seems to be photos that could have been taken by people from a hypothetical crewed landing: http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.ie/2010/07/landing-on-mars.html

    It’s hard to tell by just visual comparison, but of the four, this is the one I think most likely to be the meme one: http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.ie/2010/07/latest-on-spirit.html
    Also, she didn’t say it *would* be the view, and perhaps the reblogger didn’t read far enough to notice the mention of a non-existent crewed expedition, or that Spirit hadn’t be in contact since before the image was created.

    This is the earliest reblog I found, from August 2010: http://spaceports.blogspot.ie/2010/08/view-from-mars-earth-jupiter-and-venus.html
    It’s certainly implied it’s from the rovers—”From the surface” links to the rovers. He either believes it’s an actual photo, or wants readers to.

  29. Taliván Hortográfico

    If you can see the Earth, you should be able to see the Moon in such exposed picture.

    Isaac Asimov even wrote a tale of the Black Widowers about a fake martian sect that was found out because their astral rituals neglected the Moon.

  30. Wow. Just saw I said to the look to the lower right corner of the image in the original post. D’oh! I fixed it; it’s lower left.

  31. Rahie

    Thank you for writing this article and I agree with what you said about treating what’ s unreal about some people as real.

  32. Jeff

    What about the planets in the image tho – are they accurate? Since earth and venus are inferior to mars, wouldn’t they display phases? The picture shows them as pretty circular fuzzy blobs, I’d think they might be more oval blobs (probably not enough resolution to actually show a crescent as a curve). Would planetarium software take the shortcut of not displaying planets with phases? Or is the actual shape of the phases too subtle to be seen without optical magnification?

  33. I’m bummed that it is not real. But thank you for typing this up.

    Here is my take on the image:
    http://ihatepeacocks.tumblr.com/post/29152831783/turns-out-this-is-not-from-the-curiosity-lander-on

  34. Steve Morrison

    @#33:
    The Asimov story was my very first thought! I’ve looked it up, and for the record, it was “The Missing Item” and is collected in Casebook of the Black Widowers. And it was written in 1977 – Asimov pre-debunked this urban legend 35 years ago!

  35. Joe W.

    @#36-Jeff: The latter is correct. Venus can be seen in different phases here on Earth because it’s in a lower orbit. However, the shape can’t be resolved until you look at it through a telescope or decent binoculars. It simply isn’t large enough or close enough to see the actual disc with the naked eye, and thus it always looks like a bright star, regardless of phase.

  36. Robert

    @Phil(34) Don’t sweat it, neither you, I nor Albert Einstein can(could) tell their left hand from their right.

  37. johnny

    how do you get the three planets in the same picture if two are on one side of mars and the third is on the other side (orbits)??

  38. mark

    phil will they ever have a time lapse photo of a mars sunset with curiousity?

  39. mark

    phil will they ever have a time lapse photo of a mars sunset with curiousity?

  40. amphiox

    Whats cool is that after these rovers have spent all their days exploring and no longer work and respond they will be up there FOREVER !!!

    Hmm. There’s atmosphere and weathering on Mars, right? So eventually the rovers will be subject to erosion and worn away. Though presumably this should take quite a long time.

  41. 100 Watt Walrus

    It’s definitely Starry Night, Phil.

    Here’s a screenshot from my Starry Night Enthusiast 6, same view set to Mars dawn in July 2010. Different clouds, but otherwise matches this shot almost exactly. I turned on the planet labels for ya.

    Note that the “NE” marker is bumping up against exactly the same rock.

    http://i.imgur.com/7S4dA.png

  42. ethanol

    We’ll obviously never have a picture like this taken during the day, because, you know, relative brightness and all (also mars isn’t freakishly red). However I have been looking into the possibilities for some “amateur astronomy” from curiosity and it looks pretty good. For one they are already planning do more nighttime operations than previous rovers (the hand lens imager, for instance, has its own lighting). And what really has grabbed my attention is the context camera for the Chemcam (the lazer zapper). It looks through the same 110mm telescope as the spectrometer, and while the resolution is actually slightly lower than the narrow-angle mastcam, at 100 microradians it is far better anything put on mars before. And did I mention the 110mm objective? Reason #56 I am psyched about Curiosity.

  43. Mark V

    Clouds on Mars: Here’s a pic of a huge cyclone swirling near the north pole of Mars, taken by Hubble:

    http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May99/mars.cyclone.deb.html

  44. Xeno

    I’m amazed anyone would think this is genuine by now when we’ve had years of great images from the rovers.

    This picture makes me wonder though; will Curiosity do any long exposures of the sky on Mars, given that it can operate nights due to the nuclear power? It’d be fun to see some astrophotography from Mars. And, to my limited understanding, given the thin atmosphere Mars ought to be great for that – assuming no dust storms!
    EDIT: D’oh! I should have read the comments first.

    As for the “NE” in the corner.. clearly intelligent Martian life left writing! What you’ve in fact discovered is proof of life on Mars! Huzzah! ;)

  45. paul

    Gee If I Were Concerned Enough To Care If It Was Real Or Not , Guess I Wold Not Be Concerned About The Money It Cost To Fake It , Nor The Money Pissed Away To Make It Seem real…Dont We Really Have Plenty Of Reasons To Piss Away Billions Of Dollars Here On Earth ???? Great Pic …Looks Like The Set Of My Favorite Martian …Just A Million Times More Expensive ……To Be Honest …Who Cares ??

  46. Godel Fishbreath

    Would not the earth moon system show up as almost a double planet? Can the two be resolved? or would it be a asymetrical blob, or have the moon hidden in the earth’s shadow?

  47. Daniela

    You missed the most obvious and simple way to prove this photo is a fake. Nasa’s official curiosity website shares all the images sent by the rover, for the public to see. Nowhere in the OFFICIAL NASA WEBSITE does this photo appear.

  48. Messier Tidy Upper

    Oh. :-o Oh.

    Okay, I must admit this one fooled me when I first saw (& shared) it on facebook. (Blushes.)

    Guess it says something about how good planetarium spoftware graphics are these days and also how good quality the images we expect to get back from spaceprobes are too.

  49. I think that scene is this (the original), is from another picture, is the left part. You can see the long stone in horizontal (also on the left in the fake picture): http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/files/2012/08/presidential_full.jpg

    If you see you can see and small “square” on the top of that horizontal stone, in the fake as well

  50. When I originally saw this image it was mentioned that it was not real, but a re-creation of what it would look like if the planets were “lit” up. I guess what happened is that over time the picture got shared so much people started to label it as “real.”

  51. mike burkhart

    Yes this comes from a Astronomy program that simulates what the night sky woud look like on Mars, I have the Stlerlum program on my computer , and you can simulate the night sky from any where on Earth, or any where in the Solar System with landscapes in the background.Still these programs are helpfull in Star Gazeing and especally for useing a telescope , I highly recomend a Astronomy program for all all Astronmers who have computers.

  52. ethanol

    Godel Fishbreath #49

    Earth would be less than 1/2 a pixel with either the Chemcam or the narrow-angle mastcam. However, for most of the month earth and moon could be clearly resolved at that resolution.

  53. ethanol

    Curiosity should also be able to resolve Phobos as over 40 pixels across. I also imagine that especially with the Chemcam it might even be able to return the favor to to MRO and be the first to image an artificial satellite from another planet!

  54. Crews

    Using Stellarium, I took a look at what the MSL would have for its next sunrise and it is even better than what the image shows! Uranus, Earth, Venus and Mercury will rise just as Phobos sets among them. Do you suppose JPL takes requests?

  55. Chris

    Its real, that its a picture.

  56. Global Astro

    Verified by Celestia and Stellerium alike planets configuration for real as of June 30 2010.
    But Sun should be visible shining close to Venus, not to happen in the referenced image (Sun is high in the skyline since shadows on the ground look short).

    Greatings
    GA

  57. bbmcrae

    @48. paul

    This is off-topic, but I have to ask…why do some people write Like A Newspaper Headline With Every First Letter Capitalized? Where did you learn that was acceptable and not hard to read and crazy-seeming? I see it a lot on the interwebs and just don’t get it. I won’t dwell on the general incomprehensibility of the content itself.

  58. Andy

    Think about the fact that this image was “liked” so much. In that aspect of it, I don’t care that it was fake. It is just important to me that people are actually caring about this enough for it to become popular. That being said, I am annoyed that NASA hasn’t figured out how to do its marketing. The first picture NASA releases is a 64×64 black and white of the ground. Yes all of us science geeks love it and we know whats to come, but its not the best first impression. They need to do much more pandering to the general audience. Like for instance a stereoscopic 1080p 30fps video of a dust devil, or how about a time lapse video that show’s the glory of a martian day cycle?

  59. Patrick

    Isn’t the Martian sunset also bluish?

  60. ArchiFrecce
  61. Kenda

    So what if it’s fake? Why is there always that one person who just HAAAAAAS to ruin something that is awesome in its intent? The fact is: the possibilityto see the universe from a perspective that none of mankind up until this moment could imagine is now available… and the best this author has to contribute is to cry about it being fake.

  62. Rick

    Johnny asked how the three could appear together if two of them are inferior to Mars (closer to the sun) while the other is “beyond” Mars in a superior orbit. Jupiter can line up with the other two because while it is farther from the sun than Mars is, at that time it was on the far side of the sun from Mars. In other words, someone on Mars looking inward in the general direction of the sun could see both Venus and Earth (closer to them than the sun was) and then be looking beyond the sun to Jupiter way out on the other side.

    Happens all the time here, too–for several months earlier this year Jupiter and Venus were pretty close together in the sky from our viewpoint. Venus was much the closer, in between us and the sun, while Jupiter was much farther away on the other side of the sun.

  63. @66 Kenda
    Why make an awesome fake when there is real awesomeness?
    Let´s keep it real.
    That´s often weird enough.

  64. Peter B

    Johnny @ #40 asked: “how do you get the three planets in the same picture if two are on one side of mars and the third is on the other side (orbits)??”

    Because Jupiter is on the far side of the Sun.

    If you’re having trouble visualising this, take a piece of paper and draw four concentric circles to represent the orbits of Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter. If you feel like taking the trouble, you could make the radius of each circle roughly match the average size of each planet’s orbit.

    Now choose a point on the third circle out (Mars’s orbit) and draw a line inwards which crosses the second and innermost circles. Keep going and the line will cross the two inner circles again, then the third circle and then the outermost circle.

    If Venus, Earth and Jupiter are all close to where the line crosses their orbits, then they would be close to each other in the sky.

    Does that make sense?

  65. Peter B

    Kenda @ #66 says: “So what if it’s fake? Why is there always that one person who just HAAAAAAS to ruin something that is awesome in its intent? The fact is: the possibilityto see the universe from a perspective that none of mankind up until this moment could imagine is now available… and the best this author has to contribute is to cry about it being fake.”

    Please read again what the Bad Astronomer said about this issue:

    “I’ll note that I love that people think images like this are so beautiful and interesting that they pass them around and get a sense of wonder from them. But it bugs me that it’s possible that an unreal picture gets treated as real. In this case there’s no harm done, but it’s not hard to imagine a case where a forged image showing something damaging to someone’s reputation gets treated as real and spreads like wildfire. It’s happened before, many times…And remember: we have actual, real, amazing, breath-taking images coming from Mars right now. And the fact that they are real, and mean we have a presence on another world, is far more moving and stirring than any fake could ever be.”

    So it’s not just a whinge about the picture being fake. There are two other points:

    1. Fake pictures *can* cause harm (though seemingly not in this case).

    2. Who needs awesome fakes when there’s awesome reality to look at. In that context, your statement about “…a perspective that none of mankind up until this moment could imagine…” is a little off course.

  66. I can tell from the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time.

    /Sorry, I just had to do it.

  67. Kenda

    @68

    a gorgeous image is a gorgeous image. It doesn’t have to be real to spark imagination. Don’t apply your limitations to anyone but yourself.

  68. Kenda

    a gorgeous image is a gorgeous image. It doesn’t have to be real to spark imagination. Don’t apply your limitations to anyone but yourself.

    @70
    that goes for you, too…

  69. Mike Torr

    Phil – THANK YOU! Thank you for using “had” and “would’ve” correctly. You, Sir, are one of a dying breed of guiding lights upholding the beauty of the English language.

  70. PuffTheDragon

    The software that rendered that image is “Starry Night Pro Plus 6″. It is sad that people cant tell the difference between a real one, and a screen pic from a simulation.

  71. Peter B

    Kenda @ #74 said: “a gorgeous image is a gorgeous image. It doesn’t have to be real to spark imagination. Don’t apply your limitations to anyone but yourself.”

    I take your point that a gorgeous image is a gorgeous image, regardless of it being real or fake. Last night I watched the movie “Elizabeth The Golden Age” on TV, and enjoyed it despite the freedom it takes with history.

    My point (and I believe the BA’s too) is that problems can arise if people think something fake is real, and draw conclusions from it. That’s as much the case with the picture above as the movie.

  72. Philip Heinzl

    I wish……..the idea is nice,but, before this was published , I had noticed an unusual arc alignment in the SW skies, It turns out to be the star Spica in the constellation of Virgo at the bottom of three bodies, above was Mars and at the top of the was Saturn. They formed an exact match to your alleged photo. Creative mind tho´

  73. Shay Fabbro

    I admit I was fooled for a bit when I shared the picture but then figured it must have been someone doing a rendering of what the planets might look like from Mars with the naked eye, much like we can see Mars and Jupiter etc as pinprick *stars* from Earth. The thing that gets me is how angry some people are getting at the “fake” picture. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t petty much all the astronomy pics people see digitally colored and altered to make them super pretty for us to view? What this person did wasn’t really any different, especially now that the original posting has been found.

    http://www.shayfabbro.com

  74. Todd

    Responding to Johnny (#40), Rick @ #67 and Peter B @ #69 discuss the geometric plausibility. However, Jupiter is going to be too far away from Mars to be visible like that without the Sun saturating the sky. Even though Venus and Jupiter are visible from Earth at the same time at certain times as Peter B states, it’s not as clear as this photo, though the alignment illustrated here should be dramatically less clear. This photo is contrived on so many levels, why it fascinates the way it does just screams of the how susceptible the general public is to the illusions that are perpetrated on the internet.

  75. truckdrives

    This may be a dumb question but I’m new to astronomy…can someone explain how Mars, Earth, *and* Jupiter could be visible from Mars all at the same time in one view? My middle school science knowledge says that mars and earth should be in one direction (towards the sun) and jupiter in the other (away from the sun). I’m sure the layout is one of those lies they use to help kids understand the solar system but could someone explain in laymans terms? Thanks.

  76. yeah, I started thinking after I shared on FB, man this looks nothing like every other image I’ve seen from Curiosity. then I looked at NASA’s site, it was nowhere. Then I search “photo of earth from curiosity fake” and here I am. I’m getting better and better and debunking the BS on the internets! :)

  77. I debunked it on my page and ppl are still liking and sharing. :(

  78. Jocelyn

    someone on facebook shared this, and i was about to share it, until i asked myself “how come I haven’t seen it on the NASA website or in any legitimate science web page or at least in the bad astronomy blog!?” I kept looking to see for a legit source, googled it, until I stumbled upon this page (i haven’t read your blogs in over 2 weeks. oops!) I was a bit bummed that it wasn’t real, but now I shared it on facebook and telling people that it is not a real image. You saved me! :) and in a way, Carl Sagan, too! I am learning how to question everything with a skeptic mind until proven true! :D
    @vinsanity (#85) I am with you on that one! :)

  79. Hi Phil,

    Definitely Starry Night. I work for Starry Night, and we always insist that any published images carry the credit “© Starry Night software” which obviously never happened here, or got lost along the wayside. I recognized the font of the “NE” and the general style instantly, and was able to replicate the image almost exactly:
    http://www.gaherty.ca/Mars_fake.jpg
    This image, by the way IS © Starry Night software!

    I write a weekly article for Space.com illustrated with a graphic from Starry Night which always carries this credit line, but often when Space.com syndicates my articles to other web sites, it often gets dropped. Webmasters are VERY sloppy about copyrights, as you’ve no doubt noticed.

    It was a pleasure meeting you at the RASC meetings in Toronto a few years ago!

    Geoff

  80. anarchitek

    I remember seeing a website a few years ago, that showed the planets moving around the sun. You could set it for any day, and advance it. I lost the address, and cannot find it. Do you know which site I am talking about? I think it would show how this photo is impossible. Thanks

  81. jackie

    What are your views on the multiverse theroy

  82. David

    Excuse me, if it’s not real, then it’s a hoax. I don’t care what it “represents.”

  83. Reid

    Excuse me, David (92), that’s wrong. The word “hoax” implies deliberate trickery. There is no deliberate trickery going on here. The original work was a simulation and correctly published as such, and its widespread dissemination is a case of well-intentioned foolishness. Neither qualifies as a hoax. By your definition, all simulations and works of art are hoaxes. Do you really believe that, or do you want to modify your statement?

  84. Fabio Bonari

    Where is the Moon?

  85. Gail Farley

    Ouch…the truth hurts :-( I was entranced by this image and now am sadder but wiser.

  86. John

    “Thing is, had one of the rovers taken this picture, it would’ve been all over the web at the time …”

    And that’s the thing that bugs me the most. That people don’t think logically about the sources of pictures/videos/other information they receive. It’s as if the Internet has been given some kind of holy blessing of Truth to it (maybe because so many TV news programs quote random idiotic Facebook and Twitter posts?), that people assume anything coming to them over the Internet is true.

  87. When I first saw this photo yesterday, I thought it was too good to be true. There is something about Mars that excites the imagination and generate pictures you just wish were genuine. Just as the ghosts of Percival Lovell and Giovanni Schiaparelli.

  88. Prof. Hubert Farnsworth

    @ #27, HEY! Don’t you go laughing at my Lord and Savior!

    May T. Rex forgive you!

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